Elizabeth Taylor in London | Sophia Loren in Rome – Review
By Sarah Morgan
Well, here’s a couple of curiosity pieces and no mistake.
When it comes to cinematic female beauty, few have outshone Elizabeth Taylor or Sophia Loren. But they weren’t just pretty faces – they were skilled, talented actors who both won Academy Awards.
Now they’re together at last on Blu-ray – albeit in different projects.
In 1963, Taylor was perhaps the biggest star on the planet. This was the year that Cleopatra was released, and only a short time after she’d recovered from a life-threatening illness, picked up her first Oscar (for Butterfield Eight) and fallen madly in love with Richard Burton.
It also saw her return to London, the city of her birth, to film an hour-long documentary about the place for America’s CBS-TV. The result is, frankly, a bit bizarre.
Taylor reminisces about her early years in Hampstead while also recounting some aspects of the capital’s history as well as poetry and prose written in and about the place. Unfortunately, her delivery – reportedly coached by Burton – rings false and is highly stilted and mannered. During the last half of the programme she also wears one of the most hideous hats ever committed to celluloid (it looks as if she has a vase stuck to the side of her head).
But her sections are interspersed with genuinely intriguing post-war shots of London’s urban areas and parks, including the ruins of a church bombed during the Blitz. It all seems oddly quiet too, at odds with the explosion of colour and music that would occur shortly after filming took place thanks to the rise and rise of Carnaby Street and the King’s Road.
Loren’s delivery during her tour of Rome is far more natural. She offers insights into the Eternal City while visiting some of its world famous landmarks. Thankfully she manages not to don any ridiculous headwear, but does meet up for a chat with Marcello Mastroianni, with whom she had recently worked on Vittorio de Sica’s much-admired movie Marriage Italian Style.
Music lovers will lap up the sumptuous score for both provided by the legendary York-born composer John Barry, while the films themselves are intriguing time capsules offering insights into two of the world’s most intriguing cities.
• Limited edition booklet by John Barry experts Geoff Leonard & Pete Walker<
• Elizabeth Taylor in London: original US broadcast presentation
• Image gallery, featuring many behind-the-scenes stills
Elizabeth Taylor in London & Sophia Loren in Rome is released on Blu-ray by Network, £15