“Beauty is truth, truth is beauty — that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know” [John Keats, 1795-1821].
It’s a common enough name shared by half the women in the western hemisphere, but there was nothing common — or enough — about wildly beautiful, violet-eyed, jewel-encrusted, English-born screen sensation Elizabeth Taylor, who took Hollywood’s Golden Age along with her when she died of heart complications on March 23 at the age of 79.
Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, whose cinematic glory will likely remain unmatched for years to come, was larger than life, and so seemingly genuine that we could almost smell the perfume of her goodness as we watched her battle ceaseless medical problems, overcome her addictions to alcohol and prescription drugs, and weather eight ill-fated marriages, including two to the love of her life, Richard Burton.
A modest Aphrodite in an industry distended with inflated egos, the two-time Oscar winner managed to maintain her trademark humility and wholesome charm throughout a 70-year career, which generated more than 50 movies, and was marked by dazzling highs and pitiless lows.
She personified diva-ness without being a diva. There is nothing in the public record about Liz tossing her Hollywood weight about just because she could.
Even in death, she remains a spellbinding character, capable of eclipsing important world news and re-igniting the legend and mystique, which should have died long ago in a poof of ridicule and parody were it not for her unparalleled acting chops, her tireless humanitarian work on behalf of the masses with HIV/AIDS — to whom she bequeathed most of her $6 million-plus estate — and her unpretentiousness as a human being.
She once famously said, “Always keep love and humility in your heart.”
That humbleness of character sprang forth from her movies like bolts of enlightenment, garnering her lifelong fans, and endearing her to new generations of devotees.
It’s hard to forget Liz’s’s fresh face in “National Velvet” or her bloated, drunken one in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” or all the other dynamic personas she cast to celluloid perfection through the years.
Even her financial flops, such as the multi-million dollar “Cleopatra,” ended up being blockbusters because of her enchanting magnetism, overshadowing to this day other, more venerable stage and screen adaptations about the Queen of the Nile.
The reason for that was that we just couldn’t get enough of Liz — both on screen and off.
She was also an unwitting trailblazer: Her adultery with co-star Burton in “Cleopatra” incurred her the wrath of the Vatican, but set the stage for the free love that would come to define the Swinging Sixties.
Liz, it seemed, had everything this world could offer — except peace of mind.
That deficiency certainly didn’t stop her from delivering joy to millions as a captivating actress and a humanitarian so extravagant to the senses that man, woman and beast are uniting to grieve her death — and thank her for the memories.