So farewell then Dame Elizabeth Taylor – as E.J. Thribb would no doubt have started his valedictory ode.
Worryingly, the thumbnail portrait of Liz in her dotage – as displayed on the BBC homepage – bears a striking resemblance to Dame Michael Jackson, as he might have looked had the nimble-footed one lived on into adulthood. Strange (or maybe not so strange) how the two oddballs gravitated towards each other. Rather like Gilbert and George or Flanders and Swann. I remember watching an interview scoop with Michael circa the business with the boys. For part of it, Dame Elizabeth stood behind him in one of the tents that she used to wear to hide her vastness, looking for all the world like some sinister Svengalian minder.
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She led a fairly useless life, did our Liz – growing fat on husbands, diamonds, tantrums, booze, a perfume range and unreasonable demands. An example really of how not to spend your brief tenancy on this mortal coil. Having said that, however, she did leave an indelible image for generations to come. As Maggie in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof or Montgomery Clift’s temptress in A Place in The Sun she came across, briefly, as one of the most beautiful, seductive, positively edible specimens of womanhood ever created by whoever creates them. No wonder Richard Burton lost his heart and his marbles, and wasted his wealth on diamonds as big as the Ritz.
But even at her most lovely, she could not have played Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the future Queen Mum, as well as Helena Bonham Carter did in The King’s Speech.
That was on at the end of the week at our local cinema in nearby Vayrac. It’s one of those heavily subsidised art et essai cinemas that show films in version originale to the likes of the Sampsons (and not many others). Many are the times we’ve gone there and joined a mere handful of people in the cavernous auditorium to watch something that hasn’t been butchered by dubbing. The French love to dub their films and probably believe that Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt and the like all speak with their particular dub-artists’ voices. It’s a travesty and an outrage and I’d rather miss a film than see it dubbed.
Can you imagine The King’s Speech dubbed? Well, you couldn’t – which probably explains why so many people – British and French – queued with us for admission on Thursday night. The manager warned the queue that he had been sent a particularly poor copy of the film. Full of scratches and such like. Some turned away, muttering about coming back on Monday night for the second showing. We pressed on.
Once everyone was seated, to his eternal credit he came and gave a little front-of-house speech to apologise for the quality of the film and offer people the chance to come to the box office at the end and get a note (no doubt in triplicate) that would admit them on Monday. The poor man was genuinely embarrassed. It clearly offended his professional pride.
Well, it was indeed scratched to buggery – like particularly popular CDs tend to be in Brive library. But it didn’t jump and the vertical lines were curiously in keeping with the period of the piece. Almost like one of those Harry Enfield pastiches. As it didn’t ruin our enjoyment, we didn’t queue up for our readmission note (in triplicate). Colin Firth deserved his Oscar and it’s inconceivable to think that many others throughout France will be listening to someone simulating his speech impediment in aristocratic French. Geoffrey Rush was delightful as Lionel, his friendly Antipodean speech therapist. And Helena Bonham Carter was not only Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother to a tee, but also a seductive specimen of womanhood.
A very fine film that, for once, lived up to all the hype. And all the better for not starring Elizabeth Taylor and her kind. May she rest in as much peace as her corporeal self merited.