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HOLLENBECK: Movie icon left indelible mark on industry

March 28, 2011

Celebrities influence our lives a lot more than we’re aware. Case in point: Elizabeth Taylor.
When I heard that she had died, I got a big lump in my throat.
This woman was the epitome of stardom and magnetism. No matter what weight she happened to be — and she went up and down the scales almost as you watched her — she could out-pizzazz all the rest of them.
She was one of the main reasons I used to look forward to the Academy Awards show on TV.
In earlier years I had seen every picture nominated — some more than once — but that’s not been true in a lot of years. Now I do well to see a movie when it comes out on DVD and then it sits on the shelf for a long time before I get around to it.
I still like to watch the Academy Awards show because of the glitz and glamor and sometimes the entertainment.
I don’t know when Liz made her last appearance at the Oscars, but she was still turning heads whenever it was. She always stood out in a crowd.
There are many gorgeous entertainers today, but I can’t think of a one that could touch Liz in regard to sheer beauty and allure. She had something that was unique only to her — and it was a lot more than her violet eyes, which were amazing in themselves.
Yes, people can get them that way today with contacts, but as far as I know, Liz was the only one who had the real thing.
Growing up in Cotton Plant, where James Theatre was the hub of our social world, I saw many movies featuring this amazing actress.
I continue to watch her movies. Two of my favorites, for a lot of reasons, are “Father of the Bride” and “Father’s Little Dividend.” She couldn’t have been more beautiful than she was in those two flicks. She was young and charming and outwardly unscathed.
They’re also special to me because the relationship of Liz’s character and the one portrayed by Spencer Tracy as her father, which was so similar to the one I had in real life with my father.
Another favorite for me was “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof,” which had one of the best overall casts of just about any movie I’ve ever seen. Liz, Paul Newman, Burl Ives, Jack Carson, and whoever played Big Mamma and Sister Woman (don’t know their names at the moment, but they were great). What a mix of sheer talent at work on the screen in that wonderful Tennessee Williams story.
If I were asked to rate her best performance — her worst was still good and most were outstanding — my vote would be for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” I’ve never seen any woman argue with more zeal than Liz exhibited with Richard Burton. They may have had their troubles off-screen, but when you stuck them before a camera, there was a kind of magic that took place.
And then came “Cleopatra.” I don’t remember the year that film was released — I think it was sometime in the ‘60s — but I do remember the trip to see it. My Cotton Plant cousins and I saw it in Memphis and had a wonderful time. I’m trying to remember the name of the theater where it was shown, and all I can recall is that it had a buff brick exterior and was located near what was then the big Sears & Roebuck store.
Liz made more than 60 films and twice won the Oscar for best actress: as a call girl who meets with tragedy in “Butterfield 8” (1960), based on the John O’Hara novella; and as the braying, slovenly wife of a professor in “Virginia Woolf,” which was adapted from Edward Albee’s play about marital warfare.
Rosemary Proctor Hamilton, one of my lifetime friends, bears an uncanny resemblance to Taylor. She looked like her as a kid and still does today. A beauty queen herself, Rosemary won many titles and at those times frequently received comparisons between her and the magnetic star.
Liz, though, epitomized Hollywood glamor with her wardrobe of chic sheaths that she could top off with a tiara or a turban. Heck, she looked good even if she wore bandanas and burlap.
The aging process changed her somewhat, but it didn’t take away her style. And of course she had enough diamond accessories to light up a railroad track.
I have a sparkly atomizer from her White Diamonds fragrance collection. Think it’s probably worth a little more now than it was a week ago, but I wouldn’t want to part with it. Every time I use it I’ll think of the bewitching star and remember what marvelous contributions she made to the entertainment industry.
And there’s one more thing: She loved dogs. That raises anyone a notch or two in my estimation.

Lynda Hollenbeck is associate editor of the Courier.

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