Sunday, April 10, 2011

Butterfield 8

And so, we finally get to Butterfield 8, airing tonight at 8:00 PM ET as part of TCM's tribute to the late Elizabeth Taylor. It's trashy at times, but worth a look.

Taylor plays Gloria Wandrous, a model whose official job description is to be seen in public in all the nicest places wearing the designs of the designers who pay for the privilege of having good-looking people show off the clothes.. However, the job she actually does wavers between model and high-priced "escort", as Gloria is consistently finding herself pursued by a bunch of men. One of them, wealthy businessman Weston Liggett (Laurence Harvey), she winds up sleeping with. Or, at least, she wakes up in his apartment the next morning, and he's left her $250 for it; the presumption is that the two have slept together. Gloria doesn't take the money; instead he takes a fur coat from the apartment. You see, Weston has fur coats lying around because he's trapped in a loveless marriage, which is another small problem for him and Gloria. Weston's wife (Dina Merrill) is currently away, but dammit, Gloria better return that coat before the missus finds out about it!

And so, Weston sets about trying to find the coat, running into Gloria's platonic friend Steve (Eddie Fisher). At least, the friendship is platonic from Gloria's point of view; Steve seems to be the one man she doesn't care for sexually, even though he, like every other man in Manhattan, has the hots for her. He's also got a girlfriend not in the form of Debbie Reynolds, but Susan Oliver, who recognizes the danger that the hot hot Gloria poses for her relationship with Steve.

Things go on like this for close to two hours. The plot sounds melodramatic; up there with the work of Douglas Sirk in Imitation of Life, or a movie like A Summer Place. To be honest, it is that nutty. But like the other two movies, it's a fun nuttiness. Taylor made the movie only because she was under contract and had to make the movie to finish her contract, and is widely attributed as having hated the movie. So, she gives a thoroughly over the top performance which only makes the movie more trashy fun. Sit back with a bowl of popcorn, and enjoy the ride.

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