JO DAVISON: Multi-faceted Taylor the last of a Hollywood era

Radiant: In this April, 1961, actress Elizabeth Taylor holds the Oscar she won as best film actress for her role in Butterfield 8.
Radiant: In this April, 1961, actress Elizabeth Taylor holds the Oscar she won as best film actress for her role in Butterfield 8.
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She was something else, wasn’t she?

Something you so rarely see these days; a proper star, for all the right reasons.

A proper star:Elizabeth Taylor in Raintree County

A proper star:Elizabeth Taylor in Raintree County

Let’s start with her beauty. Elizabeth Taylor’s was great indeed.

Though I don’t hold with that “most beautiful woman in the world” thing. Not when there undoubtedly are millions of stunning-looking women quietly going about their un-famous business in towns, cities and several hundred remote tribal villages from here to Timbuktu.

Talent? She had it in spades. The Oscars, the back-catalogue of some of the most memorable movies of all time and the fans loyal for over 60 years proved that.

But what she also had was an aura – a quality utterly impossible to either define or artificially create.

I suppose it’s what modern-day star-makers like Simon Cowell would describe as the X-Factor, as they go sifting through bottomless barrels of no-marks and no-hopers for something they might be able to fashion into something fit to hold a candle close to the fire of the Hollywood greats Elizabeth was the last of.

The aura... It came, in part, from the fact that she was also sharp and smart, funny and self-depreciating. But it remained because she was daring in spirit. And slightly mad enough to be as eccentric, stubborn and impulsive as the hell she liked. Hence the Michael Jackson thing. And the eight husbands. (In a wry comment about her eight marriages, she once said: My mother said I didn’t open my eyes for eight days after I was born. When I did, the first thing I saw was an engagement ring. I was hooked”).

This was a woman fame could not fetter. She did what she wanted; she was the person she wanted to be.

It wasn’t her fame that made the fire burn brighter, it was the freedom. If Elizabeth ever had an agent attempting to rule over her every cough and spit and present only a perfectly PR-polished facet to the world, you can imagine where she told them to get off. In Welsh expletives learned from the love of her life.

How many great modern day actresses could ever shine as brilliantly as her? I can’t think of one.

Angelina has the mystery, the eccentricity and the beauty. But the talent and the passion of Taylor? No way.

Nicole Kidman? Too uptight, too prissy.

Meryl Streep ties up pure class and talent. But she’s also nice, normal and sane. Ditto Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.

Penelope Cruz, Keira Knightley, Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet? Add them all together and you still don’t get one whole Taylor.

There’s only one current female star of the old-fashioned kind and she isn’t an actress. Her name is Madonna.

How times have changed.