Elizabeth Taylor died of congestive heart failure today at the age of 79. Being a movie star made her famous but I believe that her movies will endure on the strength of her character, her resilience, her courage and her loyalty more than any other reason that makes an actress famous or a movie a classic. No other movie star even comes close.
Almost single-handedly, Elizabeth Taylor stopped the hatemongers who whipped up hysteria about AIDS in service of their own greed and lust for power. Then she set about raising money for AIDS research. Starting in the 1950’s when her loyalty could have jeopardized her career, she stood by her gay friends, which is a big deal beyond the ability of most straight people to imagine, because so many of us can’t get our own families to let us come home, let alone stand by us, vote for our equality or march in our parades.
The lasting effect of Elizabeth Taylor’s resilience in adversity is represented for me in the episode of “Sex in the City” entitled “One,” where Charlotte miscarries just before the first birthday party for Brady, the unplanned child of her friend, Miranda, who never wanted to be a mother. Miserable, unkempt and depressed, Charlotte stays home from the party and while she is watching TV, she happens on a biography of Elizabeth Taylor. A couple of scenes later, Charlotte has showered, put on make-up and is wearing a dress that is glamorous yet appropriate. She still looks sad and serious, but her chin is up and she looks determined and filled with purpose. At the party, Charlotte explains that watching Elizabeth Taylor overcome so many obstacles without self-pity made her determined to do the same.
Dear Dave Burge, aka Iowahawk, notes on Facebook:
Some amazing betcha-didn’t-know facts about Liz Taylor: she was a 1959 convert to Judaism, and was banned by Egypt during the filming of Cleopatra for donating to Israeli causes. She also supported Soviet Jewry during the Cold War, and in 1977 offered herself as a hostage during the Entebbe hijacking. RIP to a staunch friend of Israel.
I can’t help adding, as a public service announcement, that Ms. Taylor’s obesity and congestive heart failure both are characteristic of untreated obstructive sleep apnea, which was not discovered until the mid-1970’s when she was in her mid-40’s. A treatment was not invented until the 1980’s. OSA was discovered to be the cause of idiopathic congestive heart failure in 1996, but cardiologists still largely ignore the research on sleep medicine showing that obstructive sleep apnea causes idiopathic congestive heart failure (which stops being idiopathic once the cause is determined), intractable high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation.