Hatchet job on star

Kapi-Mana News - - REVIEW / NEWS -

Screen siren El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor’s leg­endary sta­tus, ce­mented more by her tur­bu­lent per­sonal life than her acting ca­reer, is the per­fect fod­der for a tell-all bi­og­ra­phy. David Bret, the au­thor of more than 20 some­what sala­cious celebrity bi­ogra­phies, was bound to get to her even­tu­ally.

Quick off the mark, Bret’s light­weight, of­ten gos­sipy book, El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor: The Lady, The Lover, The Le­gend - 1932-2011, was pub­lished within months of Tay­lor’s death. Not sur­pris­ing then that it comes in at only 297 pages – small for a more than 60-year ca­reer. When the anec­dotes con­stantly veer away from Tay­lor to fo­cus on her costars, friends and fel­low denizens of Tin­sel Town, one can’t help but think it was some­thing of a rush job. It reads as though it was put to­gether from other bi­ogra­phies rather than pri­mary sources, let­ters or in­ter­views.

Per­haps it’s cyn­i­cal to see the book as an at­tempt to cap­i­talise on the re­cent death of a le­gend. But while Bret cer­tainly at­tempts to make a case for Tay­lor’s be­at­i­fi­ca­tion, his ad­mi­ra­tion for her some­times seems forced, and his tone of­ten bitchy and gos­sipy.

This is ap­par­ently his stock and trade.

Bret makes much of Tay­lor’s rep­u­ta­tion with her fe­male con­tem­po­raries – al­though I dis­pute that ei­ther Greta Garbo or Mar­lene Di­et­rich, the an­drog­y­nous heroines of the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion, would have deigned to con­sider Tay­lor, let alone ‘‘walk in the shadow of her sun’’.

Like­wise he ded­i­cates pages to a ver­bal cat­fight in­sti­gated by the then-Queen of Hol­ly­wood, Joan Craw­ford, dur­ing the film­ing of Tay­lor’s film Rhap­sody. But to be fair, Craw­ford hated ev­ery­one she couldn’t sleep with. It’s hardly sur­pris­ing she crossed eye­lin­ers with a young, vi­va­cious Tay­lor, whom men adored.

Bret, how­ever, turns Tay­lor’s re­la­tion­ships with men – ar­guably the most de­fin­i­tive re­la­tion­ships of her ca­reer – into lit­tle more than ex­cuses to tell smutty sto­ries.

In Bret’s hands Tay­lor’s unique bond with Mont­gomery Clift is just an op­por­tu­nity to pore over Clift’s drug-and painfu­elled fi­nal years.

Hardly a fair por­trait of the man many would have called Tay­lor’s best friend and pla­tonic soul-mate.

As an in­tro­duc­tion to Tay­lor, her work, and the glit­ter­ing world she lived in, Bret’s book is ad­e­quate. But surely there is a deeper, bet­ter re­searched, more joy­ful bi­og­ra­phy yet to be writ­ten about this com­plex woman? Only, I’m cer­tain it won’t be by David Bret.

El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor: The Lady, The Lover, The Le­gend - 1932-2011 By David Bret Main­stream Pub­lish­ing Re­viewed by Kylie Klein Nixon

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