Dryden Theatre celebrates the film career of Elizabeth Taylor

Film series features National Velvet, A Place in the Sun, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Raintree County Giant, Little Women, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

For Release 2011-10-27

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — On Thursdays in November and December, the Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House presents a tribute to one of the great sirens of the silver screen, the incomparable Elizabeth Taylor, with a film series titled “A Place in the Sun: The Films of Elizabeth Taylor.”

“When Taylor passed away in March 2011, so passed one of the last bona fide queens of a bygone era,” said Lori Donnelly, Eastman House film programmer. “While her stunning looks and tabloid-ready personal life often eclipsed her talent in the public’s eye, her staggering career lasted nearly 70 years, encompassing triumphs on stage, screen, and television, states.”

Although Taylor had been acting for several years, her big break came at age 12 as plucky jockey Velvet Brown in National Velvet. Unlike other child stars of her day, her appeal came not from her girlishness, but from her preternatural assuredness and dark beauty, traits that helped her ease into adult roles after a string of mostly forgettable contract pictures.

She came into her own as an adult star — at age 17 — with the first of three iconic collaborations with lifelong friend Montgomery Clift, A Place In The Sun. As the intoxicating socialite who tempts working-class Clift away from his pregnant girlfriend, Taylor earned widespread acclaim and cemented her reputation as a serious actress.

It wasn’t until 1956, however, that Taylor truly entered the Hollywood stratosphere, earning four Academy Award® nominations in a row for iconic performances in films like Raintree County, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, and her first Oscar® triumph, Butterfield 8. Not classically trained, it was her charisma, her presence, and her tough charm that would come to define her acting style and persona. Taylor earned her well-earned second Academy Award® for Best Actress® for her role in the 1966 film Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

Taylor spent the second half of her career using her celebrity for humanitarian efforts. Before AIDS was widely acknowledged, she was at the forefront of HIV/AIDS activism, and eventually raised $270 million for the cause that she described as “her life.” Fittingly for a dual citizen of Britain and the United States, Elizabeth Taylor was royalty in all the right ways: charming, beautiful, generous, and talented. Please join us as we pay homage to one of Hollywood’s finest stars.


The schedule of “A Place in the Sun: The Films of Elizabeth Taylor”:

8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3

National Velvet (Clarence Brown, US 1945, 125 min.) 

By the age of 12, British-born Elizabeth Taylor was under contract to MGM and had already appeared in several popular films, but it was this wonderful girl-and-her-gelding adventure that made her a major star. Taylor stars as a Velvet Brown, a Sussex schoolgirl who, with the help of a young drifter (Mickey Rooney), is determined to enter her rambunctious horse The Pie in the Grand National Steeplechase. Proof that family entertainment need not be cutesy or bland, the film features some truly exciting race sequences and remained one of Taylor’s personal favorites.


8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17

A Place In The Sun (George Stevens, US 1951, 122 min.) 

Adapted from Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy and starring 17-year- old Liz Taylor opposite Montgomery Clift, the film raises an essential question: Was ever a screen couple more beautiful? She’s a wealthy debutante; he’s a poor social climber who’ll stop at nothing to share her place in the sun. The only thing standing in his way is Shelley Winters.


8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (Richard Brooks, US 1958, 108 min., 16mm) 

Think “Elizabeth Taylor” and one of the first images you’re likely to conjure is Liz as Maggie the Cat in this somewhat bowdlerized adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s scandalous Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Sprawled across her lonely marriage bed, sulking in her satin slip and ignored by her sexually indifferent husband (Paul Newman), Taylor’s Maggie is much more than mere image: Though still a relative newcomer to “serious” drama, she holds her own against a brooding Newman, Dame Judith Anderson and the great Burl Ives.


7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8

Raintree County (Edward Dmytryk, US 1957, 187 min., w/ intermission) 

Based on the best-selling 1947 novel by Ross Lockridge Jr. — though the opening credits misname him “Ross Rockridge, Jr.” — Edward Dmytryk’s sweeping epic follows the trials and tribulations of a feisty Civil War-era Southern belle who ensnares Montgomery Clift by claiming she’s pregnant. Midway through shooting, a tragic shadow fell across this lavish production: Clift suffered a near-fatal car accident that left one side of his face paralyzed.


7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15

Giant (George Stevens, US 1956, 197 min.) 

Considering the long shadow cast by James Dean, who died and became an instant legend soon after shooting wrapped on this epic Western, it’s easy to forget that the film’s real star is actually 23-year-old Liz Taylor. No longer the teenage ingénue, Liz plays a headstrong Southern belle who marries Texas rancher (Rock Hudson) but falls in love with a brooding young ranch hand.


8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 22

Little Women (Mervyn LeRoy, US 1949, 121 min.) 

This gorgeous Technicolor adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel about a New England matriarch’s (played here by Mary Astor) struggle to keep her family together during the Civil War was a career-long dream project for director Mervyn LeRoy. Alcott’s book had already been filmed three times but never so beautifully.


8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 29

Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (Mike Nichols, US 1966, 131 min.) 

Edward Albee’s play about a pair of dysfunctional academics held a dark mirror to the boozy, brawling marriage of Taylor and Burton — the “it” couple of the international jet set whose turbulent private life had become harrowingly public. Broadway wunderkind Mike Nichols’s brilliant screen adaptation marked an unexpected leap forward for both the first-time film director and Oscar®-winner Taylor.


Regular Dryden admission for each film: $8 general/$6 students and members. For more information call (585) 271-3361 or visit dryden.eastmanhouse.org.


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