best film:  Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a crucial film and role for Elizabeth Taylor. Young prodigy Mike Nichols came along to work with established stars and power couple Taylor and Richard Burton at just the right time. The film is brilliant, but his category is a weak spot for Taylor’s case on this list. Nichols’ film (and this is his second or third best film right there with Carnal Knowledge after The Graduate is the clear number one) does not quite compare with some of the heavyweight best films other female actors have on their resume. Still, this is a fantastic film. This four actor chamber piece (George Segal and Sandy Dennis joining Burton and Taylor) and could feel incredibly stagebound if it were not for Nichols’ adventurous direction. In front of the camera, Burton and Taylor absolutely shine- total powerhouse performances- both actors are transcendent.



Taylor takes no prisoners as Martha in Mike Nichols’ stunning debut Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The adaption of Edward Albee’s play is just one of the eleven (11) films Burton and Taylor made together.



best performance:     Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is Taylor’s best performance and film by a decent margin. She is a tour de force. Taylor plays older (she is only thirty-four years old here) and put on weight for the role. Her Martha owns the screen and film. She is loud, forceful and mercilessly cruel throughout much of the film.



stylistic innovations/traits:  Taylor has one big swinging performance and solid depth with fifteen (15) archiveable films. She started as a talented child actor at the age eleven (11) at the time of Lassie Come Home in 1943 and was basically done (at least making quality films) with acting at the age of thirty-five (35) with Taming of the Shrew in 1967. In 1950 with Father of the Bride and A Place in the Sun Taylor grew up and was widely considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world (or at least in Hollywood) and she continued to challenge herself. Taylor won two Oscars (BUtterfield 8 and then later Virginia Woolf). She would play dominant women (Cleopatra, Martha from Virginia Woolf) and certainly one with a quick tongue and edge (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof). Taylor also squared off with some of the absolute best of all-time from Montgomery Clift (A Place in the Sun) to James Dean (Giant) to Paul Newman (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) and even Katharine Hepburn (Suddenly, Last Summer) and probably goes two for four winning here- which is a compliment to Taylor in that company.


Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opposite Paul Newman- part of Taylor’s ascent in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Taylor earned five (5) Oscar nominations (and won twice) in the ten (10) year stretch between 1957 and 1966.



directors worked with:  George Stevens (2) and this was an important partnership as two of Taylor’s best four films and performances (A Place in the Sun, Giant) are with Stevens. She also worked with Joseph Mankiewicz (2), Mike Nichols, Michael Curtiz, Vincent Minnelli and Mervyn LeRoy.



Taylor had two key films in the early 1950s (Father of the Bride– a massive box office smash) and A Place in the Sun (opposite Montgomery Clift here) that helped her transition from a child actor to an adult actor at the age of eighteen (18) and nineteen (19).



top five performances:

  1. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  2. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  3. Giant
  4. A Place in the Sun
  5. Suddenly, Last Summer



archiveable films

1943- Jane Eyre
1943- Lassie Come Home
1944- National Velvet
1947- Life with Father
1949- Little Women
1950- Father of the Bride
1951- A Place in the Sun
1953- Ivanhoe
1956- Giant
1958- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
1959- Suddenly, Last Summer
1960- BUtterfield 8
1963- Cleopatra
1966- Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
1967- Taming of the Shrew