Next month PBS will air a new documentary on the 1956 Elizabeth Taylor classic Giant.

“In the summer of 1955, it seemed as if all of Hollywood had descended on the dusty West Texas town of Marfa as production began on the highly anticipated movie Giant, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean. Based on Edna Ferber’s novel about three generations of a powerful ranching dynasty, Giant took an unflinching look at feminism and class divisions and was one of the first films to explore the racial divide between Anglos and Mexican Americans in the Southwest. Now, 60 years later, “Children of Giant goes back to Marfa. The film combines interviews with the cast and crew of Giant with the recollections of residents who participated in and witnessed the making of the film, many of whose lives mirrored the controversial themes of the film.”

Children of Giant will air as part of VOCES, a series “devoted to exploring and celebrating the rich diversity of the Latino cultural experience” on Friday, April 17, 2015. Check your local listings for details.

 


Elizabeth photographed by Zahedi during the filming of A Little Night Music.

Photographer Firooz Zahedi is hard at work on a book about his friend Elizabeth Taylor, Liz Smith revealed in her column yesterday. The book will boast approximately 200 photographs–many published for the first time–as well as essays.

“This may not be the ‘ultimate’ book that Elizabeth deserves,” Zahedi tells Smith, “but it’ll shed some light on another side of her, the side you want to get people to know about.”

Zahedi first met Elizabeth in the 1970s when she had a fling with his cousin, Ardeshir Zahedi, the Ambassador to Iran. It was through him that Elizabeth met Firooz, a recent art school graduate and aspiring photographer. While the romance with Ardeshir soon fizzled out, Elizabeth remained friends with Firooz for the rest of her life and he photographed her often. The photographs he took of her on a 1976 trip to Iran were exhibited at the Los Angeles County (LACMA) at the time of her death in 2011.

The as yet untitled book will be published by Glitterati Inc. next February, in honour of what would have been Elizabeth’s 84th birthday. Zahedi’s portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

Zahedi has also been posting a sprinkling of rare photos of Elizabeth on his Instagram account. Below are some of the highlights.

A photo posted by @fizphoto on

That's the spirit!

A photo posted by @fizphoto on

3/23/11. Gone but not forgotten.

A photo posted by @fizphoto on

 

Vivien Leigh, Elizabeth's "heroine".

Elizabeth Taylor and Vivien Leigh are two of film’s most enduring icons. Both are celebrated for their raven hair, porcelain skin, and delicate features, but the two have more in common than their physical appearance.

“Vivien Leigh was my heroine,” Elizabeth once said. “She was innocence on the verge of decadence, always there to be saved.” Vivien Leigh was born Vivian Mary Hartley on November 5, 1913 in Darjeeling, Bengal, India to British parents (her father was a British Officer in the Indian Cavalry). Like Elizabeth, Vivien made her stage debut at the age of three, giving a recitation of “Little Bo Peep” in front of her mother’s amateur theatre group. (Elizabeth’s debut came when she performed along with other young ballerinas from Madame Vacani’s class in front of The Duchess of York and her two daughters, the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose.)

When the family moved back to England, Vivien saw a film starring Maureen O’Sullivan (one of her childhood friends) and decided she wanted to become an actress. Elizabeth’s ambition to act is said to be quite similar. When the Taylor’s decided to seek refuge from London in their native America, Elizabeth saw her first film on the voyage across the Atlantic. The film was The Little Princess, and Elizabeth allegedly vowed then to become an actress.

After revealing her career choice to her parents, Vivien was enrolled at London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She made her film debut–uncredited–in 1935′s Things Are Looking Up. She would continue to act in films, and on the stage. Her notable film roles during this time include Fire of England and Sidewalks of London, but it wasn’t until 1939′s Gone with the Wind that she was propelled into international susperstardom. The role of Scarlett O’Hara not only became the most celebrated role of her Leigh’s career, but is arguably also the most famous female film role of all time.

Elizabeth’s mother, Sara, was supposedly stopped on the street by perfect strangers during this time telling her how much her daughter resembled a young Vivien Leigh, and saying that she was perfect for the role of Bonnie Blue Butler, Leigh and Clark Gable’s daughter in the film. But according to Elizabeth Taylor biographer William J. Mann, Sara had actively campaigned for the role for her daughter, including enlisting the help of her acquaintance, gossip queen Hedda Hopper:

Back in 1939, when Elizabeth was just seven, Hedda had suggested that David O. Salznick cast her as Vivien Leigh’s daughter in Gone With the Wind. It still rankled Hedda how disingenuous Sara could be about that whole experience, insisting that she’d never had any thought of putting her daughter in pictures. Sara claimed that it was only after ‘people on the street’ had told her how much Elizabeth resembled Leigh that she had even given it a thought. Hedda scoffed at such baloney. At that point in time, no one had any idea what Vivien Leigh looked like! Of course the entire enterprise had been Sara’s, right from the moment she’d showed up at Hedda’s office with her daughter in tow, obsessed with the idea of getting her into the film.

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George Michael’s concert at London’s Royal Opera House will benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s newly established Elizabeth Taylor Memorial Fund.

Michael, a longtime fan of Elizabeth’s, said he “really wanted to honour the inspiring efforts” of her pioneering work with HIV/AIDS.

The concert will be held on November 6. Tickets go on sale tomorrow.

 

A radiant Naomi Wilding with husband Anthony Cran.

Elizabeth was honoured posthumously yesterday evening with the Norma Zarky Award for her HIV/AIDS philanthropy at the 2011 Women In Film Crystal + Lucy Awards. Elizabeth’s granddaughter, Naomi Wilding, accepted the award on behalf of her late grandmother at the ceremony held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California.

 

Tomorrow is the first of two auctions consisting of Debbie Reynolds’ collection of classic Hollywood costumes and memorabilia.

Elizabeth’s costumes feature heavily in the auction. My friend Paul Murray was fortunate enough to attend a preview at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills and sent me these photographs to share with you all.

Thanks, Paul!

Two of Elizabeth's headdresses from "Cleopatra"

Elizabeth's sedan from "Cleopatra"

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Elizabeth and granddaughter Naomi Wilding in 2003. Naomi will accept a posthumous award for Elizabeth this evening.

Tonight Elizabeth will be posthumously honoured at the with Women In Film’s 2011 Crystal + Lucy Awards’ Norma Zarky Award, presented by jeweler Pandora, for her pioneering work with HIV/AIDS.

Mikkel Berg, Executive Director of Marketing at Pandora, said in a statement, “We believe all women of the world are unique and precious. They live different lives in different cultures, and yet they are all fabulous in their own, individual ways. At Pandora we celebrate all these personalities and their unforgettable moments. All stories are worth sharing and honoring, and so is the story of the humanitarian work done by the late Elizabeth Taylor, which we are thrilled to be able to give tribute to, together with WIF.”

Elizabeth’s granddaughter, Naomi Wilding, will be on hand to accept the award.