Barbara Walters, who was in contact with Elizabeth Taylor right up to the death of the beloved 79-year-old icon in Los Angeles early this morning, told Good Morning America that the actress wanted to be remembered above all for her work in the 1966 film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
That’s no surprise. Of the nearly dozen film collaborations Taylor made with the love of her life, Richard Burton, this searing adaptation of the Edward Albee play stands as the pair’s best. It won Taylor one of her two Best Actress Oscars and presented the UK born stunner in a far different light, partly because she was willing to gain 30 pounds to play middle-aged Martha. (Haskell Wexler, who took home the Oscar for Best Cinematography that year, was brought on as a last minute replacement to help “beautify” the actress, but that idea thankfully quickly went out the window.)
There’s another reason this movie was possibly so close to Taylor’s heart. The Warner Bros. production helped bring about major changes in the movie ratings system. Although the studio was forced to remove the line “Screw you!” from the finished product, the blazing nature of this Mike Nichols directed tale helped bring about a new classification system in 1968, sending the old Production Code Office packing.
Meanwhile, during production, Taylor and Burton apparently rode around the lot on identical red bicycles, lettered in gold. That must have been quite a sight for anyone turning the corner and coming upon the husband-and-wife pair, in love and collaborating on the greatest of all their onscreen partnerships.