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Made just after Elizabeth Taylor had been made a Dame of the British Empire (DBE) for her services to the AIDS cause as well as her movie career, this documentary takes a superficial look at her life and work.
Narrated in sonorous tones by Nigel Hawthorne, ENGLAND'S OTHER ELIZABETH focuses on Taylor's origins in England, and how she lived her early life in Hampstead before emigrating to the United States on the outbreak of World War 2. With her fellow-compatriot Angela Lansbury, the two of them moved to California and carved out fledgling movie careers in films such as LASSIE COME HOME (1943) and NATIONAL VELVET a year later. Interviewed in the program, Lansbury comments on Taylor's innate ability to act in front of a camera, even though she never had formal training.
As she grew up, Taylor essayed more complex roles in GIANT (1956) and CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958). Sometimes she had to act with gay performers such as James Dean; she found a particular empathy in working with them, especially at a time when their sexuality had to be hidden from public view. CAT proved an exceptionally difficult film for her to work on; during filming, her third husband Mike Todd died in a plane crash, leaving Taylor devastated. Ironically she did not win an Oscar for her performance in that film, but won it for a far inferior characterization in BUTTERFIELD 8 (1960).
Taylor herself appears as an interviewee in this documentary; she is remarkably frank in her answers, even though her countenance remains expressionless due to an excess of face-lifts. She admits to loving Richard Burton very deeply, and teaching him a lot about film- acting. She considered is scandalous that he did not win an Oscar for WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF |1966), a film for which she won Best Actress for the second time.
The program skates over her later film career, concentrating instead on her work for AIDS victims, which began when she found out that her costar and friend Rock Hudson was suffering from the illness. She admits quite frankly that none of the victims wanted much, except to have a motherly arm placed round their shoulders, something she was more than willing to provide.
At the time the program was made, Taylor's movie career had virtually ended, yet she still remained a big star in her own right, the last of the old-style actors produced by the studio system. It's nice to see her being interviewed, making us aware that we will never see her like again.
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