Elizabeth Taylor is born in London, 1932. Her movie career began in 1942 with There’s One Born Every Minute, playing the daughter of a man who develops a pudding that’s chock full of Vitamin Z (!). Her last big-screen endeavor was The Flintstones in 1994. In her 52 years in front of the camera, she made a total of 52 pictures, was Oscar nominated five times and won twice—for BUtterfield 8 (1960) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). In 1955 she embarked on her 25th film, which turned out to be one of her best. Giant, released in 1956, told the sprawling saga of a Texas rancher, his Maryland-born wife and a ranch hand who inherits an oil-rich parcel of land. Directed by George Stevens, the film co-starred Rock Hudson, Mercedes McCambridge, Carroll Baker, Dennis Hopper, Jane Withers and—in his last performance—James Dean, who was killed in a car accident a matter of days after his work was finished on the film. One evening towards the beginning of the shoot, Hudson and Taylor decided to get to know each other over drinks and, by 3:00 am the next morning, ended up bosom buddies and completely blotto. Two and a half hours later they reported to the set to shoot a wordless scene requiring Hudson and Taylor, both valiantly trying not to throw up, to look lovingly upon each other. Onlookers were reportedly moved by their performance.
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Tom Drake dies of lung cancer in Torrance, California, 1982. A heart murmur kept the MGM contract player out of service during World War II and the studio kept him busy, making nine movies during the that time. He is best remembered as the boy next door to Judy Garland’s Esther Smith—a role originally meant for Van Johnson—in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944). Though stardom evaded him, Drake worked throughout his career alongside Elizabeth Taylor, Greer Garson and Spencer Tracy and played Richard Rodgers to Mickey Rooney’s Lorenz Hart in Words and Music (1948).
A publicity still from the Elvis Presley movie Flaming Star (1960) was adapted by artist Andy Warhol into 22 silkscreen portraits, one of which, Double Elvis [Ferus Type], goes on the auction block this week at Sotheby’s. The print, originally displayed at Los Angeles’s Ferris Gallery in 1963, is expected to sell for anywhere between $30 million and $50 million.
Here’s a brief look at other iconic film figures that captured Warhol’s attention over the years.
Marilyn Diptych, 1962, based on a publicity still from Monroe's film Niagra (1953).
Liz #5, 1963, was one of 13 paintings the artist made of Elizabeth Taylor. It fetched $27 million shortly after the actress's death in 2011.
Judy Garland, 1979.
Mickey Mouse, 1981.
George Stevens dies of a heart attack in Lancaster, California, 1975. The director of Gunga Din (1939), The More the Merrier (1943) and Giant (1956) made one of his most lauded films in 1949, the drama A Place in the Sun, based on Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy. Released in 1951, the movie starred Montgomery Clift as George Eastman, a blue collar joe with a pregnant wife (Shelley Winters), who becomes part of an upscale world that includes the beautiful Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor). “In A Place in the Sun, I was interested in the mood and emotional effect of the story,” Stevens (above, on the set) explained in a 1973 interview. “I wanted the audience to relate to a character whose behavior it might not subscribe to. To bring that about, one must let the audience see his desire. They have to know his need for that thing that, even accidentally, traps him. So how do you do those things? Cinema, at its most effective, is one scene effectively superseded by the next. Isn’t that it? The hatchet on the rope and the guillotine falls in the next cut. We have our electricity that creates a current that blows through a film. When I cut the film, I became more and more conscious of the value of one scene against another, and how this spelled something out. I wanted to edit the film in a way that meant more than the addition of one scene to another, I wanted a kind of energy to flow through. What really interested me was the relationship of images, from this one to that. Shelley Winters busting at the seams with sloppy melted ice cream in a brass bed, as against Elizabeth Taylor in a white gown with blue balloons floating from the sky. Automatically that’s an imbalance, and by imbalance you create drama. I’m interested in knowing—as visually as it can be stated—what’s on this boy’s mind.”
Cecil B. DeMille's Cleopatra (1917) screens for the director and his staff, 1934. This was the second of many versions that told the tale of the titular Egyptian monarch and her romantic entanglements with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. The first, also called Cleopatra, starred Helen Gardner, with later versions starring Claudette Colbert in 1934 and—in case you haven't heard—Elizabeth Taylor in 1963. Bara's version contained a record 50 costume changes. Not to be outdone, Taylor changed costume a total of 65 times when she played the drama queen. In preparation for the 1934 remake, DeMille borrowed a copy of the Theda Bara film from New York's Fox office and, after screening it in February of 1934, sent it back to their storage facility. Three years later, a fire broke out at the film vault and the last known prints of the movie were destroyed. A fleet 40 seconds of footage is all that is known to exist.