Elizabeth Taylor won the 1960 Best Actress Oscar for her role in Butterfield 8, although most Hollywood observers felt she was really being honoured (two years late) for her performance in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958) and out of sympathy for her near-death battle with pneumonia in December 1959 (it wasn’t the first time Hollywood had voted with its heart and not its head).
Gloria (Taylor) is a beautiful mannequin living with her widowed mother (Mildred Dunnock).
Both tempestuous and wanton, Gloria plays the field and the link between her and her men friends is ‘Butterfield 8’, a telephone number on the Butterfield exchange in New York.
One morning. Gloria wakes up in the swank apartment of Weston Liggett (Laurence Harvey), an aimless, hard-drinking young man married to Emily (Dina Merrill), a wealthy socialite.
Weston is not around but has left a considerable sum on the mantelshelf.
Gloria furiously grabs Emily’s mink coat to cover her torn dress and walks out. She visits her childhood friend, Steve Carpenter (Eddie Fisher), a budding composer but he fails to reform her.
Inevitably, Gloria and Weston meet again and fall genuinely in love. Later. Emily misses her coat and when Gloria returns it to Weston in a night club he violently abuses her.
Gloria then tells Steve that she was seduced – and enjoyed it – at the age of thirteen, hence the reason for her wild life.
Subsequently, Weston decides to divorce Emily and offers Gloria marriage. But Gloria, realising that her past stands between them, drives madly off and has a fatal crash.
Emily still cares for Weston and he promises to rejoin her when he has regained his self-respect.
Pressured by her studio to do Butterfield 8, Elizabeth Taylor complained loudly that her character was “nothing but a nymphomaniac”. She described the film in terms unprintable in a family newspaper but before shooting was finished she had been roasted by the world’s press for stealing Eddie Fisher from Debbie Reynolds.
Weston Amsbury Liggett
Mrs Fanny Thurber