Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


HOW TO BE A MOVIE STAR: ELIZABETH TAYLOR IN HOLLYWOOD. William J. Mann. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 2009.

Mann has decided not to write a straight-forward bio of Taylor but focus on certain highlights of her life, the result being that the book actually has as much depth and knowledge of the woman as bios that cover every facet of her life and career. [To all intents and purposes this is  a full biography.] You can read about Taylor's early career and aggressive mother, who'd been an actress herself; her affairs with, and marriages to, Eddie Fisher and Richard Burton; the making of the mammoth Cleopatra; the death of husband Mike Todd in a plane crash; her feud with Hedda Hopper, who was sued for claiming another Liz-husband, Michael Wilding, was gay; the filming of career highlights such as Giant and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, in which Liz was supposed to look slatternly; and so on. Of course, some things get lost -- Rhapsody, in which Taylor is terrific, is again glossed over [as it was in Taraborrelli's book] and there's no mention of Toscanini [I would have loved to have gone behind-the-scenes with Taylor and co-star C. Thomas Howell!], but you can't have everything. Naturally, when a star has been written about as often as Taylor, lots of stuff gets rehashed, but Mann is a good enough writer to make it all very interesting and readable nevertheless. Taylor's trials and tribulations may no longer be terribly important in the great scheme of things, if they ever were, but they do make good reading and Mann adroitly explores how Liz's romantic carryings-on and choice in movies helped open liberal sexual doors in Hollywood for better or worse. Mann is also the author of Behind the Screen, Kate, and Edge of Midnight on director John Schlesinger; all are recommended.

Verdict: Very readable and entertaining book that is as much about Hollywood as it is about Taylor. ***1/2.

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