Bad Movies We Love: Butterfield 8

"Face it, Mama," Elizabeth Taylor cries out in Butterfield 8 (1960), "I was the slut of all time!"

Sure, this overripe dialogue might be from the novel by John O'Hara, but we suspect the familiar pen of schlockmeister scenarist John Michael Hayes, whose other laugh-out-loud scripts include Peyton Place, The Carpetbaggers, and Harlow. Though it's generally true that nothing dates faster than Hollywood's idea of what's daring, Butterfield 8 can be viewed as a fascinating artifact from the days when movie stars' offscreen myths were carefully woven into their on-screen roles--and vice versa. Thus, the opening sequence is irresistible: Taylor awakens alone in her married lover's bed, wraps herself in only a sheet, lights a cigar, slugs back a glass of whiskey, discovers her torn dress on the floor, brushes her teeth with booze, finds an envelope with $250 cash, scrawls "No Sale" in red lipstick across a mirror, leaves the money, steals the absent wife's full-length mink coat, calls her answering service, and hails a cab to the apartment of...Eddie Fisher, who greets her "Sunday morning, and there's scotch on your breath." "Well," shrugs Liz, "it's good scotch." Later, Fisher's girlfriend will want to know about Liz (then the real Mrs. Fisher), "Is she or is she not a tramp?" "I've never liked that word," says Fisher. It's hard to fathom that Taylor won the Oscar for this performance, though there's a flash of real acting when her character claims that she's not interested in rich men: "I've had more fun in the back of a '39 Ford than I could ever have in the vault of the Chase National Bank!"

Kevin Hennessey

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