Larry Mantle |

Boyhood memories of Elizabeth "Cleopatra" Taylor




Talking Wednesday morning on AirTalk about the death of Elizabeth Taylor reminded me of one of my earliest memories of movies.  I was nearly five years old and looking at the calendar pages of the Los Angeles Times as it rested open on the breakfast nook table at my grandparents’ house in the View Park neighborhood of southwest L. A.

In front of me was the display ad for the mega budget Cleopatra, which had just been released.  The ad featured a provocatively posed Taylor in full Egyptian costume.  One look at that ad and even this young boy was sure he wanted to see the movie.  I begged my parents to take me to Cleopatra.

My parents seemed baffled as to why a little kid would want to see a historical epic, but they underestimated my curiosity about this beautiful woman.  They also clearly overestimated my “normalcy.”

My dad explained that the movie wasn’t playing yet at a drive-in or lower cost neighborhood theater, where we could afford to see it.  However, when it came to the Studio Drive-In in Culver City, my parents made good on their promise to take me.  I don’t know that either of them would have gone to the movie on their own, but they were great about accommodating me.

I sat excitedly in the backseat of our chilly Olds Cutlass convertible awaiting the heat of the queen of Egypt.  I didn’t have to wait long, as Taylor came sexily tumbling out of a rolled up carpet.  I watched intently -- then promptly fell asleep. 

The next morning my parents wearily filled me in on what I missed, but it was clear they weren’t happy about going to the trouble of taking me to a movie I badly wanted to see, only to have me fall asleep a few minutes in.  In hindsight, I’m sure they knew it was predictable.

Years later, I more than stayed awake for the incendiary performance Taylor gave in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  That’s my favorite of all of her many performances.

What’s your favorite memory of Elizabeth Taylor?