Michael C. Smith | San Francisco, CA United States | 08/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"`The most desirable girl in town is the easiest to find. Just call Butterfield-8!' So trumpeted the posters of this, Elizabeth Taylor's first Oscar winning performance. The film is a modernization of the 1935 novel by John O'Hara, which was based on the real life of the 1920's New York City call girl Starr Faithful.
Miss Taylor was dead set against playing Gloria Wandrous. She felt was a deliberate play by M.G.M. to capitalize on her recent notoriety in the Liz-Eddie-Debbie scandal. Also, she was anxious to move on to her first ever million-dollar role in Fox's Cleopatra. She was told by M.G.M that if she did not fulfill her contractual obligation to her home studio for one final film on her eighteen year contract that she would be kept off the screen for two years and miss making Cleopatra all together. She swore to the producer Pandro S. Berman that she would not learn her lines, not be prepared and in fact not give anything more and a walk through. Mr. Berman knew her better than she suspected. In the end Elizabeth Taylor turned in a professional, classic old style Hollywood performance that ranks at the top with the best of her work. She brings a savage rage to live to her searing portrait of a lost girl soaked through with sex and gin. A woman hoping against all hope to find salvation in yet one last man. Weston Leggett, a man who is worse off than she is in the self-esteem department. In her frantic quest for a clean new life Gloria finds that the male establishment will not allow her to step out of her role as a high priced party girl. She is pigeon holed by her past and the narrow mores of the late 50's are not about to let her fly free. Not the bar-buzzards of Wall Street, not her best friend Steve who abandons her at his girlfriend's insistence. Not even her shrink Dr. Treadman believes in her. The three women in her life are blind to who she really is. Her mother will not admit what Gloria has become. Mrs. Thurber will not believe she can ever change and Happy, the motel proprietor is too self involved in her own past to care who Gloria is She is the dark Holly Golightly and this is the lurid red jelled Metro-Color Manhattan that is the flip side of Billy Wilder's The Apartment (also 1960). Wilder's New York is cynical. Liz's tony East Side phone exchange rings only one way, the hard way. This New York is dammed. The film concludes in a melodramatic blaze that Douglas Sirk might have envied in place of his usually unsettling, unconvincing happy endings. In the end we have a bravura performance by the last true star of the old system. Yes she deserved the Oscar more for `Cat'. Yes it was given to welcome her back from the brink of death in London. And even Shirley MacLaine's lament on Oscar night, `I lost the Oscar to a tracheotomy.' can not diminish this must see performance by Miss Taylor.
In what one could call a perfect example of what an `Oscar scene' is all about she says it all. `I loved it! Every awful moment of it I loved. That's your Gloria, Steve. That's your precious Gloria!' She gave it to us with both barrels blazing, and M.G.M., and Berman be dammed."
The Best Kind of Trash
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 03/15/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In the normal scheme of things, lofty MGM wouldn't have touched John O'Hara's novel with a ten foot pole--but shortly before her contract was to end, MGM star Elizabeth Taylor besmirched her image by running off with Debbie Reynolds' husband Eddie Fisher. With her reputation in shreds and one foot outside the studio gate any way, MGM decided to capitalize on the bad press by casting Taylor as BUTTERFIELD 8's bad-girl-from-hell... and then, to add insult to injury, tucked Eddie Fisher into a supporting role and cast Debbie Reynolds look-alike Susan Oliver in the role of Eddie's girl friend, who feels threatened by Liz's manhungry ways. Liz fought the project tooth and nail, but MGM was adamant: she owed them another film, and she wasn't leaving until she made it.BUTTERFIELD 8 is the story of Gloria Wandrous (Taylor), a hard-drinking, sexed-up, bed-hopping dress model who gets her kicks by seducing and then dumping men according to whim--until she encounters an unhappily married man just as hard and disillusioned as she in Weston Liggett (Laurence Harvey.) Although the production code was still somewhat in force, it had loosened up quite a bit since the days of NATIONAL VELVET, and while scenes stop short at the bedroom door they have plenty of sizzle while they walk up to it; moreover, every one in the film talks about sex so much you'd think it had just been invented. Taylor is on record saying that she considers the film a piece of trash, and she swears she has never actually seen it, that she would rather die than ever see it.But something weird happened as the camera rolled. Taylor, doubtlessly driven by her fury at having to do the movie, gives a throw-away, over-the-top performance--but perversely, this is precisely what the role requires, and her performance was successful enough to earn her an Oscar. The supporting cast follows her lead, all of them performing in broad colors and bigger-than-life emotions, and again they too are quite successful, with Laurence Harvey and Dina Merrill (as his long suffering wife) particularly effective. Ultimately, of course, Elizabeth Taylor is quite right when she says the film is a piece of trash. But it is the best kind of trash because it is so completely trashy: BUTTERFIELD 8 doesn't just dive into the trash pile, it wallows in it with considerable conviction. Modern films of the same type may show more skin and more sex, but for sheer authority BUTTERFIELD 8 remains a standard against which most of them pale. Not every one will like it, but I recommend it all the same."
"Sunday morning and scotch on your breath?"
Michael J. Mazza | Pittsburgh, PA USA | 07/06/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Butterfield 8," directed by Daniel Mann, is basically a trashy soap opera. Elizabeth Taylor plays Gloria, a booze-guzzling, ... promiscuous young woman who becomes involved with an unhappily married businessman (Laurence Harvey). The opening scenes well establish the film's vibe: the story is saturated with cigarettes, alcohol, money, expensive fur, sex, and fury.That said, I found B8 to be a wonderfully entertaining and surprisingly moving film. The delicious dialogue is full of memorable lines (like the one I used for the title of this review). The characters zap each other with some biting insults. A typical exchange between two characters: "Oh mother, don't be vulgar." Response: "Vulgarity has its uses."The entire cast is solid, but this is undeniably Taylor's film. She takes what could have been a campy caricature and instead gives Gloria real depth and humanity. By the end of the film I was really engrossed in Gloria's personal journey. B8 may not be a great Hollywood classic, but it's a great showcase for the legendary Taylor."
Elizabeth Taylor's Controversial Oscar Winning Performance
Simon Davis | 02/19/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Despite the thoughts of some critics and indeed Elizabeth Taylor herself at times about this film, I've always admired it and firmly believe it is an unfairly maligned production with many interesting elements. It really represents the last breath of old style Hollywood moviemaking at MGM, a studio famed for displaying its female stars to best advantage in glossy productions. In my belief Elizabeth Taylor delivers good work as high class call girl Gloria Wanderous who despite being in her own words "The slut of all time", actually reeks sophistication and a rare beauty not seen in movies nowadays. Even in decline MGM was still capable of surrounding their star with the best in supporting players, costumes and opulent settings,which helped make "Butterfield 8", their biggest grossing film for 1960."Butterfield 8" stands for the telephone answering service used by Gloria's "customers" when they want her services. Supposedly working as a model and "hostess", or so her trusting mother (Mildred Dunnock) would like to believe, Gloria is actually a high class prostitute catering to bored and wealthy married men. One such man Weston Liggett (Laurence Harvey) comes into her life and for the first time Gloria finds herself falling in love with a client who previously would have been one of the faceless men she encounters in her work. Liggett has married into an old money background and Gloria is made very aware of her real status when after an all night lovemaking session Weston leaves her money for her "troubles" beginning for Gloria a downward spiral to a tragic ending. Along the way we see the other parts of Gloria's shabby life from best friend Steve (Taylor's real life husband Eddie Fisher), who is like an older protective brother and who has a disapproving girlfriend Norma (Susan Oliver). Norma resents Gloria's continued intrusions into their lives and sees her as a threat to their future happiness together. Gloria travels a rocky road in her relationship with Weston as he married his aristocratic wife Emily (Dina Merrill) solely for the money and position that came with it. Emily plays the patient wife who looks the other way in regard to his infidelities and she realises that Weston is having an affair when one of her Mink Coats is taken by Gloria after she spends a night in the apartment with Weston. Seeing that Weston will never be able to break away from the grip of Emily's family and his ties to her money, Gloria tries to break off the romance and leaves to begin a new life in Boston. Weston however finds he cannot overcome his passion for her and goes off in pursuit where after an aborted chase Gloria wrecks her car and is killed on an unmade freeway. Weston then returns to his dull life that he knew before the excitment of the girl at "Butterfield 8".Passed off as sensationalist magazine fiction, "Butterfield 8", was in fact based on a novel by John O'Hara that created a few sparks itself due to it's "illicit" subject matter. Elizabeth Taylor was highly resistant to playing the role of Gloria despite it being the last film in her long running contract with MGM. It was responsible for holding her up from accepting the lead role in "Cleopatra" being planned by Twentieth Century Fox for which she was being paid a record One Million dollars. Also she felt that the studio was unfairly trying to cash in on her recent notoriety surrounding her controversial marriage to Eddie Fisher. Despite her clashes with director Daniel Mann Elizabeth I believe has rarely been more exciting on screen and turns in a multi layered performance that has elements of glamour, tragedy and passion. Rarely has she looked more beautiful in a film and the often elaborate settings play up the glamourous side of the story that reeks old Hollywood. Laurence Harvey registers well as the bored man facing the crisis of his life over whether to follow his heart or stay in his "safe" zone. He has a great chemistry with Elizabeth Taylor and would be reteam with her 13 years later in the excellent, seldom seen thriller "Night Watch". Eddie Fisher is the one weak link in the story as Gloria's friend Steve. In a role originally intended for David Janssen, Fisher reveals his lack of real acting talent however Susan Oliver as girlfriend Norma excels in her few scenes, in particular in her catty exchanges with Gloria which are among the most meaty in the story. Another standout is Kay Medford in a heartbreaking performance as the sad "seen it all" owner of the seedy motel where Weston and Gloria often have their rendezvous."Butterfield 8", is real old style filmmaking with a production full of beautiful clothes, lush settings with well heeled people emeshed in heartbreaking situations. The moralistic tone of the early sixties demanded that "bad girl", Gloria ultimately pay for her sins but this doesn't detract from the films great entertainment value. Should Elizabeth Taylor have won the 1960 Best Actress Oscar? It's open to debate however I for one admire her performance here greatly and it undoubtedly shows Taylor in all her movie queen splendour. Beginning a decade where her main leading man would repeatedly be Richard Burton, her teaming with Laurence Harvey is an interesting one that works well. Enjoy Elizabeth Taylor in her hotly debated Oscar win in John O'Hara's "Butterfield 8"."
Pure, campy fun
Megzi | 12/19/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"'Butterfield 8' is a movie that is good in the same sense that novels like 'Valley of the Dolls' are good: they are pure, campy fun. Dramatic? Yes. A little soap opera-ish? Maybe. Was this film really worthy of an Oscar? That's debatable but I think Elizabeth Taylor did deserve a heads-up for her portay of Gloria. In another actress's hands this movie could have turned into a disaster but Liz somehow manages to pull it off. Chronicling the life of a call-girl was a risky subject for a major motion picture in 1960. One thing's for sure: this movie is not boring. It will have the viewer hooked from the first minute, wanting to know what will happen next. What is most pleasant about the movie is it does not have a happy ending, which would have made a somewhat cheesy film even cheesier. I enjoy watching movies where the characters are flawed and the undertones are dark and sinister. If you're tired of cheerful, happily-ever after movies then you will probably enjoy this."