Elizabeth Taylor: A Screen Remembrance
July 1-September 6
Elizabeth Taylor's (1932-2011) passing was front-page news worldwide, recapitulating decades of tabloid curiosity about her private life, stunning beauty, many marriages, diamonds and near-death experiences. But there was also genuine appreciation for her screen work — beginning as a child actor, and a very good one, for MGM, she navigated the often perilous teenage years with aplomb to become a bona fide star as an adult, and by the late 1950s she was arguably the top actress in Hollywood. Critics often drubbed her later films, but many of these enjoy lively cult followings today. As a tireless pioneer of HIV/AIDS charity work, Taylor's legacy as an activist and philanthropist will also stand the test of time.
FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950)
"I would like to say a few words about weddings." So begins this feature-length recounting by long-winded suburban lawyer Spencer Tracy of how he gave away daughter Elizabeth Taylor (then a lovely 17-year-old) — and a large portion of his bank account — on her wedding day. Vincente Minnelli's gently comic tale was an enormous hit for MGM, which hyped the film in concert with Taylor's nearly simultaneous engagement and marriage to hotel heir Conrad Hilton Jr. Tracy earned the fourth of his nine Oscar nominations for Best Actor as the gruff but tender, loving father.
DIR Vincente Minnelli; SCR Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, based on the novel by Edward Streeter; PROD Pandro S. Berman. US, 1950, b&w, 92 min. NOT RATED
Fri, Jul 1, 2:30; Sun, Jul 3, 12:30
A PLACE IN THE SUN
"One of the greatest films ever to come out of Hollywood." – Charlie Chaplin In George Stevens' adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's classic "An American Tragedy," Montgomery Clift portrays a poor factory worker forced to choose between prosperity and passion — and between rich girl Elizabeth Taylor and pregnant lower-class girlfriend Shelley Winters. Nine Oscar nominations and six wins, including Best Director for Stevens and Best Cinematography for William C. Mellor's gorgeous black-and-white compositions and intense close-ups.
DIR/PROD George Stevens; SCR Michael Wilson, Harry Brown, based on the play by Patrick Kearney, adapted from "An American Tragedy" by Theodore Dreiser. US, 1951, b&w, 122 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Jul 2, 3:05; Tue, Jul 5, 2:00; Wed, Jul 6, 4:00
SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER
Domineering society dame Katharine Hepburn enlists psychiatrist Montgomery Clift to perform a lobotomy on her troubled niece Elizabeth Taylor, whom she blames for the death of her beloved son while the two vacationed in Spain. Despite behind-the-scenes turmoil — reports of Hepburn and Taylor at odds over screen time; post-car accident Clift battling personal demons and substance abuse — director Joseph Mankiewicz achieved a mesmerizing adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play, from a screenplay by Williams and Gore Vidal. Oscar nominations for Hepburn and Taylor, who delivers a spellbinding, climactic monologue about that mysterious summer.
DIR Joseph L. Mankiewicz; SCR Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, based on his play; PROD Sam Spiegel. US, 1959, b&w, 114 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Jul 9, 11:45a.m. - just added!; Sun, Jul 10, 12:30; Tue, Jul 12, 9:15
The friction between old-money Texas cattle ranchers and upstart new-money oil drillers plays out in ways both epic and intimate in George Stevens' adaptation of Edna Ferber's novel. The action spans generations but pivots on the love triangle between Rock Hudson's patrician Bick Benedict, James Dean's ranch hand turned oil tycoon Jett Rink and Elizabeth Taylor's Leslie, married to Hudson but longed for by Dean. The extensive supporting cast includes notables Mercedes McCambridge, Sal Mineo, Carroll Baker and Dennis Hopper as Hudson and Taylor's son.
DIR/PROD George Stevens; SCR Fred Guiol, Ivan Moffat, based on the novel by Edna Ferber. US, 1956, color, 198 min. NOT RATED
Fri, Jul 15, 3:00, Sun, Jul 17, 1:00
LITTLE WOMEN (1949)
Mervyn LeRoy's 1949 Technicolor version of Louisa May Alcott's classic tale of the four March sisters growing up in Civil War-era Concord, Massachusetts, stars June Allyson as aspiring writer Jo, Janet Leigh as the practical-minded eldest, Meg, Margaret O'Brien as the sickly, musically inclined youngest, Beth, and a blonde-wigged (!) Elizabeth Taylor as bratty beauty Amy. With Mary Astor as the girls' saintly, nobly suffering mother "Marmee."
DIR/PROD Mervyn LeRoy; SCR Andrew Solt, Sarah Y. Mason, Victor Heerman, based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott. US, 1949, color, 122 min. NOT RATED
Tue, Jul 19, 4:30; Thu, Jul 21, 4:30; Fri, Jul 22, 10:10 a.m. (Silver Babies show), 4:30
"Face it, mama: I was the slut of all time!" Beginning with 1957's RAINTREE COUNTY, Elizabeth Taylor was nominated for an Oscar in four consecutive years, finally winning for this film in 1960. Conceived to capitalize on Taylor's scarlet woman status for breaking up Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds' marriage, the film famously introduced her model/call girl character wearing a slip and drinking scotch for breakfast. Taylor and her wealthy, married lover, Laurence Harvey, have a dangerous love-hate relationship, and the plot's twists and turns, simultaneously undermining and upholding Eisenhower-era morality, make for fascinating and fun viewing today.
DIR Daniel Mann, SCR Charles Schnee, John Michael Hayes, based on the novel by John O'Hara; PROD Pandro S. Berman. US, 1960, color, 109 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Jul 23, 1:45; Sun, Jul 24, 7:30
"Everyone should have a chance at a breathtaking piece of folly at least once in his or her life." So says no-nonsense mother Ann Revere, in an Oscar-winning role, to her spunky 12-year-old daughter Elizabeth Taylor, who really, really, really likes horses. Through a series of lucky events, Taylor wins a horse she renames Pie. She trains him, enters him into the Grand National Steeplechase, and, as a last-minute replacement for her unreliable jockey, races him herself. One of the great classic family films, based on the beloved novel by Enid Bagnold, with Donald Crisp, Jackie "Butch" Jenkins and Angela Lansbury as Taylor's family and Mickey Rooney as her trainer.
DIR Clarence Brown; SCR Theodore Reeves, Helen Deutsch, based on the novel by Enid Bagnold; PROD Pandro S. Berman. US, 1945, color, 123 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Jul 30, 12:25; Tue, Aug 2, 7:00
CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF
Arguably Elizabeth Taylor's signature performance; she earned an Oscar nomination as passionate Southern belle "Maggie the Cat," wife to Paul Newman, who earned his first Oscar nomination as despondent alcoholic Brick Pollitt. Based on Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Taylor and Newman find themselves on his family's Mississippi plantation for the birthday of patriarch "Big Daddy" Burl Ives, where deeply buried secrets emerge.
DIR/SCR Richard Brooks; SCR James Poe, based on the play by Tennessee Williams; PROD Lawrence Weingarten. US, 1958, color, 108 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Jul 30, 2:50; Mon, Aug 1, 9:10
WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?
*In Person: Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger, authors of "Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century" (Sat, Aug 13, 2:30 show)
College professor George (Richard Burton) and his blowsy wife, Martha (Elizabeth Taylor, Burton's real-life wife, in an Oscar-winning performance), have young marrieds George Segal and Sandy Dennis over for a drink, a simple invitation that quickly turns sour as the couple taunt, terrorize and demean one another and their guests. A faithful, powerfully acted adaptation of Edward Albee's controversial Broadway play, Mike Nichols' first film was one of the most acclaimed debuts since CITIZEN KANE, and it garnered an astonishing 13 Academy Award nominations.
DIR Mike Nichols; SCR/PROD Ernest Lehman, based on the play by Edward Albee. US, 1966, b&w, 131 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Aug 13, 2:30*; Sun, Aug 14, 5:20
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW
The splashy star casting of real-life husband and wife Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor as Shakespeare's famously bickering couple Petruchio and Kate made Franco Zeffirelli's debut film a major international hit. The MGM-trained former child star Taylor acquitted herself admirably opposite the classically trained Burton. Said Burton, "We made THE TAMING OF THE SHREW because I wanted to act a rough role as far away as possible from those Rex Harrison parts with nice suits and freshly laundered shirts, and my wife because she wanted to talk English for a change." The film garnered Oscar nominations for its sumptuous art direction and costumes.
DIR/SCR/PROD Franco Zeffirelli; SCR Paul Dehn, Suso Cecchi d'Amico, based on the play by William Shakespeare; PROD Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor. Italy/US, 1967, color, 122 min. NOT RATED
Sun, Aug 14, 12:20; Wed, Aug 17, 6:30
REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE
John Huston's adaptation of Carson McCullers' novel, controversial and misunderstood in 1967, is ripe for rediscovery today as one of the director's best. Army officers Marlon Brando and Brian Keith enjoy a boozy country club lifestyle on their sleepy Southern base, except Brando's a closet case and Keith's a neglectful husband having an affair with Brando's bitchy wife, Elizabeth Taylor. Fascinating and fiery performances light up the screen, while the story's progressive delirium culminates in a shocking finale.
DIR/PROD John Huston; SCR Gladys Hill, Chapman Mortimer, based on the novel by Carson McCullers; PROD Ray Stark. US, 1967, color, 108 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Aug 20, 5:15; Wed, Aug 24, 7:00
"It's time to speak of unspoken things." Prostitute Elizabeth Taylor forms a surrogate mother-daughter bond with strangely childlike Mia Farrow, who resembles her dead daughter. In the spooky old mansion where Farrow lives, the two settle into a kind of kinky, twisted codependence, jeopardized when Farrow's estranged stepfather, Robert Mitchum, returns. Joseph Losey's barking mad melodrama was critically savaged upon release save for a few sympathetic viewers who detected a dark exploration of relationships in tune with THE SERVANT and ACCIDENT; but camp-minded audiences have always loved the psychosexual thriller for its delirious lunacy.
DIR Joseph Losey; SCR George Tabori; PROD John Heyman, Norman Priggen. UK, 1968, color, 109 min. NOT RATED
Sun, Aug 21, 5:15; Mon, Aug 22, 7:00
This romantic epic of a family divided by the Civil War is a well-crafted, visually sumptuous history film that doubles as a reflection of political divisions in its own time. Opposites attract when idealistic Indiana abolitionist Montgomery Clift falls for Southern Belle Elizabeth Taylor, but when the war breaks out she steals home to New Orleans with their son, causing Clift to enlist in the Union Army to find them. At the time it was the most expensive movie ever made, helped by a two-month hiatus while Clift recuperated from a car crash after leaving a party at Taylor's Beverly Hills home. Taylor's performance earned her the first of her five Best Actress Oscar nominations.
DIR Edward Dmytryk; SCR Millard Kaufman, based on the novel by Ross Lockridge Jr.; PROD David Lewis. US, 1957, color, 168 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Aug 27, 5:10; Sun, Aug 28, 3:00
*In Person: Sam Kashner, author of "Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century" (Fri, Sep 2, 9:30 show)
John Waters cites this as one of his favorite bad movies, and who can question "The Pope of Trash" on matters of bad taste? Wealthy writer Elizabeth Taylor, a six-time widow, learns she is terminally ill and resolves to write her memoirs at her island home. Richard Burton, part poet, part gigolo, with an "angel of death" reputation for hanging around wealthy old women before they die, braves the sea and Taylor's guard dogs to come calling, and she lets the intruder hang around, along with her many servants and medical staff, for her amusement and verbal abuse. Baroque sets and costumes match the exceedingly bizarre dialogue in this camp classic.
DIR Joseph Losey; SCR Tennessee Williams, based on his play "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore"; PROD John Heyman, Norman Priggen. UK, 1968, color, 113 min. NOT RATED
Fri, Sep 2, 9:30*; Wed, Sep 7, 7:00
X, Y AND ZEE
"X, Y AND ZEE is a loud, boozy celebration of the fact that no matter what Elizabeth Taylor says or does, she's a movie star." – Roger Ebert
Irritated by architect husband Michael Caine's latest affair with gamine Susannah York, scorned woman Taylor unleashes hellacious fury and occasional charm to scheme, wheedle and seduce her husband back into the fold, tactics that she eventually uses on York, too. "The aging beauty has discovered in herself a gutsy, unrestrained spirit that knocks two very fine performers right off the screen — and...she appears to be having a roaring good time on camera." – Pauline Kael
DIR Brian G. Hutton; SCR Edna O'Brien, based on her novel "Zee and Co."; PROD Jay Kanter, Alan Ladd Jr. UK, 1972, color, 110 min. RATED R
Mon, Sep 5, 4:45; Tue, Sep 6, 9:05