Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor died today at the age of 79. The world has lost not only one of the last golden-era movie stars, but also a theatrical icon. Now, I don’t mean to suggest that she was a stage actress in the most literal sense, although she did attempt a Broadway-fueled resurgence in the early 1980’s including a Tony-nominated performance in The Little Foxes. What does strike me in the outpouring of coverage is that much of Taylor’s greatest work came in film adaptations of plays. We can never go back and see Barbara Bel Geddes in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but we will always have Taylor’s sultry, emotionally bare performance in the film version. She will forever be the celluloid face of Maggie the Cat and Catherine (Suddenly, Last Summer) and, most impressively, Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. For all the talk of her beauty, eyes, marriages, perfumes and causes, watching this fiercely committed, unapologetic performance reminds us what she was most of all—a gifted actress.
Watch one amazing scene from Virginia Woolf after the jump.