Thursday, May 30, 2013
Liz and Dick, Together Again
My family loved Elizabeth Taylor when I was a kid. She was beautiful, sexy, and scandalous, stealing Eddie Fisher away from America’s sweetheart, Debbie Reynolds, in 1959 and then dumping Eddie a couple years later when she met Richard Burton on the set of Cleopatra. Some might say she was the Kim Kardashian of her day, except Liz had talent and a helluva a lot more style.
Despite near bankruptcy due to cost over-runs when the film was in production, 20th Century Fox has lovingly restored a director’s cut (4 hours!) of Cleopatra, which screened last week at this year’s Cannes film festival. The film, originally released in 1963, was also shown locally at selected theaters, last Wednesday. I wasn’t able to go, so we instead schlepped out to the Valley on Sunday, where it was playing one last time at a hole-in-wall theater on Victory Blvd. The movie screen was barely bigger than our TV! Still the restored footage was eye-popping, even if the acting was a bit ham-fisted. Liz and her costumes were absolutely gorgeous. No wonder Cleopatra received that year’s Oscar for best costume design. Not surprisingly, however, neither Liz nor Dick was nominated.
Coincidentally, the Aero theater, a 1940 movie-house located in the chi-chi outskirts of Santa Monica, is running a Shakespeare film festival this week, including Zeffirelli’s Taming of the Shrew (1967), widely considered the best of Taylor and Burton’s 11 movies together. I insisted we go.
Happily, the screen was much larger this time around, but the film had not been restored. Nevertheless, the movie was wonderful, with Liz and Dick both in their prime. Burton, in particular, was a delight, playing an over-the-top Petruchio in outlandish garb. As for Taylor, she was funny and as beautiful as ever. Who knew women looked so good in liquid eyeliner in the 15th century—a trick Liz must have picked up in ancient Egypt!