Anyone watching the opening scenes of National Velvet could spot her right away. The dark hair, beautiful skin, and oh, those violet eyes. She stood out without even trying. She was that type of person.
Her characters never took much guff. Be it Maggie The Cat telling off her brother-in-law Goober, or Leslie Benedict in Giant protesting the treatment of women at her new husband’s ranch or telling her husband (Rock Hudson) how proud she was of him when he defended their Hispanic daughter in law when she’s refused service at a diner. There was Gloria Wandrous writing “NO SALE” in lipstick on a mirror. Of course there was Martha, boozy Martha, yelling at George at what a failure he was.
But there were times she couldn’t take herself too seriously. She and her then husband Richard Burton guest starred on Here’s Lucy. Lucy being Lucy, she just had to try on the Krupp diamond. Of course she couldn’t get the ring off her finger. Oh, the hi-jinks that ensued! She tried to get that ring off Lucy’s finger with champagne and threatened her with a German accent. It wasn’t a surprise that she was just as good as physical comedy as Lucy was. Before she was about to present at the Oscars, a flasher ran across the stage. Flustered, she flubbed her lines. “I’m nervous! That really upset me! I think I’m jealous!” she exclaimed. Everyone laughed, because they knew how she felt.
She wasn’t perfect. She married several times. Two of the marriages started when the other man was married. Yet she was forgiven by Debbie Reynolds, so much so that when Carrie Fisher was invited to a birthday party at Disneyland, Debbie told Carrie to go. “Go for the material,” she told her daughter. Years later, Fisher wrote a TV movie for her and Reynolds tittled These Old Broads. When my mother gets worried if she’s getting dementia, I tell her to name Elizabeth's husbands. In the order that she married them.
When her friend Rock Hudson died of AIDS, she knew what she had to do. She became an AIDS activist, talking about the disease that no one wanted to speak of. This was before red ribbons started appearing on lapels, when Ryan White wasn’t allowed to go to school. She didn’t back down, and she never flinched.
She had health problems all her life. Forty operations in all, almost died in 1961—but she didn’t die. She lived, and accepted the Oscar for Butterfield 8, showing off the tracheotomy scar on her neck that many thought got her the Oscar.
When interviewed by Barbara Walters, Walters said “What do you want on your tomb stone?”
She thought for a minute. “Here lies Elizabeth. She lived.”
She truly did.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries