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Remembering Elizabeth Taylor

When Elizabeth Taylor wrote about her early career in “The Role I Liked Best…” (Saturday Evening Post, September 24, 1949), she was just 17 years old, but had already starred in 12 motion pictures.

I literally grew into my favorite role—the part of Velvet in the picture National Velvet. I started to qualify for it as a small child by learning to love horses, and began riding at the age of three. When I was four, my godfather gave me a field horse, and soon I started jumping and steeplechasing. Later, I read Enid Bagnold’s novel, “National Velvet,” and began to dream of playing Velvet in a movie.

So when I reached a relatively ripe thirteen and heard tbat M-G-M planned to produce a picture based on this story, I went to Producer Pan Berman and told him bow much I wanted the role.

“But you’re too small and frail,” he said.

“I’ll grow,” I promised.

Afterward mother wondered why I had said tbat. “You know you haven’t grown a quarter inch in three years,” she pointed out.

“It wasn’t necessary then,” I said. “Now it is.” Until then, I had eaten like a bird. But after making that promise I started packing away steaks and chops like a lumberjack. In three months I grew about three inches and gained weight besides. Maybe Nature poked a helpful hand into my build-up program, but I like to think I did it all myself. Anyway, I got my favorite role—and King Charles.

King Charles was supposed to be a mean horse, and only his owner and his trainer were allowed to ride him. But I managed to win his trust by visiting him day after day. Then I persuaded the studio to buy him for the picture, and finally King Charles was presented to me as a birthday present.

By the time another 17 years had passed, she had left such ingenue roles far behind her to win the 1967 Academy Award for Best Actress playing the bitter, destructive Martha of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”

Next: Taylor’s Most Passionate Role, as an AIDS Activist

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