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Posted May 31, 2011
Many tributes have been made about the recent passing of actress Elizabeth Taylor and along with them, there have been a number of DVD reissues of her past films. Most of them are worth checking out, especially her searing Oscar-winning turn in "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?" and even the scandal-soaked "Cleopatra", where she fell in love with Richard Burton, is worth a take. But there is one performance of hers that has always struck me and it was made at a time when nobody was expecting much from her. The film was called "Reflections In A Golden Eye". Made in 1968, this John Huston film tells the story of a closetted Army major (played very well by Marlon Brando) who has a domineering wife, played by Taylor. At first, her character comes across as an almost cartoonish figure, riding on a white horse with a whip. However, she relishes in humiliating her husband at every opportunity. To make a long story short, this leads to a lot of infidelity, betrayal and of course, murder. Yet, Taylor is so good playing the wife that you believe that she would actually be this cruel and intimidating woman. When she repeatedly and humiliatingly slaps Brando in front of his men, you wonder, "Who else could get away with doing that?" At the time this movie was made, nobody could. That is, nobody but Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor made this film two years after winning the Oscar for "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?" and when it came out, most of the critics panned it. Over the years, though, it has gained something of a notoriety and not just because of Taylor's brutal performance in it. Brando is very good here, too, portraying a military man so stuck in protocol that he walks through the film angry, confused, even fragile. He plays the kind of man who could fall apart in front of you in an instant. Four years after appearing in this movie, Brando would win the Oscar for "The Godfather". But you watch him here and you realize that it only took the right formula and a matter of time for the moviegoing public to realize what a sensational actor he was. "Reflections In A Golden Eye" also features Brian Keith, as a reluctant suitor to Taylor. Julie Harris as Keith's suspicious, voyeristic wife. And there's also Robert Forster, in his first motion picture, playing the role of a young, impressionable soldier caught in a situation that he or may not truly understand. The movie was meant to be a vehicle for Taylor and for Montgomery Clift, whose life and career had been in a steep decline. But Clift died in 1966 and never got to make this film. Considering the gay undertones in this taboo-busting film, it would've been interesting (to say the least) how Clift would have tackled this subject if he had the opportunity to do this film. "Reflections In A Golden Eye" is not available seperately on DVD but it is available on the TCM Greatest Classic Films Legends series with Marlon Brando, along with "Julius Caesar", "Teahouse Of The August Moon" and the truly classic "A Streetcar Named Desire". For anyone who wants to see just how furiously unbridled Elizabeth Taylor can be given the right role, "Reflections" is definitely worth seeking out.
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