I fell in love with Elizabeth Taylor when I was sick back when AMC (American Movie Classics) didn’t have commercials – around the year 2000. I caught the infamous CLEOPATRA and watched the smoldering sexuality between Liz and Richard Burton that had fully-ignited off-screen in an illicit affair more entertaining than the overblown film itself. Released in 1963, Liz was a buxom brunette with enough attitude and sex appeal to command the largest Hollywood payday to that date – one million dollars. But that wasn’t when I fell in love with her.
After CLEOPATRA, AMC ran A PLACE IN THE SUN. Made in 1951, The Black & White film starred Montgomery Clift and…and the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen glowing from the screen in the radiance of youth and innocent-sexuality personified. Elizabeth was nineteen at the time and had been captured on film, already a veteran of 15 film roles. But this was the one that would shatter all previous illusions. Elizabeth was flat out gorgeous and absolutely in-love with Monty Clift. The two were best friends off-screen, and on screen they were so beautiful together it took your breath away. Then, when they kissed – the film itself almost combusted. Taylor wasn’t used to being so sensual and intimate onscreen. This is the first glimmer the world would get of what would become one of the silver screen’s most loved and desired sirens. And that was in Black & White, folks! Once beautiful Betty’s Violet Eyes pierced the cinema’s fourth wall and stared us down in darkened movie theaters around the globe, well, the rest was history.
Today would have been Liz Taylor’s 83th birthday. Of course, she was more than just a beautiful face and body. Liz was also a great humanitarian, having fought for the rights of AIDS patients and lending her name to many other causes. She was no stranger to physical pain and suffered from many ailments in her storied life. But I’ll always remember the moment in A PLACE IN THE SUN when she kissed Monty and said “Tell Mama…” That’s the Elizabeth Taylor who could make everything all right.