Tag Archives: Elizabeth Taylor

‘Children of Giant’: New documentary eyes story of Latino extras in 1956 ‘Giant’

A new documentary seeks to tell the story of Mexican-American child actors who appeared in the 1956 blockbuster movie “Giant” but later could only view it in segregated theaters.

“Children of Giant” goes to the West Texas town where director George Stevens and his Hollywood crew set up shop to shoot one of the first, major films to openly tackle racism.

For the 60 years since the movie’s release, most of the Mexican-American cast has been largely forgotten, though the movie introduced the nation to the discrimination Latinos faced, documentary director Hector Galan said.

“Many people don’t realize how important the film ‘Giant’ was to Mexican-Americans at the time,” Galan said. “For the first time on a national level the stories of Mexican-Americans were being told.”

Based on the novel by Edna Ferber with the same name, “Giant” follows wealthy Texas cattle rancher Jordan Benedict Jr., played by Rock Hudson, who marries Maryland socialite Leslie Lynnton, portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor. Their sprawling ranch is located on land once owned by impoverished Mexican-Americans, who still work the land but are denied basic medical care and decent jobs.

Benedict’s son, played by Dennis Hopper, marries a Mexican-American nurse, played by Mexican actress Elsa Cardenas, creating racial tension. James Dean also starred in the movie.

At the time of its release, the movie was popular among Mexican-Americans, especially since Ferber had interviewed civil rights leaders Hector P. Garcia and lawyer John J. Herrera for her novel and the movie adopted real-life episodes from the new civil rights movement in Texas.

Yet, many of the main actors were unaware of the discrimination the Mexican-American extras faced away from the movie set.

In the documentary, Galan interviews Cardenas, who recalls how staff at a hotel looked at her suspiciously and how she didn’t know the Mexican-Americans children on the set had to attend segregated schools. He also interviews child actor Tony Cano who remembers incidents of racism.

The documentary also covers Stevens’ experience in World War II as part of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Stevens would become one of the first directors to capture images of the Holocaust and his footage would be used in the Nuremberg Trials.

“That experience changed him forever,” Galan said. “I don’t think he would have made ‘Giant’ had it not been for that experience.”

In addition, the documentary shows how Dean playfully interacted with Mexican-American teens off screen and shocked the town when he was killed in a car wreck in California weeks later.

Scenery-chewing Lindsay Lohan misses the mark as Liz Taylor in Lifetime biopic

As he always did during the course of their on again/off again relationship, Richard Burton (Grant Bowler) wrote letters to his great love Elizabeth Taylor (Lindsay Lohan). He even composed one on the last day of his life in 1984.

In his final letter, Burton said he fell for Liz the moment he saw her years ago at a party in Hollywood. She was everything he ever wanted, even though she looked at him with utter disdain.

Sitting in directors’ chairs, dressed in black, “Liz & Dick,” the titular characters in the Lifetime movie, recount their “true story” in flashbacks. From their first official meeting in Rome in 1961 while filming “Cleopatra,” the sexual tension mounted while Burton’s excessive drinking and Taylor’s haughtiness threatened to derail the relationship. Both were married to other people – Burton (the “Welsh Don Juan”) to Sybil (Tanya Franks), and 29-year-old Taylor to her fourth husband Eddie Fisher (Andy Hirsch).

“Liz & Dick” follows the notorious couple from their famous first love scene to their scandalous headline-making relationship. We see Richard force Elizabeth to choose between Eddie and him. We watch Elizabeth swoon as Richard recites poetry for her.

But mostly we watch them get drunk and fight. They make up, he buys her expensive gifts (usually jewelry, once a jet) and the drinking/fighting cycle begins again.

Eventually, they divorce their respective spouses and marry each other. They make movies together, including the acclaimed “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” but they are a (movie) star-crossed pair if there ever was one.

Love may conquer all, but jealousy, insecurity and alcohol gave love a run for its money, in this case.

In 1974, the tempestuous relationship crumbles under the weight of tragedy (Burton’s brother Ifor’s injury and death), infidelity (Burton’s) and, of course, all that alcohol. They foolishly remarry more than a year later, only to divorce again after nine months.

For the public, the big question surrounding this Lieftime biopic is whether Lindsay Lohan, an actress as troubled if not nearly as talented as Taylor, does a decent job portraying her. Let’s just say it takes more than good hair and make-up artists for a transformation of that scope. Lohan, who gives it her all, simply isn’t up to the challenge.

There are moments when she comes close to channeling Liz, especially in the scenes from the earlier years. But as the movie wears on, Lohan as Liz becomes less credible and more comical.

Bowler has an easier time with Burton, despite the bad hair pieces, although he flirts with caricature on more than one occasion.

Perhaps the movie’s greatest sin, far worse than casting Lohan as Taylor, is its title. Elizabeth Taylor remarked on more than one occasion, including an interview with Barbara Walters, that she hated to be called Liz.

“Liz & Dick” is not the tribute that Taylor or Burton deserved. It’s also not the comeback that Lohan was probably hoping it would be.

But for all of its flaws, the scenery chewing is still fun to watch and worth seeing if you have 90 minutes to waste.

 

Lohan chews some scenery but fails to channel Liz Taylor in Lifetime movie

As he always did during the course of their on again/off again relationship, Richard Burton (Grant Bowler) wrote letters to his great love Elizabeth Taylor (Lindsay Lohan). He even composed one on the last day of his life in 1984.

In his final letter, Burton said he fell for Liz the moment he saw her years ago at a party in Hollywood. She was everything he ever wanted, even though she looked at him with utter disdain.

Sitting in directors’ chairs, dressed in black, “Liz & Dick,” the titular characters in the Lifetime movie, recount their “true story” in flashbacks. From their first official meeting in Rome in 1961 while filming “Cleopatra,” the sexual tension mounted while Burton’s excessive drinking and Taylor’s haughtiness threatened to derail the relationship. Both were married to other people – Burton (the “Welsh Don Juan”) to Sybil (Tanya Franks), and 29-year-old Taylor to her fourth husband Eddie Fisher (Andy Hirsch).

“Liz & Dick” follows the notorious couple from their famous first love scene to their scandalous headline-making relationship. We see Richard force Elizabeth to choose between Eddie and him. We watch Elizabeth swoon as Richard recites poetry for her.

But mostly we watch them get drunk and fight. They make up, he buys her expensive gifts (usually jewelry, once a jet) and the drinking/fighting cycle begins again.

Eventually, they divorce their respective spouses and marry each other. They make movies together, including the acclaimed “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” but they are a (movie) star-crossed pair if there ever was one.

Love may conquer all, but jealousy, insecurity and alcohol gave love a run for its money, in this case.

In 1974, the tempestuous relationship crumbles under the weight of tragedy (Burton’s brother Ifor’s injury and death), infidelity (Burton’s) and, of course, all that alcohol. They foolishly remarry more than a year later, only to divorce again after nine months.

For the public, the big question surrounding this Lieftime biopic is whether Lindsay Lohan, an actress as troubled if not nearly as talented as Taylor, does a decent job portraying her. Let’s just say it takes more than good hair and make-up artists for a transformation of that scope. Lohan, who gives it her all, simply isn’t up to the challenge.

There are moments when she comes close to channeling Liz, especially in the scenes from the earlier years. But as the movie wears on, Lohan as Liz becomes less credible and more comical.

Bowler has an easier time with Burton, despite the bad hair pieces, although he flirts with caricature on more than one occasion.

Perhaps the movie’s greatest sin, far worse than casting Lohan as Taylor, is its title. Elizabeth Taylor remarked on more than one occasion, including an interview with Barbara Walters, that she hated to be called Liz.

“Liz & Dick” is not the tribute that Taylor or Burton deserved. It’s also not the comeback that Lohan was probably hoping it would be.

But for all of its flaws, the scenery chewing is still fun to watch and worth seeing if you have 90 minutes to waste. 

Dermatologist to Michael Jackson sues California medical board

A dermatologist whose clients included Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor is suing the state of California in a dispute over his license to practice.

Dr. Arnold Klein is suing California Attorney General Kamala Harris, the state medical board and the state department of community affairs over a state order that he undergo mental and physical examinations. Klein claims that he has asked the reason for the examinations but has been denied any details.

Klein, according to a Courthouse News Service report on the legal complaint, is a “pioneer in the field of dermatology,” founder of the Elizabeth Taylor HIV Clinic at UCLA and AmFAR and a director at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. In the earliest days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Klein was among the first to diagnose a case of Kaposi’s sarcoma.

The Los Angeles Times reported in January that Klein was bankrupt, a situation he blamed on embezzling former employees who counter-claimed that the doctor’s downfall was due to his luxurious lifestyle and sexual pursuits.

At about the same time that Klein financial troubles were coming to light, the defense for Dr. Conrad Murray, who would be convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s death, was seeking to call Klein to testify at Murray’s trial. The defense wanted to present evidence that Klein gave Jackson large doses of Demerol and turned the megastar into an addict. The judge barred Klein’s testimony as irrelevant and potentially confusing to a jury.

But Klein – who has claimed that Jackson had a gay affair with an assistant in the doctor’s practice – remained under scrutiny with the state medical board, which opened an investigation to determine whether the doctor’s license should be suspended.

Klein, in his suit, said the medical board apparently is questioning his competency and wants to know whether he suffers a mental or physical illness. But, the doctor said, he’s been denied any explanation.

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HIV/AIDS group wins Roses Parade trophy

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation won the Queen’s Trophy for its entry in the 123rd Tournament of Roses Parade held on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 2.

AHE’s float celebrated the late Elizabeth Taylor, a champion of the HIV/AIDS fight.

The entry was the first-ever sponsored by the global HIV/AIDS organization.

Taylor, a two-time Academy Award-winner, died last year at the age of 79. Going back to the 1980s, she made raising money and promoting research for HIV/AIDS a priority. She co-founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

“Our Tournament of Roses Parade float is a tribute to someone who was more than a film star – Elizabeth Taylor was a real hero and one who truly deserves all the accolades she has received,” said AHF president Michael Weinstein. “Long before it was fashionable, she was there by our side – a singular and fearless champion for AIDS activism. She spoke truth to power on a variety of issues, and her organization, which had no overhead, helped fund AHF and other AIDS organizations in Los Angeles at a time when funding was hard to come by.”

The Queen’s Trophy is presented for the best use of roses in design and presentation.

Still helping

Much of Elizabeth Taylor’s estate, estimated to be worth $600 million-$1 billion, is expected to go to AIDS charities. Her famous jewelry collection, valued at $150 million in 2002, is likely to be auctioned off with the bulk of the proceeds going to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and amfAR, the AIDS charity she helped found in 1985, according to WFLD/Fox TV Chicago.

West Hollywood might name street after Liz Taylor

West Hollywood residents are flooding their city council offices with requests to memorialize Elizabeth Taylor by renaming one of the city’s major thoroughfareselizabeth-taylor
for her.

The legendary actress and pioneering AIDS activist died last week of congestive heart failure at age 79.

“West Hollywood City Council members – four out of five of whom are gay – have historically loved voting for official bans and proclamations, beating other metropolises to the punch on a variety of issues,” reports LA Weekly. “Now they have a chance to do something truly deserved and something residents very much want.”

An estimated 40 percent of West Hollywood residents are LGBT.

Hollywood and other nearby cities already have Carmen Miranda Square, (Judy) Garland Drive, (Katherine) Hepburn Circle, Will Rogers Street, (Elvis) Presley Circle, L. Ron Hubbard Way, and Bob Hope Drive.

The interim deputy for West Hollywood Councilman John D’Amico told LA Weekly that there has yet to be a formal discussion about the proposal among city leaders, but the public’s call for an Elizabeth Taylor Way is certainly legitimate.

West Hollywood City Council is expected to take up the issue at its next meeting on April 4.

Much of Liz Taylor’s estate will go to AIDS charities

Much of Elizabeth Taylor’s estate, estimated to be worth between $600 million and $1 billion, is expected to go to AIDS charities.eilzabeth_taylor_amfar

Her famous jewelry collection, valued at $150 million in 2002, is likely to be auctioned off with the bulk of the proceeds going to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and amfAR, the AIDS charity she helped found in 1985, according to WFLD/Fox TV Chicago.

The screen icon died March 23 of heart failure. She was laid to rest during a traditional Jewish service at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif., the world’s most star-studded cemetery. Taylor converted to Judaism in 1959 before marrying crooner Eddie Fisher, her fourth husband.

When Taylor divorced her seventh and last husband in 1994, her net worth was estimated at $608.4 million, a figure that could now be well in excess of $1 billion now. During the 1990s, Taylor reportedly earned about $63 million per year and invested it wisely, according to various reports.

Her perfume White Diamonds earned more than $70 million last year alone.

The New York Post reported that Taylor’s last will and testament, along with all of her property, is held in a private trust, according to public records.

Records show that the Elizabeth Taylor HIV/AIDS Foundation, which has raised millions over the years, has a net fund balance of about $750,000. The charity took in $257,000 in 2009 and gave out $187,000 to health causes. The charity took in $463,000 the previous year and gave out $931,000.

 

 


Elizabeth Taylor tributes pour in from LGBT, AIDS groups

Elizabeth Taylor is drawing emotional tributes from LGBT leaders and AIDS organizations around the globe following her death March 23 at the age of 79.Yeeeah_Gossip_96859_tn2_elizabeth_taylor_3

Taylor took up the cause of AIDS research in the 1980s, when other celebrities and elected officials were trying to steer as clear of the subject as possible. After her close friend and former co-star Rock Hudson died from an HIV/AIDS-related illness, Taylor took up the banner for AIDS funding in a very public way. Her star appeal helped draw much-needed attention to the epidemic along with hundreds of millions of dollars in research funding. Taylor helped to found the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and started the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

Taylor was also a champion for equality. In her acceptance speech at the 11th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in 2000, she said: “There is no gay agenda, it’s a human agenda. Why shouldn’t gay people be able to live as open and freely as everybody else? What it comes down to, ultimately, is love. How can anything bad come out of love? The bad stuff comes out of mistrust, misunderstanding and, God knows, from hate and from ignorance.”

Taylor’s last public sighting was on September 11, 2008, in The Abbey, her favorite gay bar in West Hollywood, according to a tribute by Paul Flynn of The Guardian.

“The screen icon, who had been dubbed ‘The Joan of Arc of AIDS’ in the early 80s, drank a martini and held court with four friends while staff looked after her maltese dog, Daisy,” Flynn wrote. “Rhinestone-encrusted sunglasses were positioned on her head by another assistant before she was wheeled back through the hushed crowd to a waiting, blacked-out sedan.”

AmfAR released a statement just hours after Taylor’s death was announced: “The board of trustees and staff of amfAR mourn the passing of our beloved Founding International Chairman, Dame Elizabeth Taylor. Dame Elizabeth was without doubt one of the most inspirational figures in the fight against AIDS. She was among the first to speak out on behalf of people living with HIV when others reacted with fear and often outright hostility.

“For 25 years, Dame Elizabeth has been a passionate advocate of AIDS research, treatment and care. She has testified eloquently on Capitol Hill, while raising millions of dollars for amfAR. Dame Elizabeth’s compassion, radiance, and generosity of spirit will be greatly missed by us all. She leaves a monumental legacy that has improved and extended millions of lives and will enrich countless more for generations to come.”

GLAAD also released a statement. “Today, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community lost an extraordinary ally in the movement for full equality,” said GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios. “At a time when so many living with HIV/AIDS were invisible, Dame Taylor fearlessly raised her voice to speak out against injustice. Dame Taylor was an icon not only in Hollywood, but in the LGBT community where she worked to ensure that everyone was treated with the respect and dignity we all deserve.”

Taylor had seven husbands and eight marriages. She is survived by four children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She is reportedly to be buried next to actor Richard Burton, whom she married twice.