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Elizabeth Taylor remembered: Views from the stage

March 24, 2011 |  5:00 am

Liz5 The movies of Elizabeth Taylor will live on forever on DVD, television and in repertory cinemas. (Turner Classic Movies has scheduled a 24-hour salute to the late actress for April 10.) But Taylor's two big forays into the world of theater are mainly consigned to memory. One of them was warmly received while the other was widely panned.

Fans in Los Angeles had the chance to see both of them: Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes" in 1981 at the Ahmanson Theatre and Noel Coward's "Private Lives," co-starring ex-husband Richard Burton, in 1983 at the former Wilshire Theatre.

"The Little Foxes," directed by Austin Pendleton, opened on Broadway in 1981, where it earned Tony nominations for Taylor, Pendleton and co-stars Maureen Stapleton and Tom Aldredge. The production played later that year in L.A. (It also had runs in Fort Lauderdale, Washington, D.C., New Orleans and finally London, where Princess Diana attended a performance.)

The photo above shows Hellman and Taylor greeting the audience during a curtain call for the play. The photo was provided by the Music Center archives, at the request of Center Theatre Group.

Times theater critic Dan Sullivan wrote in his review: "You wouldn't know it was [Taylor's] first play. She's relaxed. She moves with confidence. She listens to the other actors. As for her much-maligned voice, it's fine -- lower and fuller than it used to be, a perfectly decent stage voice."

The reviews were much less forgiving for "Private Lives," which opened on Broadway in 1983 before touring the country. The media circus that attended the production focused on the reunion of "Liz and Dick" -- in the end, it would be their last professional collaboration.

A Times review dismissed the production as a "flat but acceptable pass at Coward's comedy," and added that Taylor reads her lines with "a mechanical sarcasm more appropriate to Martha in 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,' a role she ought to try on stage if she intends to keep up with this new career."

Read the full Times obituary of Elizabeth Taylor.


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-- David Ng

Photo (top): Lillian Hellman, left, and Elizabeth Taylor, at a curtain call for "The Little Foxes." Credit: Lee A. Salem

Photo (bottom): Elizabeth Taylor in an undated photo. Credit: Reuters