Eliza­beth Taylor: A sex symbol à la Marilyn Monroe

by Mia | 15/01/2022 | Strong women

Of strength and beauty

Sparkling eyes, as clear as stars and yet as deep and unfath­omable as the oceans. Eliza­beth Taylor is a legend among Holly­wood stars. With her smile, the hot curves and her waist, she has turned many men’s heads. And both in front of and behind the camera. As a dreamer, roman­tic and seduc­tress, she even caused a stir in the Vatican! She is the phoenix come true from the ashes that I would like to tell you more about.

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Born in England in 1932, she and her family fled to the USA before the outbreak of World War II. Her acting talent, which she inher­ited from her mother, quickly reveals itself. She was signed by MGM, the largest Holly­wood studio at the time, and was in front of the camera for the first time at the age of 9. Liz’s real break­through came in 1944 along­side films like Lassie with National Velvet. In it she plays a girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to jockey in the Grand National Races. Despite sustain­ing spinal injuries from a fall during filming, Liz demon­strates excep­tional strength.

She quickly recov­ers from the accident and contin­ues filming.

What nobody is aware of at this point: as much as this film marks the break­through in her acting career, the conse­quences of the accident deter­mine her further life in a fateful manner. Again and again Liz suffers from severe back pain. Some days she wasn’t able to get up. In a desper­ate attempt to numb her pain, she increas­ingly abuses drugs and alcohol. This went so far that she finally — encour­aged by her children and friends — under­goes several withdrawals.
These are diffi­cult phases in her life, from which Eliza­beth Taylor always fights out with a smile. Her name doesn’t just stand for an extra­or­di­nary actress who loves the limelight. Behind it is also a strong woman who longs for joie de vivre and true love.

Adored by many, Eliza­beth Taylor marries eight times in her lifetime and, accord­ing to admir­ers, is no less a sex symbol than Marilyn Monroe. She was already posing as a pin-up girl at the age of 15. Her trade­mark, in addition to her expres­sive eyes and lush breasts, is a birth­mark on her right cheek. After her first failed marriage to a wealthy Hilton hotel heir, which lasted only eight months and in which the then 18-year-old suffered from her husband’s alcohol and gambling addic­tion (accord­ing to malicious gossip, Liz’s sexual inexpe­ri­ence bored him), Liz converted in 1951 finally changed her image from nice girl to sex icon: In the film A Place in the Sun she played the mistress of the married ‘George Eastman’ along­side Montgomery Clift. Driven by passion and sexual desire, their liaison culmi­nates in the murder of ‘Eastman’s’ wife.

A new chapter starts

From then on, Eliza­beth Taylor embod­ies an unusual form of the “femme fatale” on stage, but also in real life. With her seduc­tive looks and attrac­tive outfits, which embody both elegance and pure eroti­cism, she casts a spell on every­one — whether single or husband. Like a moth succumb­ing to the deadly flame of a candle, few can take their eyes off it. It’s a form of sexual power that Eliza­beth Taylor is becom­ing increas­ingly aware of. Even film producer Mike Todd cannot resist her erotic charisma. He courts her with expen­sive gifts and long phone calls – knowing full well that Liz is married to husband number two, Michael Wilding. She cannot resist his charm for long. She married Mike Todd just three days after her divorce from Wilding. It is a happy marriage in which Liz seems to have found her true love. With their daugh­ter and the two sons from a previ­ous marriage, their life seemed perfect in 1958. But that same year, Mike Todd dies in a plane crash.

At the age of 26, Eliza­beth Taylor is faced with a shambles. As a woman who has been divorced twice, a mother of three and now also a widow, she now has to make a living for herself and her family alone. Due to Todd’s expen­sive lifestyle, which always used to give her jewels, there were hardly any finan­cial reserves left. So it is that a month after Todd’s funeral, Eliza­beth takes on the role of ‘Maggie’ in the film Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Liz later describes the shoot­ing as therapy: in the role of a loving wife who wants to free her husband (played by Paul Newmann) from his alcohol addic­tion, she doesn’t have to hide her actual grief. Filled with many heart­break­ing scenes, Liz appears in the light of melan­cholic beauty. At the same time, she also enjoys the moments when she can escape from reality and slip into a differ­ent identity. Then you see her on screen herself, a drink in hand, clad in a skimpy, silk-embroi­dered negligee. Challeng­ing, with a seduc­tive look, she leans against a wall. It almost seems as if the thin straps of her dress are about to slide down and reveal the rest of her sensual cleavage.

In later films such as Suddenly Last Summer, Eliza­beth Taylor also stages her curves in front of the camera. The beach shots in a white bathing suit are partic­u­larly famous, symbol­iz­ing an unprece­dented level of eroti­cism in the film indus­try of the 1950s. The images skilfully play with the viewer’s imagi­na­tion: loung­ing on the beach, Liz is only a few centime­ters away from the surging waves. At any moment the water could pour over her body and turn the white bathing suit into a breath of nothing.
That eroti­cism culmi­nates in the 1960 film Butter­field 8. Covered with a mere piece of fur or wrapped in a white sheet, Liz lets all her clothes fall in the role of a call girl. She seduces, plays with her charms, sometimes dominant, sometimes submis­sive. And yet there is still so much hidden in this film that the viewer has enough leeway for their own sexual fantasies.

A sorcer­ess on screen

From today’s perspec­tive, one might think that the film must have been a scandalous flop at the time and that meant the end of Eliza­beth Taylor’s career. But far from it. Society is already chang­ing: It is a time of the begin­ning sexual revolu­tion and freedom of movement, in which eroti­cism with all its facets is increas­ingly being freed from taboos world­wide. A time when Eliza­beth Taylor won her first Oscar for her erotic portrayal of a prosti­tute in 1961.

This sexual power, which she enjoys both in front of and behind the camera, finally culmi­nates in an almost fatal affair for Liz in 1961 during a new film project in Rome. Taylor will play Cleopa­tra along­side co-star Richard Burton, who plays Marcus Antonius. My absolute favorite role. Even as a young lady, I thought it was fitting that the most beauti­ful woman in the world should bring the legend of the once most sensual and beauti­ful ruler of Egypt to life in the film of the same name. Although Liz is initially insulted by Burton because he finds her too fat and disre­spect­fully addresses her as ‘Miss Tits’, a strong attrac­tion quickly devel­ops between them. Although both are married and Burton doesn’t hide his alcohol addic­tion on set, a passion pulsates between them that is also evident to the film crew during many kissing scenes. Their strug­gle for dominance in this relation­ship can also be lived out on camera when Marc Antony refuses to kneel before Cleopa­tra or publicly acknowl­edge her. The pride of both of them ends up costing them their lives and the land of Egypt.

More and more paparazzi hunted down the couple as the filming progressed. Even the Vatican gets involved. He sees the sacred bond of marriage violated and calls on the Italian people to torpedo the final scenes in Rome. But instead, Taylor is applauded by her even fans: during the famous scene of ‘Cleopa­tra’, who triumphantly marches into Rome on a sphinx pedestal with her and Caesar’s son Caesar­ion, many extras call out the name Eliza­beth instead of ‘Cleopa­tra’. It is a monumen­tal moment in which Eliza­beth Taylor is placed above the position of the Catholic Church. Her outfit also under­scores her sublime nature at this moment: clad in gold from head to toe, Liz’s costume sparkles like liquid gold in the hot Roman sun. Her cloak resem­bles the wings of a phoenix, which, just buried by the ashes of the public denun­ci­a­tions, now soars with power­ful wing beats and faces new, but also challeng­ing times.

So it is that Liz and Burton separate from their respec­tive spouses. They remained a couple for 15 years and Burton was Elizabeth’s fifth and sixth marriage. It is a toxic love affair in which tingling eroti­cism quickly turns into jealousy, excess alcohol and violence. Eliza­beth also increas­ingly falls victim to alcohol and pill abuse. More and more often she suffers from the conse­quences of her previ­ous back injury. Combined with Burton’s many affairs and his public humil­i­a­tion towards her, she tries to numb her physi­cal as well as emotional pain. But as much as Liz clung to this marriage, she finally gave up in 1974 and divorced Burton for the second and last time.

Although the two appeared together again in 1981 – this time in Little Foxes in the roles of a married couple who hated each other – rumors of a third marriage remain unful­filled. Whether this is due to Burton’s death in 1984 remains unclear.

But both are said to have indepen­dently confessed to their respec­tive friends that they would marry each other again.

Although Eliza­beth Taylor has two more marriages after Burton, her attrac­tion to Burton seems to have pursued her until her death (2011). This is also reflected in the fact that, accord­ing to her will, she wanted to be buried next to him. Although this is not granted to her, she gets another wish granted post mortem. Eliza­beth Taylor is said to be known for her unpunc­tu­al­ity. And so it is that for the love of old times — like a diva — she also wants to be late at her own funeral. The mourn­ers have to wait a quarter of an hour before Eliza­beth Taylor appears in the limelight for the last time.

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With deep admiration 

I love that humor­ous, proud charac­ter about Eliza­beth Taylor. Despite suffer­ing so many misfor­tunes in her life, she keeps her smile and fight­ing spirit. Not even death can take that away from her: in addition to the loss of her great love and friends like James Dean, Liz even cheats on death several times herself. This is how she defeated a brain tumor and almost died shortly after the start of shoot­ing for ‘Cleopa­tra’ in London in 1961: Due to the cold and damp climate, Liz contracted severe pneumo­nia. In the end, only a tracheotomy can save her life. But instead of recov­er­ing, she soon falls into a coma. The doctors doubt that she will wake up again. But Liz fights her way back to life. Soon she can continue the shoot (which has now been moved to warm Rome) with renewed vigour. She doesn’t hide her long scar on her neck. From now on she proudly presents them both in front of and behind the camera and sometimes decorates them with additional jewellery. Resem­bling a war wound, this scar symbol­izes Liz’s glori­ous victory over death. At least until 2011.

Eliza­beth Taylor dies at the age of 79. Her life is shaped to the end by the fight for a fairer world. She campaigns against racism and the exclu­sion of people suffer­ing from AIDS. To this day, she is one of the world’s most famous, glamorous sex symbols, which not only makes men’s hearts beat faster. Even as a child, I could­n’t escape her spell — I took her under­stand­ing of pride, glamor and, above all, her commit­ment to a better world as a role model from an early age.

Trivia: Eliza­beth Taylor has been one of the highest paid actresses of her time since Cleopa­tra. She was the first woman in Holly­wood to break the $1 million mark. And that as a joke. Eliza­beth Taylor is said to have origi­nally had no desire to play Cleopa­tra. That’s the only reason she asked for this high fee as a deter­rent. With surpris­ing success. 

Viva la Diva!

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