Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Movie Spotlight is “BUtterfield 8” (1960):
“BUtterfield 8” is the original Sex & the City. Only the sex is on the darkside of the city. It has nothing to do with fashion or true love and happily ever afters. Elizabeth Taylor won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Gloria Wandrous. Gloria is one of those people who has been getting up on the wrong side of bed for so long she can’t quite remember when she wasn’t.
Gloria works as a model businessmen like to have at parties for companionship and to spice things up. She has a special relationship with one of the businessmen, Weston Liggett (Laurence Harvey). He’s married and he wants to set her up as his mistress. He doesn’t want to marry her. It would mean he would have to give up his social status and his wife’s money. At one time, she thought he was her way to dig herself out of the life she’s buried herself in. He’s just as much a loser as she is. They’re a match made in hell.
There is one good thing in her life. It is her friend, Steve Carpenter (Eddie Fisher). They grew up together. He’s the only real family she has. He ended up looking after her when her father died and her mother went to work. Now he’s engaged to Norma and she’s not happy about his relationship with Gloria. It’s platonic but she feels threatened.
Weston has a wife, Emily (Dina Merrill), who knows about his wandering ways. But she makes a decision. She is not about to give up on him.
Unfortunately Gloria believes in fairy tales and happy endings. Until she realizes happy endings are not for her.
Based on John O’Hara’s book, this could have been turned into a cliché of a story. It is the powerful performances that redeem it. Especially Elizabeth Taylor’s.
Taylor transformed herself from the wonderful Velvet Brown to the loving daughter Kay Banks about to become a bride in “Father of the Bride” to the society girl Angela Vickers of “A Place in the Sun” to Maggie the Cat in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” the institutionalized and Catherine Holly of “Suddenly, Last Summer”. Finally she inhabited Gloria Wandrous, her most powerful performance until then. With it, she stamped her name in the stars.
Only once after that did she reach the epitome of performance she was capable of. That role was Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”. With this transformation, she had become one of the great performers of tragedy in the 20th Century.
It is wonderful seeing a great actor or actress at the top of their game. And that is why I give ”Butterfield 8” a thumbs up.