Rambling ...

I'm an Irish Girl, A Dubliner, with the 'Gift of the Gab' ... I like to talk & to tell you things. In Celtic times news, views and comment were carried from place to place by wandering Seanachaí ~ Storytellers ~ who relied on their host's hospitality and appreciation. I will need that from you too, as I venture to share Politics, Poetry, Laughter, Love, Life & everything in-between ... from Bog to Blog!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Beauty, Brains & a Zionist Heart!!!

 "You know what I feel like? .... I feel all the time like a cat on a hot tin roof."

Elizabeth Taylor,  the violet-eyed femme fatale whose smouldering talent and eight marriages made her a legend of Hollywood’s golden era, died yesterday, Wednesday, in Los Angeles.  She was 79. The two-time Oscar winner suffered from congestive heart failure and had been hospitalized since February.  Her death marks the passing of one of the last great stars from the old studio system ~ a devastating beauty whose personal dramas were as captivating as her performances in “Cleopatra” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”!!
"I am Jewish because there is no other choice for me" ~ Elizabeth Taylor.   She wasn't actually Jewish at all, but she was a Zionist!!

At the peak of her fame, she was the highest-paid actress in the world, lionized as the most beautiful woman on the planet, dripping with glittering jewels. Even after she retired from the silver screen, she remained in the public eye, making the race to find a cure for AIDS a cause celebre and raking in a fortune from her perfume business.  But tragedy and torment tailed her like the paparazzi ~ she was widowed and divorced, the Pope among others denounced her wanton ways, and she battled drug, alcohol and weight problems. In a 1992 interview, she acknowledged that her life was at once charmed and star-crossed.

“I’ve been lucky,” she said. “Everything was handed to me. Looks, fame, wealth, honours, love. I rarely had to fight for anything. But I’ve paid for that luck with disasters. The death of Mike Todd and so many good friends, terrible illnesses, destructive addictions, broken marriages. All things considered, I’m damn lucky to be alive.” 
Taylor was born February 27th, 1932, in London to American art dealers but moved to Los Angeles as a child. A friend’s suggestion she take a screen test launched her celluloid career. Small parts led to the starring role in “National Velvet” opposite Mickey Rooney, and at the age of 12, Taylor was a bona fide movie star with a long-term MGM contract. She made more than two dozen movies in the 1940s and ’50s and showed she had as much grit as glamour with back-to-back Oscar nominations for “Raintree County,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Suddenly Last Summer.” She finally took home one of the statuettes for her portrayal of a call girl in 1960′s “Butterfield 8″ and won a second for her tour de force in 1966′s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

Off-screen, life was more tumultuous for her .... “What do you expect me to do? Sleep alone?” was her blithe & brilliant response!
She married and divorced hotel heir Conrad Hilton as a teenager, split from British actor Michael Wilding after five years, and endured the death of husband number three, film impresario Mike Todd, in a 1958 plane crash.  Soon after, Taylor was romancing Todd’s best friend, crooner Eddie Fisher, stealing him away from America‘s sweetheart, Debbie Reynolds, and provoking public outrage.  Her marriage to Fisher was as short-lived as it was scandalous. In 1961, she was cast in “Cleopatra” for the record sum of $1 million, and she fell hard for the love of her life,  co-star Richard Burton.  Their torrid extramarital affair drew scorn from the Vatican, but Burton proved to be THE Lovof her life.  They spent 10 years together and adopted a daughter ~ Taylor’s fourth child ~ before divorcing, only to remarry months later and split again.  Actually,  "I never slept with a man I didn't marry",  more relevant to her personal moral physique, perhaps??
 By then, however,  Taylor’s star was on the wane.  The ’70s were a blur of mostly forgettable parts & by that decade’s end, the movie icon was practically a punchline.  Her weight had ballooned, she was addicted to pills and booze, and she seemed to spend as much time in the hospital as on the red carpet.  She could have slowly faded into has-been obscurity, but in 1983, Taylor checked herself into the Betty Ford Center and emerged ready for another closeup.  AIDS was sweeping Hollywood and had claimed the life of Taylor’s close friend, Rock Hudson, prompting her to embark on a crusade to raise public awareness and research money.  Her efforts helped bring in millions, including a large chunk of the profits from her mega-popular perfumes, Passions and White Diamonds.

Taylor also found love again, during a second stay at Betty Ford in the late 1980s. This time her beau wasn’t a movie star or a millionaire but, improbably, a rough-edged construction worker named Larry Fortensky.  With helicopters buzzing overhead, they got married in 1991 at the Neverland estate of her close friend Michael Jackson.  
There was a TV special to mark her 65th birthday, and she was named a dame by Queen Elizabeth in 1999. But frail health kept her mostly confined to her Bel Air mansion in later life. Taylor’s medical situation had always been precarious; she had more than 40 operations over the years and was even pronounced dead during a 1961 bout with pneumonia. She had a brain tumour removed in 1997. In 2004, she revealed she had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, which slowly starves the body’s organs of blood.
 The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) issued a statement of mourning for her yesterday,  which listed a series of efforts Taylor made for Israel and the Jewish community, including her purchase of $100,000 in Israel Bonds in 1959, her participation in raising $840,000 for Israel in a 1967 London gala,  and her cancellation of a visit to Moscow after the Soviet Union lashed out at Israel following the 1967 Six Day War.   In addition, she was one of 60 prominent women to sign a statement in 1975 to then-UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, condemning the General Assembly’s infamous Zionism-is-Racism resolution. Taylor offered herself as a hostage when 104 Jews aboard an Air France airbus were held hostage by PLO terrorists at Uganda’s Entebbe Airport, from which they were rescued in a spectacular Israeli commando mission on July 4th, 1976,  America’s 200th birthday.

She frequently visited Israel and met with its leadership, including Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1983.  In 1987, she signed a petition seeking the release from Soviet prison of leading refusenik Ida Nudel.  Elizabeth Taylor’s pro~Israel activism led to the banning of her films in several Arab countries.  After she bought $100,000 in Israel Bonds in 1959, the United Arab Republic (now Egypt) banned all her movies. 
My favourite movie of hers is the eponymous "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof".   I admired her as an actress & an ardent advocate for Israel. She said she wasn’t afraid to die, and catalogued her aches and pains with the same wit she once used to suggest the epitaph on her gravestone to read .... “She lived.”    I like that a lot!!

1 comment:

  1. There are two things I didn't mention. Firstly, one of my favourite things is that Maggie Simpson's first words were uttered by Elizabeth Taylor. And she didn't like being called 'Liz'!!

    Secondly, she has a new fragrance coming called "Violet Eyes" .... I shall certainly try it. I like 'White Diamonds'. So .....