Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This Week's Toon: Remembering Elizabeth Taylor

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Mar 30, 2011

The two principal decisions in drawing this week’s cartoon were selecting a quotation and deciding what sort of image to use. Since I draw for LGBT publications, I had at first thought I would use something Elizabeth Taylor had said about AIDS, or that someone had said about her longstanding commitment to raising funds to help find a cure, but none that I found really fit with a eulogy cartoon. The quotation I did use, however, struck me as more interesting than anything I'd seen on the topic I'd originally had in mind.

Several other cartoonists have already drawn cartoons of her famously violet eyes alone, so I didn’t want to repeat that approach. She didn’t have a famous profile or distinctive pose, either, which nixed drawing her silhouette as a second easy shortcut.

I’m not entirely pleased with how this sketch of Elizabeth Taylor came out. Maybe the rouge on her right cheek comes over too far, or her hair should cover her eyes more, and there’s something just not right about the mouth. But then, I’ve seen a lot of cartoons that just don’t capture her, which might have something to do with the longevity and variety of her career. The star of "National Velvet" does not look like the cameo guest appearance on "All My Children."

Googling “Elizabeth Taylor,” I found a lot of the same pictures over and over. A lot of pictures of Taylor when she was very young, and a lot of pictures from the ’90's and ’00's. In the earlier photos and drawings, her mouth is small, usually in a pout, as was typical of publicity shots of actresses in that era. Her mouth appears wider in the later pictures, though, and her jaw stronger.

What I wanted to work from were pictures from her career as I became aware of it in the ’60's and ’70's – the face I remember best. I can’t be entirely certain, but I think the first film of hers that I saw was probably “The Taming of the Shrew.” And then there was the face I’ve seen most often: the gauzy woman in those TV ads for White Diamonds perfume that have been aired every Christmas season for the last 30 years.

I have a box of old Look and Life magazines in the basement, so I went through them in hopes of finding any photos of Ms. Taylor that would be appropriate to the quotation I had decided to use. I found no pictures of her at all, but I did find in the January 15, 1965 issue of Life magazine the letters from readers in response to a cover story in the December 18, 1964 issue that I –alas!— do not have.

Nearly every other letter was from people in high dudgeon that Life should dare introduce the likes of Elizabeth Taylor into their homes:
Oh, come now, Life! First we were ‘treated’ to two issues full of the tragic account of Marilyn Monroe (1962 and 1964 versions). Then came the saga of Sophia Loren (who ‘feels married’). Now you scrape the bottom with 12 nauseating pages of prattle by Elizabeth Taylor (who demurs at her private life being made public).
Life to me has always been an informative, newsworthy family magazine. Let the accounts of Taylor, Loren et al. be published by the pulp magazines, and not besmirch the pages of a fine magazine with such trivia.
--Willis D. Calkins Jr., Bellport, N.Y.

When I saw the cover, which looks like she just crawled out of bed and put on a pair of earrings, I was so angry that I felt like taking it to the back porch and tearing it up.
--Mrs. Nelson E. Shultz, York, Pa.

I have to wonder if the quotation I used in this week’s cartoon was from that December 18, 1964 issue of Life Magazine. Or in response to some of those January 15, 1965 letters.

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