Elizabeth by J Randy Taraborrelli

Elizabeth by J. Randy Taraborrelli

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover (available in mass market July 2007), 548 pages (plus an additional 24 pages of b&w photos), 2006

Rating: 10/10

Reason for Reading: A little Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, maybe? A little movie called Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, mm? I’m a big fan.

Synopsis: She’s been called everything from the most beautiful woman in the world; to the last great movie star; to unrepeatable things best left to the tabloids; to an ambassador to AIDS awareness; but through it all, she’s always been Elizabeth Taylor. This biography takes the reader through her mother’s determination to break her into Hollywood, the numerous men in her life, the films she’s made, the jewels she’s worn, all in an attempt to sort through all that’s been written about her in order to find out just what makes Elizabeth Taylor tick.

Why you should read this book: If you’re a fan of Elizabeth Taylor, Taraborrelli has done you a favour by writing this stupendous biography. All aspects of her life are included in sufficient detail for an average fan, with Taraborrelli going into a little more detail at appropriate times – for example, a more in-depth discussion of jewels while talking about the Burton years, as he was the one that gave her some of the most impressive pieces in her collection. One of the nicest aspects of the book is that, unlike many biographers, Taraborrelli realizes that the reader wants to hear about Elizabeth Taylor, not J. Randy Taraborrelli, and doesn’t try to force himself into the story. He’s also impressively neutral for a guy who spent years researching his, presenting both the good and the bad in a non-judgmental manner. Is it all true? Only Miss Taylor knows for sure, but the way it flows and the balanced opinions certainly feel believable. Writing aside, you cannot beat Taylor’s life, and not just for entertainment value – the woman has lived through so much that it’s a comfort and inspiration to know someone has pushed on and lived through it all.

Why you should avoid this book: What’s to complain about here? Possibly that there’s just not enough, but that’s why entire books have been written just about Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels, or her men, or her movies, or her…

Opening paragraph:

Even with all of the star treatment accorded her over the years, the truth is undeniable: It has never been easy being Elizabeth Taylor.

Fabulous quotes:

‘They were both very funny, and I think this is something people really missed about them,’ said their friend the columnist Liz Smith. (Liz would later meet the Burtons on the set of their movie The Sandpiper.) ‘You didn’t have that kind of ribald humor coming from a Hollywood couple at that time, and I don’t think you’ve seen it since. I’ll never forget, I was with them in Rome or somewhere, and he was spouting off about Dylan Thomas, and just being Richard Burton, talking endlessly. And after he finished, she looked at him and asked, very matter-of-factly, “Do you ever give yourself the creeps, luv?”‘

On October 1, 1976, John Warner stepped down from his position as director of the Bicentennial Commission and flew to Vienna to be with Elizabeth. He asked her to marry him and presented her with a dazzling ring made of rubies, diamonds, and sapphires. It was almost as if he couldn’t decide which gem to give her so he gave her three of the best just to cover his bases. It was understandable; she was Elizabeth Taylor, after all. Imagine his predicament in trying to find an engagement ring that might impress her.
Elizabeth eagerly accepted the ring, and his proposal. True to her nature and pattern over the years, she was a woman who simply could not be alone…even for a few months. It had only been one year since she and Richard Burton had married the second time, and just three months since their second divorce finalized.

Also recommended: Ingrid Bergman: My Story by Ingrid Bergman; Cary Grant: A Celebration of Style by Richard Torregrossa.

Also by this author: Once Upon a Time: Behind the Fairytale of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier; Madonna: An Intimate Biography; Diana: A Celebration of the Life and Career of Diana Ross; Motown: Hot Wax, City Cool, and Solid Gold; Cher: A Biography; Carol Burnett: Laughing Till it Hurts; Call Her Miss Ross; Michael Jackson: The Magic and The Madness; Sinatra: Behind the Legend; Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot.

Author’s website: jrandytaraborrelli.com

Fun tidbit: Elizabeth Taylor won her first Oscar for Butterfield 8, which she hated filming and didn’t feel was up to par with previous movies she was nominated for, such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Would I read more by this author? It would depend on who he was writing about – Madonna, Grace Kelly, and Frank Sinatra would all be possibilities from his previous books.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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