Hear Elizabeth Taylor in Oscar Winner “Genocide”

Embarrassing as it is, I have to admit I’ve never actually watched a movie starring Elizabeth Taylor, who died this week. She was that kind of Hollywood icon that made you feel like you’d seen all her work, even if you hadn’t. Seriously, it came as a huge surprise that I hadn’t seen any of her films in their entirety. Although, I guess I don’t usually like the kinds of heavy dramas she regularly appeared in, so maybe it’s not that shocking.

Another film I’ve never seen in full is Arnold Schwartzman’s “Genocide,” which won the documentary feature Oscar in 1982. It features narration by Taylor and Orson Welles. He does the more dominant voice of God stuff, while she handles the reading of letters. According to writer Rabbi Marvin Hier in the companion book Genocide: Critical Issues of the Holocaust, A Companion to the Film Genocide, Taylor was convinced to do the film by then-husband Senator John Warner and refused pay because the project was “very special to her, since she regarded the Jewish people as her people, and wanted to identify personally with the tragedy of the Holocaust.”

The film is available on DVD, or you can see it in segments on YouTube. Here’s one of those segments, which begins with one of Taylor’s readings:

 

Taylor also had a hand in the making of Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s Oscar-winning “Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt,” which she introduces onscreen. Sadly this doc, which looks at the making of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, seems to be out of print and there is no footage available to share. But here is what Taylor said of the film, as quoted in the trailer:

“It took courage to make this film. It takes courage to watch it, but when you watch it, I promise it will change the way you feel about people with AIDS.”

It might not be the truth now, 22 years later, but it’s an important statement of praise at the time. It’s another doc I haven’t seen, partly because it’s unavailable, but I’m a fan of the filmmakers’ other work (Epstein’s “The Times of Harvey Milk” was just put out on Criterion disc by the way) and hope we can all see it soon.

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About Christopher Campbell
I am a blogger for Documentary Channel and Movies.com, where I write the Doc Talk column. I prefer real stories to fake ones. I tweet here: @thefilmcynic

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