ELIZABETH by Alexander Walker


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Some stories never die, certainly not Elizabeth Taylor's. Here, Walker (the above-average Garbo, Dietrich, Vivien, and Joan Crawford bios) does a lot of new interviewing and digging through the MGM files for a fresh look at Taylor (Taylor herself always lets book people sink or swim on their own). While the results have bloom, they aren't as disarming as Melvin Bragg's Richard Burton (1989) and rarely have the dangerous literary edge of Burton's diary entries (quoted so freely by Bragg). Walker's theme throughout is that Taylor's life is so interwoven with the make-believe of movies that her early films prefigure her life, her middle films record her life, and her later films recycle her life. Taylor, so early a child of film and separated from real life by her celebrity, grew up on movie dialogue and came to think of it as a kind of wisdom. Walker shows also the curious work of the media in shaping and urging Taylor's life into outrageous modes of conduct, with the media pushing her into the LIZ STEALS EDDIE FROM DEBBIE mad headlines. By the time of Cleopatra, writer-director Joseph Manckiewicz sucks the LIZ STEALS DICK FROM SYBIL sensation into the daily materials of a script written the night before: "The director's screenplay and the media's scenario had a common source in the conduct of the stars." Film by film, Walker makes his theme stick, while Liz and Dick go through ten years of marriage, 11 movies, and $30 million. In a darker picture that Walker slights, the reader sees Taylor's voracity, fueled by movies and alcohol and painkillers, as that of a black widow feeding on a willing victim lured by money into her web, a voracity still at work when Washington politician John Warner marries her celebrity and power. Dark forces, million-dollar parties and Oscars, brutal widowhood, huge jewels for her old age, and tragedy upon tragedy. What a life--and with her 95-year-old mother still alive, it's not over yet.

ISBN: 8021-1335-4
Publisher: Grove
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