Monday, October 19, 2009

How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood

What does make "How to Be a Movie Star" distinctive is its focus on the changing nature of personal fame as embodied by a woman whose life has consisted of one superlative after another. Married eight times and enduring a string of health crises, Taylor was not only the last classic movie star and the first actress to be paid a million dollars a picture, but at various times regarded as the most beautiful and the most famous woman in the world.

Laura Miller writes:
According to William J. Mann, Taylor's latest biographer, "How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood ," argues that, despite Taylor's half-dozen or so legendary on-screen roles -- including her Oscar-winning portrayal of a posh call girl in "Butterfield 8" -- the instrument she truly mastered was celebrity itself. That she's nabbed a few more headlines by communicating directly with her fans using the latest technology [recently on Twitter about her heart surgery] only demonstrates that she hasn't lost her touch.

Raised in the studio system at a time when stars' images, careers and personal lives were approved and manufactured by potentates like MGM head Louis B. Mayer, Taylor, as Mann sees it, ushered in a new age of candor and independence. The studio had groomed her as an idealized, sensual but sweet beauty, and then she went out and stole Debbie Reynolds' husband, Eddie Fisher, launching a scandal that obsessed the popular press for the better part of the late 1950s. (The infamy of that romantic triangle puts the Aniston-Brangelina soap opera in the shade.) READ MORE