It was the easy-going world of the late 1950’s. I was a kid, TV was free, our household got two Chicago newspapers a day (my parents didn’t want to miss a thing) and movies were about 75 cents for adults (much less in smaller towns). I wasn’t even close to an adult yet but I wanted to go see the Elizabeth Taylor movie Cat On A Hot Tin Roof because I guess I thought it had something to do with cats. My folks filled me in on the movie in cryptic fashion like adults tended to do in the 50’s stating it was an adult film with Elizabeth Taylor, end of discussion. I thought it would be cool to see an adult film, my parents thought differently.
You see in the “old” days, parents actually decided what movies their kids could see, instead of the movie police. In many instances back then, parents were a lot tougher on movie viewing for their kids than any R, G, PG system that would eventually be adopted. I was allowed of course, to see National Velvet on TV. Elizabeth Taylor was so beautiful in that movie and I begged my parents for a horse. Promising to groom it daily, exercise it in our miniscule city backyard and board it in our garage. No dice.
The only reason all these memories came flooding back to me today was of course, the news that Elizabeth Taylor has died today. From the perspective of a young female child, I thought she was talented, glamorous and lucky to be in movies with horses and dogs (Lassie). It wasn’t until I was much older that I witnessed the rather complicated life she had lived. Here was a child star who grew up in front of the public who adored her for her professional life and at the same time condemned her for her private life.
Taylor said in an interview a few years back that the gossip bothered her a great deal and she would often go and cry by herself. But she admitted she made mistakes in her life and was not happy with some of the things she had done. Not making excuses she said simply “I am me.” Taylor took up the AIDS cause long before it became fashionable. Even when her own health was failing she still raised millions for AIDS and other gay and lesbian causes.
It’s not only sad that Elizabeth Taylor the film legend has died but she really is the last icon of that era. The Hollywood movie star era is over and all the glitz and glamour that goes with it. One only has to look to the recent Academy Awards last month to see that unfunny and weirdness are in and sophistication, class and glamour are gone.
I did finally get to see Cat On A Hot Tin Roof when I was much older and my parents were right, it wasn’t about cats at all. Rest In Peace to a movie star–in the truest meaning of the word.