Because we can never have enough discussion about Elizabeth Taylor...

Today I will be reading proofs all afternoon, but I wanted to include this post for the day! Last night, I couldn't decide what I wanted to watch before going to sleep (am boycotting television these days...most of it is just too boring. For instance, for the first time in ages, I turned on the Today Show as I printed off proofs. The topic: learning to cope with aging, specifically teaching women to cope with turning 40. I am not demeaning this at all, but after everything that I have seen in this world, turning 40 is the least of my worries. When it happens, I will just be happy that I am alive and still able to learn and travel and be with people who I love.). Anyway, I keep several movies in my room, basically easy access background noise that I can quickly put on if I need a distraction.

So, I had not watched any Elizabeth Taylor movies in a while, and I decided to put one on. I chose a really bad and disturbing film called X, Y, and Zee. So, today's post is going to be about some of the really bad movies that Taylor made...movies that are so bad that they are good. (By the way, these movies really aren't great, if you haven't seen them. So, don't rush out and find them!)

As for X, Y, and Zee: Not a stellar movie. The cast is pretty much composed of Michael Caine, Elizabeth Taylor, and a very young and gorgeous (in spite of her Carol Brady-like hair) Susannah York.

In thinking about how to discuss this movie, I really couldn't decide how to go about summarizing it. I mean, it is so totally bizarre. All summaries fail to describe it. For instance, here is the one from IMDB:
"The venomous and amoral wife of a wealthy architect tries, any way she can, to break up the blossoming romance between her husband and his new mistress; a good-natured young widow who holds a dark past."

Hmmmm...not really. Yes, Taylor does play what I guess we would call an "amoral wife." She is certainly "venomous." But Caine, her "wealthy architect husband" (BTW: That doesn't seem to be the case in the film, as there is so much discussion about money and paying bills...) is just as "amoral" and "venomous" as she is. He is abusive and condescending, and the "romance" between himself and the mistress, York, is anything but romantic. In fact, Caine kind of scares me to death in this film.

Like so many of Taylor's movies, this one is really uncomfortable to watch (and not because it is a crazy film). And this is what I love about her films--even the bad ones. It doesn't matter how crazy the movie is, there is always some kind of story involved that is so strange that it forces you to think. Caine is obsessed with proving himself as a paragon of his own distorted image of masculinity (you can tell this by the conversation he has with York's two boys at the dinner table), Taylor is obsessed with staying energetic enough to keep him interested while at the same time in lust with her perception of his violence, and York...well, to tell her story would be to give away the "surprise" I won't. Taylor and York are complete opposites, for the most part. Taylor is over the top and full of life and insanity, while York appears to be the perfect lady (except for the fact that she doesn't flinch at getting involved with a married man and being up front about that with the wife and society). York becomes more interesting as time goes on, but as Taylor says, sarcastically, we get sick of York because "she's always a little out of breath and sees beauty in everything!"

Anyway, it is a strange movie. Not Oscar material, certainly, but will leave you shaking your head for various reasons.

...and then there are three of the worst Taylor/Burton movies created: The Sandpiper, The VIPs, and Divorce His/Divorce Hers.

The Sandpiper
: Out of the three, this is the one I love the most because it is total cheese. Summary from IMDB:

"Free-spirited, young, unwed mother seduces a Episcopalian priest. Lots of pretty beach/ocean scenery."
(Who writes these things???)

Again, like I said, not a great movie. At the same time, Taylor and Burton are gorgeous and there are some interesting moments. I especially love the conversation near the beginning of the film when Burton is questioning her about her child's background. He is calling judgment upon the fact that Taylor is an unwed mother and tries to assign every excuse in the book to make her look like a victim, including saying that he is sure the father must have abandoned her (aka, she just made a mistake). Her response: "I was not abandoned by the father, Dr. Hewitt. The father was abandoned by me." I wasn't expecting her to say it, and it is one of the moments that saves the film for me. For the most part, it is just a moneymaker capitalizing on their romance...but we all need a little unapologetic lust every now and then.

The VIPs? Again, not a great film. There are some incredible actors in the movie (Maggie Smith, Orson Wells, Taylor, Burton, etc.), and the plot revolves around various problems in the lives of the characters. From IMDB, again, people:

"Fog delays a group of travelers headed for New York. They wait at the V.I.P. lounge of London Airport, each at a moment of crisis in his or her life."


Of course, we only really care about Taylor and Burton. :)

The plot for them is that Burton is a rich business man who neglects the emotional side of his marriage and overcompensates for it by buying gifts for his wife, Taylor. She is planning to run off with a young man who is probably only after her for her money, but, in the end, Taylor and Burton get back together. In the beginning of the film, Burton drops Taylor off at the airport, but the plane is delayed. He has already gone home, but he returns to the airport after finding a note Taylor left for him in which she confesses her plan to run away with her lover. Burton returns to the airport to confront them and tightly, carefully controlled chaos develops.

Taylor is completely unemotional in this film and it is a bit unsettling. But, there are some intense moments with Burton and Louis Jourdan (Taylor's other man) when Burton returns to the airport to find them together. Of course, there are other scenes, like this one:

See? Not so great. Not Virginia Woolf, certainly. But, then, what would a Taylor/Burton film be without a little domestic violence?? Geez.

But, and I saved the BEST for last, probably the worst film that I hate to love is a made for t.v. movie the two of them acted in during the 70s, right before their divorce...and, yep, you guessed it, the title is Divorce His/Divorce Hers. It is actually two separate films, one told from the husband's point of view and the other from the wife's. The thing is that the quality is horrible...and, if you plan on ever actually trying to see both movies at once, good luck. It is incredibly hard to find someone who sells both movies (and, if they tell you that the DVD has both, the seller probably is mistaken because usually only one shows up). I actually found a DVD with both in a dollar store...yes, that tells you how bad it is.

Now, as someone who has sympathy for people in relationships that never seem to work out, I found this film, bad as it is, a bit heartbreaking to watch at times. There really isn't much of a summary to go along with it. Drum roll, please...From IMDB:

"The story of the breakup of an 18-year marriage, as seen from the points of view of both the husband and the wife."

On YouTube, there is actually a link to watch both in the full version:
Divorce His
Divorce Hers

It is just bad. Really bad. And...yet...I have seen it more than once. I freely admit that I subject myself to these things because I am fascinated by certain aspects of the movie. The movie itself is crap, of course. But, I like to watch these things to see what is being said and when (and, when I say "when," I am referring to the year in which the film was made). It is not a new concept for the film industry to make money off of whatever scandal is in the works. Certainly, by the early 70s, the Taylor/Burton affair was close to explosion round one. But, I find it a bit sad and horrifying that the actors involved would capitalize on their own destruction and the disintegration of their relationship. To me, it is just too private a thing to broadcast, and that is why Divorce His/Divorce Hers is such a painful thing to watch. A bad film? Absolutely. But there is a lot of excruciating honesty, I believe, being portrayed in the movie.

Anyway, that is about it for now. I just felt the need to have a little Elizabeth Taylor on my blog again.


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