Elizabeth Taylor, 1932–2011


Remember her for her incomparable beauty, her great performances in great films, the camp confections like Cleopatra and Boom, and years of activism on behalf of gay people:

There is no gay agenda, it’s a human agenda. Why shouldn’t gay people be able to live as open and freely as everybody else? What it comes down to, ultimately, is love. How can anything bad come out of love? The bad stuff comes out of mistrust, misunderstanding and, God knows, from hate and from ignorance.

It would also be remiss of me (since no obituaries will be tasteless enough to mention it) if I didn’t note her presence at the heart of one of the more notorious novels of the past fifty years. I often used to wonder whether anyone had told her about Crash. Not that she’d want to know about it if they did; who would be eager to read detailed plans for their own horrific death? But it was her status as a 20th century icon, the nonpareil of film stardom, that made her the perfect choice as the focus of Vaughan’s obsessions in Ballard’s novel.


Elizabeth Taylor: a career in clips
RIP Elizabeth Taylor: A Ballardian Primer

10 thoughts on “Elizabeth Taylor, 1932–2011”

  1. When I was boy if anyone had asked what a film star was I’d have said “Elizabeth Taylor” immediately. She always seemed the definitive example. And I loved Cleopatra!

  2. I never liked Giant very much, couldn’t take James Dean seriously trying to play an old man. I watched Boom last year which is a bizarre film. Secret Ceremony is another Joseph Losey film with Liz that I haven’t seen for years and wouldn’t mind watching again. And I liked the overheated hysteria of Suddenly Last Summer, another one I haven’t seen for a while.

    Cronenberg’s Crash has its virtues but the book is in a different world entirely, and it probably helps if you read the book before seeing the film. The problem with trying to depict Ballard’s “death of affect” and his visual aesthetic is that you run the risk of everything coming over like a TV ad or a fashion display without any of the underpinning psychology and sense of obsession. The film veers close to that in places.

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