I’ve always considered Elizabeth Taylor to be something of a feminist archetype, which may sound odd given her reputation as someone ruled by her passions and ruined, time and again, by the predations of men.
But it was that sorry legacy — so familiar to women of the 50s and 60s — that seemed to add a necessary spark to the early days of the fem-lib revolution. Without Liz Taylor’s example, what was there to fight for?
Liz’s choice of screen roles in those days showed both courage and self-awareness: weak, clingy characters who found an inner steel that was forged in the furnace of destructive attachments. She was often a doormat, but rarely stayed that way.
Her Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? helped shatter the post-war paradigm of married relationships. To this day, Liz’s performance in that film is a terrifying thing to witness, not because of her scalding rage, but because of the righteous power and clarity of her voice.
It was equally revealing that in later life Liz found support and companionship in the safe harbor of people like Elton John and Michael Jackson and Rock Hudson, gentle souls all. Think about it: did we not learn a lot about men from Elizabeth Taylor?
There was a lot of tragedy in Liz Taylor’s life (and screen roles), but she deserves to be remembered as someone who struggled, intermittently and often unsuccessfully, to shake off the crippling birthright of women of her generation. Ignore the pathos of her later years; we all owe her thanks.
Elizabeth Taylor was also, of course, one of Hollywood’s most legendary beauties. We honor her today with a selection of images that show her at her most entrancing and seductive. Many of these images are borrowed from the collection of Life magazine, which chronicled her life extensively, and which has an archive worth visiting.