Born in England on February 27, 1932, her name was Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor. A short time ago the woman known to the world as Elizabeth Taylor died at the age of 79. At her birth, Elizabeth’s parents lived in a suburb of London, England. They were originally from Arkansas City, Kansas, and moved near London for her father’s art business. Shortly before World War II her father returned his family to America due to the impending war coming in Europe.
At the age of nine, Elizabeth acted in her first movie, There’s One Born Every Minute. Throughout the forties she acted in several films in which she played adolescent rolls which made her well known to her early fans. In 1943, she acted in Come Home Lassie for which she was paid the sum of $100 a week. Twenty years later in 1963 the movie, Cleopatra, was released with Elizabeth playing the title part. For her roll, acting alongside Richard Burton, she was paid the unbelievable sum of one million dollars for the movie. In those years between the two movies, she went from childhood actress to a major movie star. When people spoke of Liz, you knew they were talking about Elizabeth Taylor. She made movies from 1939 to her last one in 1994. After that she played rolls in TV and stage productions.
Why is this important? I guess in some ways, she is one of the last Hollywood stars I remember when growing up in the sixties. In those days, the big Hollywood studios controlled almost all we saw and knew about the lives of the stars. This way they could preserve their stars public image on the big screen.
Most big name stars contracted with major studio’s and were included in this information shield from the public. If they had flaws or personal problems they were often hidden away from our view. In the time of Camelot and innocence, we found some enjoyment in the world of the famous, by letting ourselves believe things were better for them. In reality we knew it was an unreal fantasy, much as their movies sometimes were.
The world changed in the sixties in many different ways. Camelot was taken away by a bullet in Dallas. A conflict in the jungles of south East Asia began taking young American lives. At home social unrest was viewed each night on our new color TVs. The world had changed in the days of instant information and we were shown the reality that was around us.
Somehow the information began to tell not only about the world’s troubling news; it began to tell us of the problems of the individuals we knew as stars. Money, alcohol, or divorce became headline news about the people we once kind of looked up too. We knew their lives were as difficult at times as is each of ours. Yet, somehow it brought us some since of happiness to know June Cleaver was a good mom and never seemed to struggle paying Ward’s household bills.
Today, live news reports scrutinize every aspect of people’s lives. For each of us we feel that it can not be possible to happen in our private lives. But, electronic devices that many of us carry can instantly make you famous or infamous. Cell phones can send out into the world of digital information every detail of a person’s life. Even if you hoped those details were best left unsaid or viewed by millions. Emails, twitters, and facebook type accounts can rob us of the ability to live our lives outside the public view. We want to have the same shield of protection that Hollywood stars once had before the electronic information age.
When you leave home to go about your business, countless security cameras monitor your daily lives. We know they are there for security and to protect us in our busy world. But in many ways they take away a little bit of that personal privacy we once enjoyed. Did you ever want to scratch that itch without watching eyes or heaven forbid pick your nose? Well don’t, because in our world someone is watching or even taking a picture to perhaps post on face book. Very personal moments can become the instant joke in our lives. We are becoming a world in which personal information is spun around the globe in split seconds.
It seems unlikely we will ever have another glamorous star like Elizabeth Taylor. Today they are exposed to every aspect of their lives in front of and behind the camera. Paparazzi, cell phone, and security monitoring invades every aspect of their lives to expose the private world around them. If they get a speeding ticket or are arrested, gain weight or have a public disagreement the world will soon know. But the same loss of privacy the stars experience has now come to all of us.
Cleopatra was not a box office hit when released in 1963. Over budget and Taylor’s sudden ill health delayed the movie’s original production goals and greatly increased costs. The movie won four Academy Awards despite lack of attendance at theaters. Taylor’s romance with Burton became the bigger news for the Hollywood tabloids. The new media technology changed the lives of both Taylor and Burton forever.
That same year, Sam Cook wrote a song called “A Change Is Going to Come.” And it did change, and our world and lives were never the same again. Our ever increasing ability to see and communicate information about everything and everybody made us a much more informed, but it also removes a little of all our privacy. Now, the whole world can see you Thru the Lens.