The Elizabeth Taylor Life, Legacy, and Tragedy

 

The Elizabeth Taylor Life, Legacy, and Tragedy

Richard Hollerman

People are thinking about Elizabeth Taylor, the screen idol, who died yesterday (March 23, 2011) at age 79.  The story reads, “Elizabeth Taylor, the violet-eyed film goddess whose sultry screen persona, stormy personal life, and enduring fame and glamour made her one of the last of the old-fashioned movie starts and a template for the modern celebrity, died Wednesday at age 79” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, March 24, 2011).

Many have seen her movies and millions followed her career and personal life through the magazines and tabloids.  She was surely one of Hollywood’s leading ladies.

Born in Hampstead, England, Elizabeth moved with her family to Los Angeles, California in 1939.  With the help of her assertive mother, she began her movie career, starring in “There’s One Born Every Minute” (1942), “Lassie Come Home” (1943), and “National Velvet” (1944).  This latter movie, made when she was 12 years old and co-starring Mickey Rooney, was the hit that gave her status as a Hollywood star. 

Next came “Courage of Lassie” (1946) and “Little Women” (1949).

Her following films were less “innocent” and more suggestive—A Place in the Sun; Suddenly, Last Summer; The Taming of the Shrew; Butterfield 8; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Cleopatra; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; The Sandpiper; and numerous others.  Her series of more than fifty movies shows how a young star can become a fallen star.  The public loved her and she was given Oscars for her movie acting.

Taylor was known for her many romances and marriages.  Though married eight time, two of these were to the same man (Richard Burton) and one of the husbands (Michael Todd) died in a plane crash.  She became the symbol of Hollywood decadence with her marital history, a veritable series of marriages, one after another.  Taylor said, “You don’t get over men like the flu.  Every divorce is like a little death” (Star-Telegram). 

This type of activity was one among a plethora of other influences that pushed this country further and further from the Scriptural ideal of one husband married to one wife, for life.  Surely untold damage was done to American through her romantic influence.

She was known for her support of the profligate Michael Jackson and promoted sodomite activism in her AIDS support.  Millions of women catered to her promotion of her business of jewelry and perfumes.

Elizabeth was known as “Hollywood’s Queen” because of her movies and personal life.  Everyone considered her a raving beauty and people “couldn’t get enough of her violet-colored eyes” (people.com).  Because of her physical attractiveness, she stimulated many an American man to lust for her (cf. Matthew 5:27-30). 

She is reported to have said, “I’ve been lucky all my life.  Everything was handed to me: looks, fame, wealth, honors, love.  But I’ve paid for that luck with disasters. Terrible illnesses, destructive additions, broken marriages” (people.com).  It appears that the coveted life that she lived was not that wonderful after all.  One report states, “In real life, too, men all but committed murder in pursuit of her” (Star-Telegram).  But there was something pathetic and sad about her life.  She admitted, “I have the emotions of a child in the body of a woman.  I was rushed into woman-hood for the movies.  It caused me long moments of unhappiness and doubt” (Ibid.).

Years ago, I allowed my mind to speculate what it would be like for a leading Hollywood personality to come to Christ with a genuine and sincere conversion.  Consider what this could mean.  What if one of these celebrities were to fully repent of their sin and worldliness, sincerely trust in God to save them through Christ Jesus, and begin to speak out with courage for the Lord.  What if they were to sell their ornate Beverly Hills mansion, choose to live a common and humble life, renounce their liquor and immodest dress, turn from their immorality and adulterous “marriages,” and walk daily with the Lord Jesus?

What if someone like Elizabeth Taylor would have been willing to turn from her immodesty, her public appearances, her gross materialism, her pride and boastfulness, her immorality, her sexual enticements, and her acting (after all, acting is a form of lying–and hypocrisy literally means “play acting”). Instead, what if a Hollywood actress like Taylor would have chosen to leave her adultery and live a single and celibate life of purity and holiness (Matthew 19:10-12)? What if an actress like Taylor would have chosen to be the woman Peter describes, one with a “chaste and respectful behavior,” one who would be concerned about “the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:2-4)? What an impact that would have been for the cause of Christ and holiness that this world needs!

Surely, the media would learn of it and such a transformed person would have a platform to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ.  In my imagination, I always wondered if Elizabeth Taylor herself could be such a person who would allow the Spirit of God to transform her inwardly and outwardly.  And now, sadly, this can never be.

Like everyone else before her, Elizabeth Taylor is now dead.  She converted to Judaism (through her marriages to Mike Todd and Eddie Fisher), which couldn’t help to prepare her to face death and find hope in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  After being plagued with physical limitations for years (beginning in 1945 when she fell off a horse and hurt her back while filming “National Velvet”), Elizabeth died of congestive heart failure, surrounded by her four children, at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where she had been for six weeks.

Elizabeth can never be that Hollywood celebrity I had hoped for, the one who could humble herself to come to Christ through repentant faith and live a new life for Him.  She has gone to meet her Creator and Judge.  “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).  Jesus said, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).  Elizabeth is now experiencing that judgment and wrath and there is no further opportunity after death to find forgiveness through the Sin-bearing Savior. 

But there is still hope for you—if you don’t presently know Jesus Christ.  As long as life is yours, if you are willing to cast all of your self-orientation and sin on Jesus, He will graciously receive you and give you eternal life.  But He will do so only if you renounce your sin and begin to live fully for Him.  Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?  For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:34-37). 

It is too late for Elizabeth, but it isn’t too late for you.  Will you come today?

(Information was gleaned from “Film Legend’s Career Spanned 7 Decades,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, March 24, 2011; “Taylor’s Love Life Was as Dramatic as Her Movies,” Ibid.; “Elizabeth Taylor to be Buried Today,” IMDB.com; “Elizabeth Taylor,” IMDB.com.; “Remembering Elizabeth Taylor,” people.com.)

 

 

 


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