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Entries in RIP (168)


The Blue Bird (1976) and Violet Links

The news of Liz Taylor's death derailed me this morning as Twitter exploded. Though I am less nostalgic as a person than I appear to be on the web  (I think it's that love of Oscar history and "anniversary" post-fetish that makes me seem like a weepy 'they don't make 'em like they used to' type.), this month has been admittedly nostalgia-saturated. We shall return to stuff in theaters very soon.

As I was posting about Liz and sharing reader of the day "first movie" memories I began to wonder when my Liz fandom began? I have no specific recall like I do with some stars. My earliest vivid pop culture memories  from childhood are mostly bunched around the axis of The Muppets, Star Wars and Natalie Wood (television airings of her old movies) in the late 70s. So I was looking at Liz's filmography and realized the first time I saw her must have been in the family film The Blue Bird. I remember zero about the movie other than her face... which is weird because Jane Fonda, Cicely Tyson and Ava Gardner are also in it though obvs I didn't yet know who they were... except for maybe Fonda.  I'm actually shocked to remember that my parents took us to this because in my house (my parents are right wingers) Jane Fonda was a 'traitorous devil' or some such. In all my years of film fandom I have never heard anyone talk about this movie and I had forgotten its existence myself so maybe it's not on DVD?

My favorite tweet about Liz this morning was this one, from diminutive comedienne Selene Luna. She has a perceptive papa.

Carefully Taylor'ed Memories

The Guardian explains Liz Taylor's Gay Icon status beautifully.
The Guardian Guy Lodge looks back over her career in clips.
Playbill remembers the Dame's stage outings with a photo gallery.
Boy Culture remembers her wild rollercoaster of a career and imagines how, to the generations before us -- particular those who grew up with her growing up alongside them onscreen, she must be even more intimately revered.

Fun Liz-Links To Dry Those Wet Eyes
Movie|Line shares the most memorable Elizabeth Taylor cameos. This is how many younger viewers became familiar with her from the 80s onward.
Movie|Line also has a fun post on Liz's most OTT acting.
Acidemic admires her generosity of spirit and sexuality. And like The Film Experience, Acidemic doesn't just post about her on the day of her death.
Awards Daily Sasha names her 10 favorites
La Dolce Musto Michael Musto names his 5 favorites with a good note on Cleopatra's reputation.
The Star remembers a trip Liz & Dick (Richard Burton) took to Toronto in the 60s... with photos.
The Montreal Gazette has wedding photos from their marriage in Montreal.

My 5 (okay 6) Favorites
Since Sasha and Musto listed their fav Liz performances, I'd feel remiss if I didn't.

  1. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  2. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  3. Butterfield 8 -(post coming next month for the Oscar anniversary.)

  4. Giant and Suddenly Last Summer
    (Tie. I toggle back and forth. I haven't seen either of them in about 5 years. But I love that she does the same thing for both films in a way as the pivot point between two very different acting styles from two also legendary screen stars in a tense triangle of this-movie-can't-be-real star power.)
  5. A Place in the Sun -here's a previous writeup on this.

Those are the biggies for me but I should note that I have seen neither The VIPs nor Boom, both of which I've wanted to see for some time. There's never enough of it! (Time, that is.)


79 Ways To Celebrate The Life of Elizabeth Taylor

In lieu of a traditional obituary, and because I'm still working on two other Taylor posts that were started before this sad news, I thought a major revision of a two year-old birthday post was in order. If you're in need of comfort today, wrap yourself up in this legend's grandiosity on this disheartening day. Take Taylor's life as inspiration. Survive Everything... but for death, of course, which will come for us all. But leave a legacy behind you and you've got that beat, too.

79 Ways to Celebrate Liz Taylor's Legacy in 2011
How many can you do this year?

  1. Be great.
  2. Be beautiful.
  3. Be ambitious. Quoth Liz "It's not the having, it's the getting."
  4. Be a legend in your own mind, and in others.
  5. Get married. Or divorced. Or remarried. Or all three. Or several times.
  6. Let your passions rule you.
  7. Act like a diva. (But back it up with substance... nobody likes a vacuous primadonna.)
  8. Wear something spectacularly sexy, preferrably white.
  9. Make people want more.
  10. Forge unbreakable friendships.
  11. Stick with those people through tragedies, scandals, and anything else that besets them.
  12. Watch Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

  13. Invite people over for copious drinking party.
  14. Play "get the guests" or "hump the hostess", your choice.
  15. (If you don't have a child, invent one.)
  16. Watch National Velvet
  17. Go horseback riding.
  18. Watch A Place in the Sun.
  19. "Tell mama everything"
  20. Fall in love with Montgomery Clift in glorious black and white (any of his movies will do).

  21. Ask your best friend to refer to you as "Bessie Mae" for the rest of the year.
  22. Demand a Taylor retrospective at your local arthouse cinema. Suggest that they donate a portion of the proceeds to Liz's charity.
  23. Be highly quotable.
  24. Flaunt every piece of jewelry you own. (Maybe wear them all at once?)
  25. Donate to an AIDS charity. Per Liz's request in lieu of flowers.
  26. Nurse a sick friend or loved one.
  27. Enjoy your own wicked sense of humor. Laugh loudly at good jokes.
  28. Scream "I was the slut of all time!" with style and at the top of your lungs. Shamelessness suits you.
  29. Watch Butterfield 8.
  30. Fight for that performance's reputation (It's better than Oscar mythology claims. But more on that in April for the 50th anniversary of her win.)
  31. Write something pity or bitchy on a mirror in lipstick. "NO SALE"
  32. Survive the loss of someone you loved no matter how hard that is to do. If you're still grieving find a way to make that sadness productive.
  33. Pretend you've won an Oscar.

  34. And another. (Or work at actually deserving one if you're in showbiz). Better yet...
  35. ...deserve the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
  36. Drink people under the table.
  37. Polish La Liz's star at 6336 Hollywood Blvd.
  38. Watch Cleopatra...(okay, half of it. It's so long!).
  39. Make memorable entrances (if you're rolled in a carpet, have a safe word handy.)
  40. Read "Elizabeth".
  41. Watch the original Father of the Bride.
  42. Buy a pair of violet contact lenses or just play up your natural eye color's beauty.
  43. Paint a beauty mark on your right upper jaw.
  44. Don't take yourself too seriously.
  45. Role play "Liz and Dickie" with your boyfriend / girlfriend. H-O-T.
  46. Name perfumes after your favorite things.
  47. Monetize your favorite things.
  48. Love dogs (and other animals).

  49. Be a "Functioning Voluptuary"... enjoy the finer things in life.
  50. Gain lots of weight or lose some -- it doesn't matter; you're still fabulous.
  51. Stop worrying about getting older (Liz didn't); you're still fabulous.
  52. Watch Giant.
  53. Watch Suddenly Last Summer.
  54. Speak the truth with a ferocity of spirit. Even if it makes uptight people want to cut your brain up to stop your "hatchet tongue"
  55. Get familiar with the entire Tennesse Williams oeuvre. It suits the remarkable dramatic women (and sure suited La Liz who went there four times).
  56. Watch Boom.
  57. Watch Reflections in a Golden Eye.
  58. Steal something from someone who reminds you of Debbie Reynolds.

  59. But bury the hatchet with your enemies.
  60. Give them something to talk about when you leave the room.
  61. Photoshop yourself onto the cover of 14 People magazines.
  62. Watch The Flintstones.
  63. Watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
  64. Make sure you're enticing in your underwear.
  65. Descend into "erotic vagrancy"!

  66. Watch The Taming of the Shrew.
  67. Imagine how Sherilyn Fenn might play you in a TV movie.
  68. Study Kabbalah.
  69. Excite the tabloids.
  70. Inspire other artists.

  71. Add a "Dame" before your name on Facebook.
  72. Make your speaking voice so memorable that The Simpsons want you.
  73. Work towards making lots of "all time greatest" lists in whatever it is that you do and actually deserve the honor.
  74. Make the world a better place.
  75. Survive whatever illnesses beset you (tracheotomy, pneumonia, cancer, hip replacements, you name it.)
  76. Next time you throw your back out, spend that time catching up on old movie classics.
  77. Call yourself "Mother Courage" and mean it.
  78. Survive everything...
  79. Even death; leave great work behind you and live on.



Elizabeth Taylor, "Functioning Voluptuary" (RIP)

A very sad morning it is. I am loathe to report that Elizabeth Taylor, has passed away at the age of 79. While I gather my thoughts -- I am genuinely upset at the moment, Liz having been one of my favorite people in the universe my whole life -- please enjoy this beautiful tribute from Paul Newman, another lost great, to one of the most important stars of all time.

or check out the gallery section to enjoy her beauty.


Jane Russell (RIP) in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 

The cinema just lost two major actresses who I'd spend time writing about if I weren't so sick (I had hoped to shake this flu off in 24 hours damnit.)

The French actress Annie Girardot (1931-2011) has passed away. We last saw her in terrific form in two Michael Haneke pictures as the disturbing mother of Isabelle Huppert in The Piano Teacher and the sharp minded matriarch in Caché (Hidden)... god what a movie that was. Well, both of them actually. You can read some notes on her career at MUBI. Here, Stateside, we lost a giant of the golden age, the sex symbol Jane Russell (1921-2011).  I thought I'd share a previous article I really enjoyed writing on her as one of Hollywood's most beautiful mid-century stars and an underrated comedienne at that. This was originally published last October but if you're new to the site, it's new to you. And if you're not, consider it a classic rerun. It's not like you turn off an episode of Golden Girls if you've seen it before. And Jane Russell sure was a golden girl, though WOMAN might be a better description.

Few movies are as delightful as Howard Hawks' Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). It has everything: clever production numbers, great quips, beautiful stars, and a zippy plot. But mostly the film sparkles just by ogling the twin pleasures of Jane Russell & Marilyn Monroe. Russell and Monroe play best friends and musical partners, wisecracking Dorothy Shaw and golddigging Lorelei Lei, respectfully. One of the best sequences plays like an extended joke on the movie itself, riffing on both the musical numbers and the two star personae that director Howard Hawks has so expertly shined up for the audience.

Jane as Jane | Jane as Marilyn

Toward the end of the film, there's a misunderstanding over jewelry that gets Lorelei (Monroe) in hot water. A tiara has reportedly been stolen and everyone thinks Lorelei is the culprit. Well, her eyes do flash at the mention of diamonds. Dorothy (Russell) attempts to buy her friend some time by impersonating her at a court hearing about the absent jewelry.

At first Dorothy isn't sure she's sold the Lorelei illusion. Jane fusses comically at her blonde wig, over selling the Monroeisms for the back row. The next time she's worried that the illusion is breaking she razzles and dazzles the courtroom to utter distraction with a coarser version of the number we just saw the real Lorelei perform "Diamonds Are a Girl Best Friend."

Just when it seems clear that Dorothy's (and therefore Jane's) approximation of Lorelei's (and therefore Marilyn's) 's breathless 'who me?' dumb blonde act has worked its trick, Dorothy's new boyfriend Ernie Malone (Elliot Reid) charges into the courtroom threatening to give the game away. Dorothy as "Lorelei" acts quickly to protect Lorelei and regain control of "Dorothy"'s man.

Your honor before he talks could I explain something?

Well, I have a friend named Dorothy and she's a really good friend. And Dorothy knows that I would never do anything that was really wrong.

It's a real kick to hear Russell comically mimic Monroe's line readings while playing her own romantic story arc.

There's a certain young man that Dorothy likes. In fact, she's very fond of him.

And Dorothy would never speak to this man again if he ever did anything to hurt me, Lorelei. So I think this young man had just better know that...

well... well...

Dorothy thinks she's in love with him!

On this last line reading, Russell amusingly dumps Monroe's naive girliness for her own jaded womanliness. Dorothy's suitor is naturally delighted at this admission of love, even though she's underlined it as comic exasperation. Needless to say Mr. Malone supports Dorothy's courtroom ruse and saves the day.

Jane's faux-Marilyn scene comes shortly after Marilyn's legendary "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" showcase. It's tempting to view this from a modern perspective -- "Diamonds" is the film's great legacy having been referenced countless times in pop culture since -- and assume that any performer would be hard pressed to follow that showstopper and mock it in the very next setpiece. But Jane Russell, a formidable star on her own, doesn't sweat it. In fact, she appears to be having a complete ball. She sure had a pair.

Two Great Stars. One Greater Movie.

The courtroom imposter scene isn't as famous as the musical numbers but it's as priceless as any missing tiara. All things considered it's Russell, top billed, who may be best in show. In the case of this 1953 classic, this gentleman prefers brunettes.


Betty Garrett (RIP). "Awful, Awful Nice To Be With..."

Betty Garrett, aka "Hildy" the female cabbie from On the Town, passed away yesterday at 91. She was a comic star of stage, tv and, however briefly, big screen musicals. The Hollywood blacklist of the 50s, which sadly destroyed so many careers at their prime, derailed hers, but at least she had charming musicals like Neptune's Daughter, My Sister Eileen and two Frank Sinatra pairings in On The Town and Take Me Out to the Ball Game under her dance belt before that sorry turn of events. Her career got a second wind of sorts on television in the 70s in sitcoms like Laverne and Shirley and All in the Family.

Is there anything more contagiously cheerful than a good musical comedy star? ♪ They're awful....awful good to look at, awful nice to be with, awful sweet to have and hold...

Here's a fun video that apparently played before her 90th birthday bash.


Susannah York (RIP)

Sad news to report. The lovely, talented 60s star Susannah York, aka Superman's Mom (the biological one back on Krypton) has died at the age of 72. Here's why she'll live on though... They Shoot Horses Don't They? (1969)

They Shoot Horses Don't They (1969)

They Shoot Horses is my personal favorite film of 1969 and an all-time Oscar record holder (most nominations without a corresponding Best Picture citation, a grand total of Nine!) but it's sadly underdiscussed these days. Susannah was nominated for playing Jane Fonda's main dancing rival in the marathon contest at the film's center, a neat metaphorical object, human suffering as entertainment. Susannah's psychotic break in the shower rivals any femme unravelling in Black Swan.

York also holds the distinction of being the only female cast member of Best Picture winner Tom Jones (1963) to not be nominated for Best Supporting Actress. I'm exaggerating but since an incredible three women were nominated from the film (the most ever -- though that 60% of the category trick has happened twice in Best Supporting Actor) it felt like it.

Other highlights include Freud (1962) with Montgomery Clift and Robert Altman's Images (1972) for which she won Best Actress at Cannes. She was so beautiful she could play an adult version of Michelle Pfeiffer in Falling in Love Again (1980, Michelle's first large film role after a few tv series and an itty bitty movie role)

Further Reading: Moving Pictures Blog and MUBI



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