BUtterfield 8

“BUtterfield 8” is a smutty movie. You can tell from the poster, which shows Liz Taylor standing provocatively by a pink telephone, wearing nothing but a sheet. (In an alternate version, she’s wearing a slip, highball in one hand, a mink coat draped over her shoulder, but this version’s better, I think, on account of the tagline.)

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Wipe that smirk off your face.

In real life, Liz had just wrecked Eddie Fisher’s marriage. He plays her friend Steve in this picture, long-suffering in an older-brotherish way, a real prince. He’s got a nice girlfriend, too; nice as in the marrying kind. Fisher might have left Debbie Reynolds for Liz, but she’s the only one doing penance here.

Liz’s character, Gloria, is angry, manipulative, and a nymphomaniac: the dark side of 1950s womanhood, as perceived by 1950s men. She’s got good reason to be angry, as we learn from her backstory, but once a woman loses her reputation, she’s lost everything.

Gloria’s latest conquest, Liggett, is married to a saint. Emily knows he’s lying to her — he drinks too much and beats her around when he’s not shtupping Gloria — but she blames herself for tempting him with a job in Daddy’s firm when she should have let him stand on his own two feet like a man.

Actually, it’s not all Emily’s fault. Emily’s mother played a part in emasculating Liggett. They blamed mothers for everything in the 1950s. In fact, getting back to Gloria, her mother’s got a lot to answer for as well.

Poor Gloria. Behind her back, the men who buy her drinks and expensive trinkets (less crass than paying money for her “services”) make jokes about how they ought to rent out Yankee Stadium, the only place big enough to hold a reunion of all her ex-beaux. Liggett can’t help but go along with their winks and nudges, can’t help but compare her to Emily. We see him become a man at last when he determines to earn back her love.

Poor Liz. She may have won the Oscar for her role in BUtterfield 8, but it wasn’t worth the humiliation.

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