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Woody Allen’s breakthrough movie; it won four Oscars (best picture, best actress, best director, best screenplay) and established Allen as a leading auteur film-maker. Thought by many critics to be Woody Allen’s magnum opus, Annie Hall confirmed that he had “completed the journey from comic to humorist, from comedy writer to wit, and from inventive moviemaker to creative artist” (Saturday Review).

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Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, arguably the last great female star of
the Hollywood studio system, has died at the age of 79.

The Oscar-winning star died in the early hours of the morning at Cedars-Sinai medical centre in Los Angeles, from congestive heart failure, according to her spokeswoman Sally Morrison. She said Taylor’s children were at her side.

Dame Elizabeth, who had been in ill health for a number of years, was taken to the hospital with heart failure six weeks ago. A spokeswoman for the hospital said: “She passed away at 1.28 [0828 GMT].”

Taylor’s luminous screen presence, allied to a colourful private life, made her a mainstay of US popular culture for more than 50 years. She won her first best actress Oscar for playing the self-styled “slut of the world” in Butterfield 8 (1960). Her second came courtesy of an electrifying turn opposite then-husband Richard Burton in the 1966 drama Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Born in Hampstead, north London, Taylor relocated to the US in 1939 and made her screen debut as a nine-year-old in the 1942 Universal comedy There’s One Born Every Minute. She found fame as the perky child star of Lassie Come Home and National Velvet before graduating to adult roles with the 1950 comedy Father of the Bride.

The following year she rustled up one of her most vibrant and vital performances in A Place in the Sun. George Stevens’s melodrama cast her as a spoiled debutante who bewitches Montgomery Clift’s ambitious social climber. According to the critic Andrew Sarris, the film’s young actors were “the most beautiful couple in the history of cinema. Those gigantic close-ups of them kissing were unnerving – like gorging on chocolate sundaes.”

Other notable roles were in Giant, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly, Last Summer and Reflections in a Golden Eye. Yet Taylor’s on-screen prowess was often upstaged by the ongoing soap-opera of her personal life. She was married eight times to seven husbands and sparked a scandal when she began an affair with the British actor Richard Burton on the set of Cleopatra.

The couple wed in 1964 and divorced a decade later. They remarried in 1975 and then split again the following year. Throughout this period they were embraced as the hydra-headed emblem of Hollywood glamour, their lives a whirl of ritzy premieres, champagne receptions and indulgent movie collaborations. “It was probably the most chaotic time of my life,” Taylor would later recall. “It was fun and it was dark – oceans of tears – but there were some good times too.”

Throughout her life, Taylor seemed drawn to fragile souls and those in need. She reportedly saved the life of the notoriously self-destructive Montgomery Clift following a car crash in 1956. Spurred on by the 1985 death of her friend Rock Hudson, she helped found the American Federation for Aids Research and went on to raise an estimated $50m to fight the disease. More recently, she rode to the defence of Michael Jackson after the singer was arraigned on charges of child abuse.

Away from the cameras, her own life was punctuated by health problems. She survived a brain tumour, suffered from a heart condition and reportedly broke her back on five separate occasions. In later life, she was largely confined to a wheelchair as a result of osteoporosis. Yet there was something resilient about Elizabeth Taylor – a fighting spirit belied by her famous good looks. “I’ve been through it all, baby,” she once boasted. “I’m Mother Courage.”

R.I.P. Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, actor, born 27 February 1932; died 23 March 2011

New York Times obituary
Elizabeth Taylor, Guinea Pig for Modern Celebrity

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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