Elizabeth Taylor died as the last of the great film goddesses. It is interesting to contrast her life with perhaps her closest contemporary equivalent, Angelina Jolie.
The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, March 24, 2011. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.
Elizabeth Taylor and Angelina Jolie - Goddesses from Different Eras
I had a different reaction to Elizabeth Taylor than nearly all other Americans - judging from the laudatory tributes and obituaries I read.
Let me hasten to say - I admire Taylor - not quite idolizing her - as the last great film goddess. And where would America (and I) be without such goddesses?
Perhaps her closest modern-day equivalent as a film goddess is Angelina Jolie. Both she and Taylor are incredible natural beauties. Both are also intense professionals who have surprised people with their cinematic skills.
I believe Jolie takes better care of her physical self than Taylor did - as is typical for actors today. This contradicts the idea that modern performers are more in the throes of drugs and alcohol than stars of yore. Some certainly are, but not most. Although Brad Pitt and George Clooney and others have been known as partiers (Pitt was renown for his reefer-rolling skills, per Bill Maher), I believe that they are more mindfully healthy than Hollywood figures of the past.
Taylor was a legendary pill-popper - almost proud of it - and drank alongside her famously drunken husband, Richard Burton. Rather late in the day (at 50) she went to the Betty Ford Center. I don't have the impression she spent much time exercising, and her weight fluctuated wildly. For quite a bit of the latter half of her life Taylor was in poor health, which compromised her great beauty.
Both Jolie and Taylor are models of passionate, caring human beings. Taylor was famous for taking up troubled individuals - most notably the late, great Montgomery Clift and Michael Jackson. Each devoted herself to humanitarian causes - Taylor's cause was AIDS, Jolie's has been international refugees. No one can say anything bad about the humanity of either of them.
Which leaves their personal and family relationships. The reason I have a different reaction to Taylor than many others is because, when I published Love and Addiction in 1975, and she was 43, Taylor had been married six times (soon to be married a seventh, a political mismatch with Republican Senator John Warner in 1976), so I found her an example of the use of love as an addictive resolution for life's problems.
That was no doubt a simplification. And Jolie has certainly displayed youthful indiscretion (as in the tattooed name of Billy Bob Thornton, her second husband, that she covered with a dragon). But her life seems now (according to most accounts ) to be sober and devoted to her large, international brood of children that she co-parents with Pitt, while she continues her humanitarian endeavors and is a major film star.
The very sanity of Jolie's life (and I have no idea if she steps out now and again, as reported in tabloids) bespeaks a kind of corporateness that is the opposite of Taylor's life.
Which is what made Taylor the last of the old-time film goddesses - for better and for worse.