I find nothing overrated about Elizabeth Taylor. She, Joanne Woodward, and Marlon Brando stand as my top picks for the most talented actors of their day. She became every character, and the variety of roles she took shows versatility. She also became a fashion icon. Her beauty and style epitomized Hollywood glamour. In many ways, they still do. All this comes together in Taylor’s first Oscar-winning performance in BUtterfield 8.
As Manhattan model/call-girl Gloria Wandrous, Taylor is both aggressive and scared, fashionable and damaged. I realized I just used a lot of modifiers, but it makes sense. At the beginning of the film, she replies to lover Weston Liggett’s (played by Laurence Harvey) $250 and note, “Enough?” by smearing “No sale” on the bathroom mirror with lipstick, and then steals his wife’s fur coat. Still, she tries to please her mother, who always assumes the best about her, and play good friend to Steve Carpenter, played by Eddie Fisher. Having gone down the wrong path from an expected (in these types of films) horrendous past, Gloria wants to live differently.
Many other moments seem so “Elizabeth Taylor” to me. While not the greatest film, it remains hers, and I like it for that. When Gloria drives her heel into Laurence’s foot, or cries lines like, “Did you ever stop to think you bring out the wildness in me?” and “I saw a woman, utterly proper, utterly conventional, utterly beautiful,” with that Liz Taylor voice, I feel no one else can play the part. I think this despite my opinion Gloria resembles another 60’s film call-girl, Holly Golightly. They even dress alike, with little black dresses and pearls, and orange jackets. Not that this matters. I only find it an interesting resemblance.
I decided I like BUtterfield 8. It is melodramatic, and does not have a happy ending (I think it might have improved with one though!), but it still shows everything I like about Elizabeth Taylor. It also has a good story, bleak as it seems under all that 60s sugar-coating.
Here is the trailer: