AS film fans mourn the loss of actress Dame Elizabeth Taylor, a Wearside academic is putting the finishing touches to a new book on the Hollywood legend.
The British-born star, famous for her roles in National Velvet, Cleopatra, and many other movies died yesterday aged 79. She had spent two months in hospital for treatment of congestive heart failure.
The Oscar-winner’s career spanned more than half a century, but her on-screen performances were often overshadowed by off-screen dramas – including having seven husbands and marrying Welsh actor Richard Burton twice.
Dr Susan Smith, of Sunderland University, now hopes to put more focus on Dame Elizabeth’s work in a volume of the Film Stars Book Series she has co-edited for the British Film Institute.
She said: “The focus has been looking at her work and films. I think there’s been so much written about her off-screen life – all her divorces, scandals, her serious illness.
“Really the aim of my research is to redress the balance, as it were, and consider her achievements in film.”
The senior lecturer in film studies explained what it was about Dame Elizabeth that made her performances so special.
“I think there’s an almost sensuous vibrancy that she brings to her films,” she said.
“Her performances had such an impact really because of her rapport with the camera. She could sense the camera’s presence, even when she couldn’t see where it was.”
Dr Smith said Dame Elizabeth was one of few performers to sustain stardom both as an adult and a child, and the longevity of her career along with the ups and downs of her private life had made her the embodiment of a sense of life’s journey.
Dr Smith presented a paper on Dame Elizabeth’s work as a child star for a conference on Children’s Film and Literature at De Montfort University this month.
She also gave further papers on other aspects of Dame Elizabeth’s career at the XVth International SERCIA Conference at the University of Frache-Comte, Besancon, France in September.
The Film Stars Book Series will be published by the British Film Institute in 2012.