Everybody knows by now that legendary screen actor Elizabeth Taylor has died at the age of 79. You can expect plenty of well deserved praise to be heaped on Taylor over the next few weeks —for her terrific performances in movies like Suddenly, Last Summer, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, not to mention her work on behalf of people with AIDs.
There will be Elizabeth Taylor movie clips galore on just about every network television show, no doubt, and plenty of jaw boning about her marriages, health problems, and friendship with Michael Jackson. But less attention will be paid to her early work as a dramatic voice on Lux Radio Theater and the Screen Guild Theater’s Radio Show.
Through the “Golden Age of Radio” years Lux hopped around from NBC’s Blue Network to CBS and back to NBC from the 1930s through the 1950s. The 15 year old Taylor worked with George Murphy and Mary Astor in a Lux production of “Cynthia” in June of 1947. And she performed with Lon McAllison and Walter Brennan in the Screen Guild’s 1946 rendition of “Her First Beau.”
By then Taylor was already in the movies, appearing with her lifelong friend Roddy McDowall in Lassie Come Home (1943) and The White Cliffs of Dover (1944). But it wasn’t until her performance in National Velvet that her screen career really took off. Still, the young Elizabeth Taylor had time for great radio work.
I’m guessing I’ll be seeing excerpts from Cleopatra every five minutes on TV tonight. But not a whole lot is remembered from Taylor’s radio days. Her wikipedia entry mentions radio not once. But there are plenty of great YouTube clips from her best radio appearances. Enjoy!