Elizabeth Taylor, 1932-2011
by Phil Boatwright

Like all legends, Ms. Taylor acted in some not so legendary films. But she also made some incredible movies. Here are several of her best. You can find them on DVD, most are available on Netflix, and be watching TCM over the next week. I’m sure that station will be hosting many of these films.

As a child actress:
Lassie Come Home – Roddy McDowall, Donald Crisp and great supporting cast. Lassie was not my favorite movie dog – but this is an exceptional movie about a boy and a girl and their beloved pet. This and National Velvet should be seen by the entire family.
Jane Eyre – Orson Welles, Margaret O’Brien. Though a bit slow paced, it is a beautifully constructed version of the classic Bronte novel.
The White Cliffs of Dover – Irene Dunne, Alan Marshall and many outstanding character actors star in this story of an American woman who marries a Britisher on the eve of WWI.
National Velvet - More than anything, a 12-year-old girl (Elizabeth Taylor) wants to enter the Grand National Steeplechase on her beloved horse, Pie. Engrossing story from a child’s point of view, with a terrific supporting cast and breath-taking photography. A young girl competes in a man’s world.

As a teenager:
Life with Father – William Powell, Irene Dunne, Edmund Gwenn (who played Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street). Story of family life in turn-of-the 20th century N.Y.C. Delightful performances, amusing look at the period.
Little Women – The 1994 version is better, but this 1949 redo of Louisa May Alcott’s look at teenage girls finding maturity and romance ain’t bad. Young Miss Taylor co-stars with June Allyson, Peter Lawford, Margaret O’Brien, Janet Leigh and Mary Astor.
Father of the Bride – While I happen to like the 1991 version with Steve Martin, this version with Spencer Tracy is considered a classic. Dad is having trouble letting go of his about to be married daughter. This is a nice film.

As an adult:
A Place in the Sun – Montgomery Clift, Shelley Winters. Terrific performances from each of the main cast. Clift marries Winters, then decides he must have the more alluring Taylor. Hey, a lot of guys did.
Giant – Elisabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean (his last film) give exceptional performances in this sprawling version of Edna Ferber’s novel about life on a big Texas spread. The film exposes bigotry and prejudice, with the lead character becoming a better man by film’s end.