Tag Archives: Diamond

The 42nd Academy Awards (1970)

21 Feb

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The years 1968 and 1969 had been, professionally, quite disastrous for the Taylor-Burton couple. Even more so for the 40s approaching Liz, whose appeal at the box office had diminished considerably, specially since the bizarre Boom! (1968) opened to terrible reviews. It was the first Taylor film to be such a failure at the box office and marked the end of her career, acting wise.

Richard Burton, however, had one great success starring in the World War II action film Where eagles dare (1968) which earned an enormous profit, but the future seemed blurry for the famed couple as times were changing and they became progressively old-fashioned and too expensive to hire. The glamour queens were gone, replaced by a group of younger actresses with washed-up faces that looked more like the girl-next-door than a movie star. Garbo was long gone, Dietrich was singing around the globe and Joan Crawford and Bette Davis were mostly playing whatever roles they could get in cheap movies. Unusual looking women like Barbra Streisand, Mia Farrow and Liza Minelli were the new box office queens. Some heartthrobs were now odd looking as well, like Al Pacino or Dustin Hoffman.  The ermines and orchids were out.

Even though Elizabeth Taylor`s movies were not money makers, her star power was still immense and she was more than willing to put it to use and show the newbies what real stars look like. In 1970 she was asked by the Academy Awards to be one of the main presenters – that of the best movie of the year, and she was decided to knock them all dead!

In addition, Richard had been nominated for the fifth time for his role in Anne of a thousand days (1969) and they were sure he was going to win. Moreover, this would be the first Academy Award show to be televised via satellite to an international audience and to this date is the highest rated of the televised Academy Awards ceremoniesElizabeth_Taylor_Burton_Dia_100.

Not long before, the couple had famously purchased the biggest and most expensive diamond in the world – outbidding the Sultan of Brunei and Aristotle Onassis- from Cartier for $1.1 million. It was so big that Elizabeth found it difficult to wear it as a ring and spent an additional $80,000 to make a necklace of diamonds for the now called Taylor-Burton diamond.

Decided to look her best, the violet-eyed diva called her dear friend, the legendary Edith Head to design a dress to display not only her ample bosom but also the egg-sized bauble. Worth mentioning is that Edith Head won a record of eight Academy Awards for Best Costume Design. Her relationship with Elizabeth had started back in the set of  A place in the sun (1951) where she created magnificent costumes for her and now, almost 20 years later, she was going to create another masterpiece: a blue-violet chiffon dress with a pronounced cleavage  that would showcase Elizabeth`s major assets: her beauty and her diamond.

Taylor was not the only one sprucing up; Richard Burton had stopped his copious drinking and slimmed down and tanned and looked quite handsome indeed. Burton was sure that spending time in Puerto Vallarta made them always look their best and that is just what they did before the Academy Awards: spend time sunbathing, dieting and relaxing.

Just the year before, the Burtons attended the famous Scorpio Ball – which was Grace Kelly`s birthday extravaganza − and Taylor notoriously upstaged her and the entire party. The Princess later said that “Elizabeth was unbearably beautiful”. For the party, Elizabeth decided to wear publicly for the first time the newly acquired Taylor-Burton diamond along with the Krupp diamond and a specially designed black-hooded robe with shinning scorpions beaded on it. Liz & Dick still had it.

The night of the Academy Awards the uber glamorous Burtons dazzled everyone: Elizabeth Taylor looking extraordinarily stunning and wearing her biggest diamonds left everyone in awe. Her beauty had always been shocking to people to the point that some would jump over her car just to get a glimpse of her fabled face and legendary eyes; but this time she seemed to glow like a blue-violet rainbow. She was extremely tanned and her breasts were truly “apocalyptic”- quoting Burton, who was stone-cold sober, absolutely elegant and a great accessory to Elizabeth, who always knew how to use men to her advantage

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Photographers frenzied over them just like during Le Scandale nearly a decade ago almost ignoring the other celebrities – to call them stars would not be appropriate, because they were not. Even the supposed-to-be star of the night, Barbra Streisand was completely upstaged. The Burtons and especially Elizabeth Taylor were the last real stars and they continued to cause riots wherever they went. Richard thought that after so many years of marriage it would cool down a bit, but it did not. Their movies were bad, but the fights á la Virginia Woolf, illnesses, jet setting around the globe and extreme excesses –in the age of the hippies they would nonchalantly spend nearly 600 million dollars – made them and would continue to make them STARS.

The night however memorable, turned out bittersweet: Richard Burton would lose again, this time to John Wayne. He would actually never win, making him one of the greatest actors in history to never get an Oscar, not even an honorary one, like Garbo did in 1955. People would continuously gather at their table to compliment Elizabeth`s beauty, to see the diamond and to comfort Richard for such an injustice.TAYLOR1 (2)

The facts that Elizabeth Taylor won the Oscar for Butterfield 8 in 1961 and that Richard Burton did not win the Oscar for Who`s afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1967 are clear indicators that the Academy Awards are not necessarily parameters for what good acting is or is not. It almost seems like Hollywood resented him for having taken Elizabeth into a torrid adulterous affair that nearly sunk Twentieth Century Fox and brutally smashed the puritan−hypocritical morals and values of a generation.

The Burtons not only showcased glamour and charisma, they also knew how to handle these beatle-like reactions that would traumatize others. Even Frank Sinatra was utterly impressed at the amount of attention they were getting, and he was not precisely unknown either. They waved like royalty to the crowds which would gather almost anywhere in the world (Dahomey, a small African country would be one of the exceptions) and fulfilled their duties as stars too well: the furs, the Kalizma yatch, the fleet of Rolls Royce, their unattainable beauty and the jewels, lots of them. They gave the hungry public what they wanted and much more.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton slapped Hollywood in the night of the Academy Awards with a dose of Old Hollywood System and showed everyone what legends were made of, and why there would never be another couple of mega-stars like them.

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Liz Taylor & Richard Burton At Oscars