Fifty years ago this week, in October 1961, the cover of Life magazine featured a strange and somewhat jowly looking Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra.
Taylor at this point was nearing 30, and coming off a string of four straight years when she had been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, culminating in a win for 1960's Butterfield 8. But Cleopatra would take three years to produce, and it bombed with critics when it came out in 1963, and Taylor's career was never quite the same. It also seems to me that the image of her in the Cleopatra get-up was when she crossed over from serious young actress to pop culture phenomena, and although she won another Oscar for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf in 1966, she never quite crossed back to being thought of as an actress, not a celebrity. She also, I'm sorry to say, got a little bit heavy -- we forget that she had three children in her 20s -- and very likely had lived a hard enough life (five husbands by the mid-60s, and an admitted addiction to painkillers and sleeping pills from her early 20s on), that, to my eye, she lost her looks. Elizabeth Taylor at 35 by 1967 was a little bit scary looking; Elizabeth Taylor at 25 in 1957 was.... well, a picture tells the story: