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Elizabeth Taylor, R.I.P.

Elizabeth Taylor was arguably the greatest of all Hollywood "stars" - the star to end all stars, one might almost say.

But was she a great actress? Was she even a good actress?

It would be easy to answer that question with a resounding "no." For example, her performance as Katharina in Zeffirelli's film of "The Taming of the Shrew" (1967) is, by any objective standard, perfectly dreadful - however irresistably watchable it may be:

And yet, if one wished to answer that question with a "yes," one would not be wholly bereft of evidence:

(1) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958):

(2) Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966):

Her performance of Martha vs. Richard Burton's George in the latter film really is, in its own way, kind of awe-inspiring. One can't help fearing that she's playing herself.

Anyway, R.I.P.

Comments (2)

I agree with your assessment. Taylor was a good actress but not great. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf may be one of her best performances, although I've always been fond of her (historically inaccurate) performance in Cleopatra, although not because of her portrayal of Cleopatra but because of the film's impressive sets, costumes and production. Also, in Cleopatra, like in WAfoVW, you get the charged Taylor-Burton dynamic - at times a WAoVW in togas and Egyptian garb. As you say, perhaps they're playing themselves.


I don't think Elizabeth Taylor was better than adequate actress in any of her movie performances. She was fairly credible as the rich and beautiful socialite in A Place in the Sun, based on Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy. The talented Montgomery Clift lifted that picture above average, I think.

Elizabeth like a number of Hollywood 'stars' of the 'golden age' had a sort of presence - partly based on her colourful off-screen life - that people would pay money to watch.

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