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How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty to Notice

by M.G. Lord

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8027-1669-9
Publisher: Walker

A chatty, name-dropping little work based on the notion that actors are, or become, the characters they portray in film and on stage.

Like those who think of actor John Wayne as a real-life He-Man, Jimmy Stewart as a sort of grown-up Scout master and Humphrey Bogart as a genuine tough guy, cultural critic Lord (Masters of Professional Writing Program/Univ. of Southern California; Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket Science, 2005, etc.) sees a feminist in Elizabeth Taylor. The author analyzes Taylor’s portrayal of characters from the spunky little girl who rode her horse to victory in National Velvet to the strident middle-aged wife in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and in her stage performance as the fierce Regina in The Little Foxes. Into what is essentially a glowing mini-biography of the actress, Lord inserts detailed plot summaries of Taylor's films, which she admits to having watched repeatedly , along with tidbits about Taylor's several husbands and some of her fellow actors: Richard Burton, Eddie Fisher, Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson and others. Besides finding material for her thesis in the scripts of Taylor's movies, the author interviewed people who knew her, worked with her, were related to her or wrote about her, including gossip columnist Liz Smith and Burton's daughter Kate. In Lord’s view, the actress' work in the fight against AIDS in the 1980s demonstrates that roles played by Taylor as a young woman influenced her thinking about social justice as an older woman. Not central to the book but an informatory sidelight is the author’s account of the Hays Code, which dictated the moral content of Hollywood films from the early ’30s through most of the ’60s. It forbade nudity, adultery, sexual perversion, miscegenation, drug use and irreverence to religion and the flag. How the code shaped scripts and how directors worked around the restrictions is a story worth telling.

Light reading most likely to appeal to star-struck fans of People magazine.