#381. Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix is one of those actors who started acting in their childhood, and has been in plenty of movies but gained notoriety for their later work. Consequently, when people go back to watch their earlier works, they’ll exclaim, “I didn’t know _______ was in this!” One does wonder what growing up in the movie industry does to an individual, either turning them to addictions or erratic behaviors. Sometimes these individuals turn out fine, but the dramatic nature of the profession is a hard habit to break. Joaquin Phoenix seems to fall somewhere in between. He’s shown he can be a successful actor in a variety of roles, but he’s also had a few “moments” that people are still trying to figure out. For Joaquin, his acting career can be easily divided between pre- and post- “retirement.” This week’s two films highlight movies made on either side of Joaquin Phoenix’s hiatus.

Walk the LineWalk the Line
Year: 2005
Rating: PG-13
Length: 136 minutes / 2.26 hours

Even though Joaquin Phoenix started his acting career around the age of 11, he didn’t really break out until the turn of the millennium. Working on projects like Signs (2002), and The Village (2004) with M. Night Shyamalan, Joaquin Phoenix gradually started becoming a household name. Of course, most knew who he was after he earned a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Commodus in Gladiator (2000). His nominations for Best Actor would come through his involvement in Walk the Line (2005) and The Master (2013). While he hasn’t won an Oscar yet, it’s clear he has the ability to in the future. After all, he has worked with plenty of critically-acclaimed directors like Gus Van Sant, Oliver Stone, and Paul Thomas Anderson, both before and after his “autobiography,” I’m Still Here (2010).

Perhaps Joaquin Phoenix’s best shot for earning the Oscar for Best Actor was as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. This biopic follows Cash as he finds his way into the fame and fortune of country music built on his song, “Folsom Prison Blues.” Now that he has a contract and a band, Cash starts touring the country, eventually meeting June Carter (Reese Witherspoon). Both Johnny and June are married, but even after June divorces her husband, she does not reciprocate Cash’s feelings. This drives Johnny to drugs and alcohol, which makes things awkward when she does finally give in to his wooing. Cash falls down the slippery slope of addiction, eventually being jailed for illegal drugs. Of course, this ends up giving him more credibility, especially to the fans of his who appreciated the lyrics of “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Year: 2013
Rating: R
Length: 126 minutes / 2.10 hours

I would be amiss to not mention Joaquin Phoenix’s behavior surrounding the documentary I’m Still Here. While it’s since been labeled as a mockumentary to highlight how “reality” can be scripted (like in “reality television”), Joaquin’s drastic transformation from an actor to a bearded hip-hop singer caught most people’s attention. Sure, he was “in character” during this time, culminating in the release of I’m Still Here, but he had to be that character everywhere he went, which sold the commitment to his “retirement” from acting. Even if this wasn’t a real retirement, he still took a brief hiatus afterward to let the experience fade from people’s minds. Since this hiatus, one of his most memorable performances has been that of Theodore Twombly in Spike Jonze’s almost prophetic vision of the future: Her (2013).

In a not-to-distant future where people need to hire someone to write emotional letters for them, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is employed as a writer of such letters. Despite his ability to express deep emotions through his writing, he struggles with his own loneliness and depression after the divorce from his wife. To help himself cope, he buys an artificial intelligence-based Operating System (OS) for his computer. This Artificial Intelligence (AI) has a female voice and names herself Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Samantha and Theodore gradually fall in love, which makes for an awkward conversation when he meets with his wife to sign the divorce papers. Unfortunately, Samantha’s AI nature leads to other, unconventional relationship problems that eventually results in the two of them separating, albeit amicably and on good terms.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 perfect Joaquin Phoenix roles

Bacon #: 2 (The Yards / Charlize Theron -> Trapped / Kevin Bacon)

#378. Kevin Kline

Some actors naturally have a flair for the dramatic. This is often due to their work in the theatre before making the transition to movies. Sometimes, this can lead to overacting, or choosing overly dramatic roles. Sometimes, this allows an actor to have a broader range of roles they can play. In the end, the preparation in the theatre is certainly put to good use by the time an actor reaches the big screen. The theatrical background can often be seen in which movies these actors choose to do. If the film is based on a play or musical, they usually have a leg up in understanding how the piece should be performed. These actors might even find their years of voice training allow them to work in animation as well. Kevin Kline is just such an actor. This week’s two films highlight some of his best work.

Sophie’s ChoiceSophie's Choice
Year: 1982
Rating: R
Length: 150 minutes / 2.50 hours

The staple of the theatre actor is the twin muses of Melpomene and Thalia. Kevin Kline certainly started off strong with his portrayal of Nathan Landau in Sophie’s Choice (1982). Nathan’s life is full of passion, violence, and (inevitable) tragedy. On the flip side of this coin, we have Kline’s performance as Otto West in A Fish Called Wanda (1988). This hilarious role earned him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. While his later work has been considerably more lighthearted than Sophie’s Choice, part of the reason for this is due to his occasional role as a voice actor in such family-friendly fare. Animated films like The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), The Road to El Dorado (2000), and The Tale of Despereaux (2008) have used Kline’s vocal talents. Still, sometimes actors have to prove their acting chops during their first appearance in the movies.

Nathan Landau (Kevin Kline) lives in Brooklyn with his Polish-immigrant girlfriend, Sophie Zawistowski (Meryl Streep). Both of them met shortly after Sophie landed in the United States. She almost died due to anemia, but Nathan managed to help her through it. When Stingo (Peter MacNicol) arrives in Brooklyn, the three of them become friends, even if Nathan becomes violently jealous when Sophie is around other men. Nathan is proud to announce that some of the pharmaceutical work he’s doing is likely to earn him the Nobel Prize. Unfortunately, as Sophie and Stingo soon find out, Nathan is actually a paranoid schizophrenic who only works in the library of the pharmaceutical company. After Sophie runs off with Stingo, she eventually comes back to Nathan, and the two of them die in each other’s arms.

Year: 2004
Rating: PG-13
Length: 125 minutes / 2.08 hours

Any good actor worth their salt in the theatre would also have some musical talent as well. Shortly after his breakout role in Sophie’s Choice, Kevin Kline starred in a film adaptation of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera, The Pirates of Penzance (1983). Aside from this musical, he has also been involved with other notable plays with movie adaptations, including The Nutcracker (1993) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999). His musical chops were really put to the test when he portrayed Cole Porter in De-Lovely (2004). There are many familiar songs written by Porter, including “Let’s Misbehave,” “Anything Goes,” “You’re the Top,” and the titular “It’s De-Lovely.” Since many people can recognize at least one of these songs, Kline needed to make sure he could do the songs the justice they deserved.

Even though Cole Porter (Kevin Kline) is secretly gay, his wife, Linda Lee Thomas (Ashley Judd) is willing to go along with the ruse. Her first marriage had the same conditions, but Porter is much more non-violent and affectionate than her ex. With Linda as his muse, Cole’s music earns him wealth and fame that allows both of them to live in luxury. Even with his occasional homosexual fling, Linda remains faithful to their marriage. The miscarriage of their first child devastates her, so Cole decides to move them to Hollywood and continue his musical career. Unfortunately, he becomes bolder in his extra-marital activities, which is caught on camera and used to blackmail him. This is more than Linda can take, so she leaves him and returns to Paris. Porter is never the same after this, especially after Linda dies from emphysema years later.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Kevin Kline classics

Bacon #: 2 (A Midsummer Night’s Dream / Sam Rockwell -> Frost/Nixon / Kevin Bacon)

#357. Leslie Nielsen

Most actors will know early in their career which genres work best for them. Whether it’s John Wayne and westerns or Boris Karloff and horror, these actors will usually excel in their respective genres for their entire career. Other actors may find that they can act in a particular style, but can’t seem to achieve success doing so. In these instances, some actors will switch genres to determine a fit that works for them. In terms of changing styles, many comedic actors can sometimes find success in drama, but the opposite is rarely true. Comedy requires a different understanding of acting, including facial expressions, deadpan deliveries, and . . . timing. And yet, while the transition from drama to comedy is rare, actors like Leslie Nielsen have found success in doing so. This week’s two films highlight two of Leslie Nielsen’s best comedies.

Year: 1980
Rating: PG
Length: 88 minutes / 1.47 hours

If I told you Leslie Nielsen didn’t act in a comedy until 24 years into his career, you’d likely respond with, “Surely, you can’t be serious!” And yet, this is the honest truth (and don’t call me Shirley). From films like Forbidden Planet (1956) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Nielsen managed to develop a career as the “serious” archetype. So, when a movie like Airplane! (1980) came along, many thought the film was going to be a serious “disaster” film along the lines of The Towering Inferno (1974) or the aforementioned The Poseidon Adventure. Leslie Nielsen’s deadpan acting of comedic lines merely accentuated the silliness that is contained in this disaster parody. One would almost wonder if Nielsen could have entered comedy earlier without developing the more serious personas to play against for maximum contrast and maximum comedy.

Dr. Rumack (Leslie Nielsen) is on a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago when many of the passengers start to show symptoms of food poisoning. Rumack can make the diagnosis because, between the options of steak or fish, he had the lasagna. Unfortunately, the flight crew all had fish, so now it’s up to flight attendant Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty) to find someone who can fly the plane. As it just so happens, her former boyfriend, Ted Striker (Robert Hays), is aboard and has the skills as a former fighter pilot to land safely. Of course, his PTSD has affected his nerves, leading to his “drinking” problem. Dr. Rumack pulls Striker aside to let him know what’s at stake here. Through a bit of coaxing and encouragement, Rumack convinces Striker to fly the plane just as they come within range of landing at Chicago.

The Naked GunThe Naked Gun
Year: 1988
Rating: PG-13
Length: 85 minutes / 1.42 hours

After the success of Airplane!, the directors gave Leslie Nielsen a starring role in a television parody of detective shows known as Police Squad! This show eventually spun off into The Naked Gun film series, which included From the Files of Police Squad! (1988), 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991), and 331/3: The Final Insult (1994). By the time these films were concluded, Leslie Nielsen’s association with comedy was undeniable. He would go on to act in a number of other parodies, including Mel BrooksDracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), the James Bond parody, Spy Hard (1996), as well as a number of pop culture collage parodies like Scary Movie 3 (2003) and Scary Movie 4 (2006). Nielsen’s ability to never take himself that seriously was even exemplified after his death in 2010, with the epitaph on his gravestone being a simple fart joke: “Let ‘er rip.”

Upon returning from his vacation to Beirut, where he inadvertently foiled the plans of all of America’s enemies, Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) must exonerate the Police Squad from drug charges before Queen Elizabeth II (Jeannette Charles) arrives in Los Angeles. As the Queen’s security for the visit, any negative press on the Police Squad could be detrimental to the whole department. Meanwhile, drug lord Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalbán) had developed a plan to create a sleeper assassin to take out the Queen. In a plan reminiscent of The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Ludwig hopes to use a beeper to trigger his assassin. To keep the Police Squad from foiling his plans, Ludwig assigns his assistant, Jane Spencer (Priscilla Presley), to distract Lieutenant Drebin. Through Drebin’s bumbling, he manages to save the day, while also preventing his own death at Jane’s hands by proposing to her.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 laugh-filled Leslie Nielsen roles

Bacon #: 2 (Nuts / Eli Wallach -> Mystic River / Kevin Bacon)

#355. Rick Moranis

When it comes to Hollywood, we often see an actor’s work/life balance skewed heavily toward the “work” side of the continuum. How many divorces have resulted from these actors and actresses spending so much time in their career that they don’t have time for their significant other? Furthermore, if children are part of the relationship, where do actors find the time for those nurturing moments of parenthood amidst the crazy filming schedules of the movie industry? At the end of the day, these individuals need to determine their priorities in life, as we all must do when choosing between our work and our home life. Over the years, there have been few actors who have decided to focus on their family instead of their acting career. Rick Moranis is just such an actor. This week’s two films highlight some of Rick Moranis’ most successful roles before he took a hiatus to raise his family.

Honey, I Shrunk the KidsHoney, I Shrunk the Kids
Year: 1989
Rating: PG
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours

At the age of 62, Cary Grant retired from acting to raise his newborn daughter. While Grant had a wildly successful film career, he realized his role in his daughter’s life was much more important. Similarly, when Rick Moranis was widowed in 1991, he essentially became a single parent who had to raise two kids. Even though he continued to act for the next few years, he eventually realized he needed a hiatus to focus on the already complicated task of being a single father to his children. Two years before his wife’s death, Moranis starred in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989). This film eventually received two sequels, Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992) and the direct-to-video Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves (1997). This third installment was Moranis’ last live-action film before his hiatus. He did some voice acting in a few more films like Brother Bear (2003), but since 2006, he has yet to return to acting.

Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) has a lot on his plate. From trying to fix his new shrinking ray for a conference he’s attending in the next few days to raising a family of two kids in the suburbs, Wayne is trying to do it all, even at the detriment of his marriage. While he must leave for his conference, he tasks his kids to clean up the house before his wife gets home from spending the night at her mother’s house. Laughed off the stage for providing no proof that his shrink ray works, he comes home to find his house empty and an attic window broken. When his wife returns home, they make up, only to realize their children are missing. A realization about the broken window causes Wayne to discover that his shrink ray does actually work and that it has shrunk their children. Carefully searching the area, Wayne eventually finds the kids in his morning cereal and is able to return them to normal size.

Year: 1987
Rating: PG
Length: 96 minutes / 1.60 hours

If there was a genre Rick Moranis excelled in, it was comedy. A Canadian-born actor, Moranis broke into the comedy scene through the Canadian television show, SCTV. Because of his work on this sketch comedy show, he made the transition to the big screen with Strange Brew (1983), reprising his role of Bob McKenzie from the show. The following year, Moranis would be a part of Ghostbusters (1984) as the demon-possessed Louis Tully. He would also reprise this role in the sequel, Ghostbusters II (1989), albeit as the Ghostbusters’ lawyer instead of their enemy. Aside from his leading role in the musical Little Shop of Horrors (1986), perhaps his most well-known role was that of Lord Dark Helmet from the Star Wars (1977) parody, Spaceballs (1987). While Moranis has yet to find an acting role to break his hiatus, with the renewed cultural interest in Star Wars, a Spaceballs sequel just might do it.

As part of a plan to steal the air from nearby planet Druidia, President Skroob (Mel Brooks) of Planet Spaceball sends Lord Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) to kidnap the princess of Druidia on her wedding day. Unfortunately, before Dark Helmet can get there, Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) abandons her own wedding and is picked up by Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his mog companion, Barf (John Candy). Dark Helmet pursues Lone Starr but overshoots when he commands the spaceship, Spaceball One, into “ludicrous speed.” Fortunately, using a VHS of the movie, Dark Helmet is able to learn that Lone Starr and Vespa crash-landed on the desert moon of Vega. After successfully kidnapping the princess, Dark Helmet manages to hold her ransom for the access codes to Druidia’s atmosphere shield. Can he successfully steal the planet’s air for President Skroob, or will Lone Star save the day?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Moranis milestones

Bacon #: 2 (Spaceballs / John Candy -> JFK / Kevin Bacon)

#351. The Joker

Perhaps the most recognizable villain in the realm of superheroes and comic books, The Joker stands as a stark antipode to the brooding darkness of Batman. The contrast of insane levity to serious vengeance has made The Joker the best example of an archenemy, a feat that has rarely (if ever) been topped. For decades, The Joker has gone through several iterations and style changes, some of which have been notorious for their extreme take on the character. Similarly, there have been many different actors who have portrayed The Joker over the years, with a few of them being somewhat questionable in their interpretation of the character as well. While most people associate the quintessence of The Joker via Mark Hamill’s voice acting for Batman: The Animated Series, this week’s two films will examine some different performances of the character in live action films.

The Dark KnightThe Dark Knight
Year: 2008
Rating: PG-13
Length: 152 minutes / 2.53 hours

Following the superhero movie format, after Christopher Nolan’s Batman origin story, Batman Begins (2005), Nolan proceeded to use the Batman franchise’s most recognizable villain for the sequelThe Dark Knight (2008). Many fans of the Batman franchise were upset with the casting choice of Heath Ledger, not only due to his somewhat recent role in Brokeback Mountain (2005) but because there were plenty of comedians who were considered for the role at one point or other. Considering he posthumously won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, these concerns were assuaged by the time the film was released. A similar controversy surrounded the casting of Jared Leto in the role for Suicide Squad (2016), but that controversy was linked more to how The Joker looked, rather than who was playing him.

During a bank robbery that seemed to go wrong, a gang of clown-themed thieves is whittled down until a lone clown remains: The Joker (Heath Ledger). The local mafias of Gotham find themselves in a bind with Batman (Christian Bale) constantly thwarting their criminal efforts. The Joker steps in and offers to get rid of Batman for the mobs in exchange for half of their finances. He doesn’t even want the money . . . he just wants to watch the world burn. To “level the playing field,” The Joker starts interfering with the trial of mob financier Lau (Chin Han), killing people until Batman reveals his identity. District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) says he’s Batman, but The Joker sees through the ruse, thus providing the real Batman with a choice: save Dent or save his girlfriend, Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal). With The Joker in control of Gotham, only Batman can stop him.

Year: 1989
Rating: PG-13
Length: 126 minutes / 2.10 hours

Before 1989, the only version of The Joker to hit the big screen was Caesar Romero’s in Batman (1966). Using the same cast as the 1960s television series, this Batman film was far campier than the dark and gritty versions we know today. While Tim Burton is known for his dark imagery, there was still a modicum of camp to his Batman (1989). Comparatively, though, the Tim Burton version did succeed in transforming the caped crusader into a much darker motif and helped evolve the franchise into what we know today. If anything, Tim Burton helped people to understand that comic books aren’t necessarily for children. At any rate, for many years, Jack Nicholson’s performance as The Joker was considered the definitive representation on the big screen, especially as it was faithful to The Joker’s origin story from the comics.

Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) is in the crosshairs of his mob boss, Carl Grissom (Jack Palance) for taking his mistress. Jack is saved by Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle), who wants him as a witness against Grissom. Unfortunately, in the ensuing chaos, Batman (Michael Keaton) arrives and knocks Jack into a vat of chemicals. While most assume Jack is dead, he finds the chemicals have altered his appearance, giving him a clown-like face with a permanent smile. This disfigurement drives him mad, and he takes on the identity of “The Joker.” Through the chemical known as “Smilex,” The Joker terrorizes Gotham, leaving many people dead with a hideous grin on their faces. Realizing the truth about The Joker’s past and origins, Batman sets out to save Gotham and avenge his dead parents.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 takes on a classic villain

#350. Dead on Release

A variety of reasons can exist for an actor to not be alive by the time their movie is released. Some actors are old and die from natural causes (like Spencer Tracy, who died 17 days after the end of filming Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (1967)). Others might be involved in accidents either on the set (like Brandon Lee in The Crow (1994)) or in the course of living their life (like Anton Yelchin from the Star Trek reboot). The entertainment community mourns the lives taken so early on in their careers, but many actors have died via suicide due to either their approach to acting or the pressure of acting influencing their decisions. Sometimes a mental illness that gives an actor their creativity can also drive them into a suicide as well. This week’s two films highlight some actors who died before their films were released.

Year: 1956
Rating: Approved
Length: 201 minutes / 3.35 hours

At the age of 24, James Dean was a star to be reckoned with. In four short years, he appeared in a handful of uncredited roles, but he also earned two back-to-back nominations for Best Actor in 1955 for East of Eden and in 1956 for Giant. The trick with his nomination for Giant was that he had been killed in a car accident late in 1955, thus making this nomination the first of its kind to be given posthumously. Not only did Dean die before the release of Giant, but he also died before the release of his most iconic role in Rebel Without a Cause (1955). One can only speculate the amount of prestige such an actor would have accrued over a lifetime of acting. Even with only three credited movies to his name, the American Film Institute still placed him at #18 on their list of 50 top actors of the last century.

Jett Rink (James Dean) is a farmhand who works for Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) on his Texas ranch. When Bick brings home a lovely wife in Leslie Lynnton (Elizabeth Taylor), Jett is immediately stricken with her. He helps show her the ropes of the property, thus inspiring her to change some of the living conditions for the migrant workers. After the accidental death of Bick’s sister, who also ran the household and had a spat with Leslie, Jett is bequeathed a small portion of the property. After Jett finds oil on his land, he manages to become wealthier than the Benedicts. Jett, still enamored with Leslie, eventually starts dating her daughter, which further sours the relationship between him and Bick. After realizing his children will not follow in his footsteps, Bick finally allows Jett to drill for oil on the remainder of the Benedict property.

The Dark KnightThe Dark Knight
Year: 2008
Rating: PG-13
Length: 152 minutes / 2.53 hours

Some actors die before their movies finish filming, leaving a noticeable gap in their performance. Actors like Philip Seymour Hoffman are noticeably absent from certain scenes in movies like The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015). Some actors have their performances digitally completed and adjusted using CGI, or even sometimes completely created decades after their death (as was the case with Peter Cushing in Rogue One (2016)). While Heath Ledger had completed filming on The Dark Knight (2008), none of his scenes were altered after the fact by director Christopher Nolan. Ledger died from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs, but some feel his “method acting” approach helped push him over the edge via his role as The Joker. He is only one of two people who has posthumously won a Best Actor Oscar, the other being Peter Finch of Network (1976) fame.

After Batman (Christian Bale) has raised the stakes for Gotham’s crime-fighting, a new force has appeared to oppose him with a gospel of violence and chaos: the Joker (Heath Ledger). As Batman tries to rid the city of crime via his vigilante actions, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) tries to do so within the confines of the law. The Joker, having taken control of the majority of Gotham’s gangs, continues to escalate the situation to get Batman to reveal his true identity. Eventually, Batman finds himself in a corner as the Joker makes him decide between the lawful justice of District Attorney Harvey Dent, or Batman’s girlfriend, Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal). On top of this life-or-death decision, the Joker pits a ferry full of tourists against a boat full of terrorists in a game of “who will die first?” Batman, finally able to catch the Joker via a clever use of technology, must now retreat to the shadows.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 young actors gone too soon

#348. Elizabeth Taylor

The rise and fall of an actor can almost be as entertaining as watching them in a movie. Somehow we’re drawn to the drama that unfolds in real life even more than the drama captured on celluloid. While we might often forget their successes, we can almost remember where we were during their failures. If there was one actress who practically started the tabloid newspaper business, it was Elizabeth Taylor. With her multiple husbands and an epic box office failure (the exorbitantly expensive Cleopatra (1963)) to her name, we often forget that, amongst a handful of nominations, she won two Oscars for her acting. After she left the film industry, she did go on to be known for such notable interests as jewelry and perfume, but many still remember her contributions to cinema. This week’s two films highlight the change from Elizabeth Taylor, the young actress to Elizabeth Taylor, the serious starlet.

Father of the BrideFather of the Bride
Year: 1950
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 92 minutes / 1.53 hours

Elizabeth Taylor first appeared on the silver screen at the age of 10 in the film There’s One Born Every Minute (1942). The next year, she would appear in Lassie Come Home (1943) in another bit part, eventually rising up to a starring role by 1944’s National Velvet. In the films leading up to her 18th birthday, Taylor seemed to be relegated to movies meant for families, including A Date with Judy (1948), Julia Misbehaves (1948), and a remake of Little Women (1949). Having already portrayed a bride in the aforementioned Julia Misbehaves, Elizabeth Taylor certainly understood the role by the time she was cast in Father of the Bride (1950) and its sequel, Father’s Little Dividend (1951). Ironically enough, Taylor herself was married for the first time in 1950 and divorced by 1951; the first of many.

One evening during an ordinary dinner at home, Kay Banks (Elizabeth Taylor) lets slip that she’s not only in love with Bucky Dunstan (Don Taylor), but has accepted his marriage proposal as well. While this announcement throws her mother Ellie (Joan Bennett) into a wedding planning frenzy, her father Stanley (Spencer Tracy) is more than just a bit uneasy about the whole thing. Kay finds herself having to conform to age-old traditions to help calm her parents’ nerves. After taking her parents to meet the new in-laws, she is soon approached by her father after the engagement party and asked if she couldn’t consider eloping. While this tactic was meant as a cost-saving measure by Stanley, Kay starts to consider it. When Kay’s fiancé lets her know the honeymoon will be a fishing trip, she calls off the wedding, only to be reconciled with her beloved before the big day finally arrives.

A Place in the SunA Place in the Sun
Year: 1951
Rating: Passed
Length: 122 minutes / 2.03 hours

By 1951, Elizabeth Taylor was able to shed her child-like roles and leave them well behind her as she began to develop in her career. One of the first films to start her on this path to stardom was none other than A Place in the Sun (1951). She would go on to team up with director George Stevens five years later for Giant (1956), earning her the first of many awards. While Taylor was married to six different men during her life, she was nominated for an Oscar only five times. Her first three nominations for Raintree County (1957), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), and Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) were followed by two wins for BUtterfield 8 (1960) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). While A Place in the Sun and Giant were included in the American Film Institute’s first Top 100 list, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? managed to fill their spots in the 10-year anniversary of the list.

Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor) is a socialite who meets George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) at a social event hosted by George’s uncle, Charles Eastman (Herbert Heyes). While George does not have the immense wealth of his uncle, he is enamored by the high life, mostly because of his opportunity to be around Angela. Unfortunately, George is already tied down to a factory girl, Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters), who is pregnant with his child. Spending as much time as he can with Angela, George is purposely ignoring Alice in the hopes she’d go away. When Alice learns George has been with Angela, she decides to blackmail him into marrying her. When they arrive at the courthouse, they find it to be closed due to the Labor Day holiday, thus inspiring George to suggest they go for a boat ride at a nearby lake. Since Alice cannot swim, George has a dastardly plan to get rid of her. Will he go through with it?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 terrific Elizabeth Taylor performances

Bacon #: 2 (Winter Kills / Jeff Bridges -> R.I.P.D. / Kevin Bacon)