With her eight marriages, long-running drug problems and lingering medical ailments, Elizabeth Taylor is a perfect candidate for trashy tabloidy biographies. While C. David Heymann's "Liz: An Intimate Biography of Elizabeth Taylor" is not the worst of the bunch, his obvious disdain makes for sour reading.
For some time, Elizabeth Taylor was the image of the child star -- talented, gutsy and willing to do almost anything (even try to speed up physical growth) to get a part. But after a failed marriage to hotel heir Nicky Hilton and an increasingly sultry image, Elizabeth began to change radically. Suddenly she was the Cleopatra of the times.
She went through several marriages, to Michael Wilding, the tragic Mike Todd, a scandalous affair and marriage to Eddie Fisher (who was married), and finally spent many long years with the tempestuous Richard Burton (who was also married), whom she married twice. Her once red-hot career went into decline, as her last two forgettable marriages tanked. But Elizabeth Taylor remains a towering movie legend even today.
Since she was the J.Lo of her day -- bling, lots of husbands and opulence all around -- Taylor is a pretty juicy subject for a biographer... IF the biographer can repress his inner tabloid journalist. Heymann keeps himself restrained much of the time, focusing a lot of Elizabeth's career and the impact of the people around her.
It's death to a biography if the author has no respect, let alone liking, for his subject. And Heymann shows nothing but disdain not only for Elizabeth, but for her husbands and lovers. He emphasizes Taylor's yoyoing obesity, her sometimes immaturity, her gaudy dress/makeup/jewelry styles, and her lack of education. Her husbands are all caricatures. For example, Richard Burton is portrayed merely as a weak sot, and little mention is made of his intelligence, his eloquence, or his astounding acting ability.
Aside from the superficiality and occasional sexual anecdotes, Heymann does a pretty good job of chronicling not only Taylor's career, but that of the people around her such as her good friends Rock Hudson and Montgomery Clift, as well as her tireless crusading for AIDS victims and her forays into the world of... perfume. Whatever. Nothing new is revealed, but it's a passable look at her life.
However, the obvious dislike Heymann has for Taylor and her assorted amours makes "Liz: An Intimate Biography of Elizabeth Taylor" a pain to read.