Guest Author - Katy Cacolice
When young girls and boys were discovered by film studios, they were quickly rushed through the glamour system and worked tirelessly to be a triple threat. Some of the young ladies, who stole millions of movie goer's hearts, had a tough time making the transition from America's Sweetheart to a serious dramatic talent. Some legends like Judy Garland grew up with a dependency on prescription drugs. Others like Shirley Temple and Margaret O'Brien slowly waned out of the spotlight as they grew in age. There are few products of that by gone era who luckily grew up in front of the world with ease. One such dame was Elizabeth Taylor.
When Taylor was a young girl, her family moved from London to America. They quickly climbed the social ladder, and in doing so, Elizabeth garnered so much attention she was signed to Universal Pictures. Together, they made one movie. As her contract renewal date approached, one production chief challenged the support of her agent and studio heads saying, "She can't sing, she can't dance, she can't perform." Since song and dance movies with child stars was all the rage then, nobody put up much of a fight and her contract was terminated. The adolescent star wasn't out of work for too long and sign on with MGM Studios. At the tender age of twelve, following her first few movies with her new home, Taylor's stardom skyrocketed with the smash hit, "National Velvet" (1944). To tell the story of a young girl who trains her horse to win the Grand National, Taylor was paired with MGM veteran Mickey Rooney. The movie, which is considered a family classic today, made over $4 million at the box office. As Taylor grew into a young woman and established herself as a mature actress, she made more films, and eventual classics, such as "Little Women" (1949), "Father of the Bride" (1950), and "A Place In The Sun" (1951).
MGM Studios had a reputation for withholding serious leading roles from movie stars who wanted to break out from their cookie cutter image. Taylor was no exception. The black haired, blue eyed vixen wanted challenging parts in films like "The Barefoot Contessa" (1954) and "I'll Cry Tomorrow" (1955). Instead she was cast in several forgettable titles like Callaway Went Thataway (1951) and "The Girl Who Had Everything" (1953). Taylor once bitterly commented, "If you were considered pretty, you might as well have been a waitress trying to act..." During the 1950s and 1960s, Taylor became pregnant twice. And, if being with child isn't enough to handle, extra hours were added to her schedule so her projects were finished early; before her 'special state' was too noticeable. Her struggle and talent was soon rewarded though with critical praise, Academy Award nominations for "Raintree County" (1957), "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958), "Suddenly, Last Summer" (1959), and two Oscar wins in the Best Actress category for her performances "Butterfield 8" (1960) and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966).
Taylor's life hasn't gone without its unfortunate share of problems; most notably her several marriages, which ended in divorce or her partner's untimely death. After her Hollywood heydays, the stunning legend continued to appear in movies and television. Most of her time has been and continues to be dedicated to passionate support for AIDS awareness. When commenting on the longevity of her career and life, Taylor has replied, "I've been through it all, baby, I'm mother courage."