She had a way with men, but also great humour and humanity, recalls her friend and fellow actress
The Observer, Sunday 11 December 2011
Elizabeth Taylor on the set of the the 1956 movie Giant: 'She knew she was seen as a product and might as well use it.' Photograph: Frank Worth/Getty
I will remember looking at her jewellery in the sun. In recent years, I would go up to Elizabeth's home all the time to make sure she was exercising or I would send someone else to make her get in the pool. She was not a fan of exercise, so most of the time we would end up taking out her jewellery and just looking at it in the sunlight.
We first met when I was 21 and she was 23 and found we were very relaxed together. I can't remember how it happened, but then I can't remember much now about when I was 21. A man I knew was in love with Elizabeth, I think, and I knew both of them.
At that time, people were not fawning all over her – except the men, of course. We would talk mainly about work. We were both working six-day weeks and she was looking for the next piece of work. She never had a scheme, though. She was the kind of person who felt that things just happened when they should happen. Her marriage to Michael Wilding was ending and, although he was a nice person and was very nice with her, Elizabeth had adventures to go on. And, when I think of it, one of those adventures she never got around to having was to be anonymous. She talked to me about being a regular housewife. She honestly wanted that – to look after a home and kids.
She had been a star since she was a child and was not as naturally outgoing as me anyway. When I was pregnant, I would go to her house and eat ice-cream and she would tell me what the rest of pregnancy was going to be like. Later on, she would come to my one-room shack on the beach. She told me so much about her life there, not just about her childhood but about things that had happened to her and which I will never tell.
I introduced her to Mike Todd, her third husband, on Around the World in 80 Days and then watched the negotiations between them. And theywere negotiations. She was very funny. She used to bargain with him about going out to dinner.
Later, she told me about asking for $1m to do Cleopatra and she laughed. She never expected anyone to pay it. But she was a good businesswoman and later she turned all that into a multimillion dollar concern. She felt that, since she was perceived as a product, she might as well use it. Elizabeth was always regarded as a prize and she knew how to manipulate that with men, too.
She did not see herself as "Elizabeth Taylor" at all. She was much more like a Yiddisher momma, to be honest. She used to say she was going to have to be "Elizabeth Taylor" and put on that show. That was the gig, after all. It's what she had to do.
She was so much more down to earth than you would imagine. I miss her deep, deep humanity – something you don't find very often. And, of course, her humour. We wanted to make fun of the world together. Not to look down on it, though. We just watched.