Liz Taylor: She shot classic Giant in Albemarle

As tributes pour in for Elizabeth Taylor, some Albemarle residents may recall how she came to the Charlottesville area more than 50 years ago to shoot a movie that became a classic: Giant.

Besides Taylor, the 1956 film starred Rock Hudson and James Dean (who did not come for the Virginia scenes), in what would be the final role for Dean.

In Albemarle, it was a Keswick mansion called Belmont that served as the backdrop for some scenes supposedly taking place at a Maryland horse farm, and the Keswick rail depot was another location site.

Taylor's co-stars Hudson and Dean each earned Oscar nominations, as the film was nominated for ten Academy Awards in all.

Local photographer Ed Roseberry, known for his iconic shots of student life at UVA in the 1950s and 60s, vividly remembers Taylor's visit, and even manged to nab a shot of Taylor's good friend and former co-star Montgomery Clift, who was not in the film and seemed to "appear out of nowhere," says Roseberry.

A freelance photographer at the time who sidelined as a restaurant inspector for the health department, Roseberry says the kitchen manager of the swanky Thomas Jefferson Inn (now the Federal Executive Institute), where the cast and crew stayed, was a friend who snuck him in the back door of the Emmet Street hotel while the actors dined in a private room. 

Roseberry snapped a few shots while the stars ate and then set himself up in the main dining room to catch them leaving. Taylor was the first to appear.

"I was shooting with a Speed Graphic," says Roseberry, referring the era's ubiquitous newspaper camera, "and when I took the shot of Elizabeth Taylor I didn't see Montgomery Clift behind her," says Roseberry. But he would hear him.

"He shouted, 'Somebody kill that son-of-a-bitch' at me," says Roseberry.

Roseberry says he never saw Clift again as he followed the cast and crew around town, and never found out why he was there. Clift and Taylor had been co-stars in his star-making  A Place in the Sun (1951), and Taylor would later nurture him after the facial injuries he suffered after driving his car into a tree during the filming of Raintree Country (1957). At the time, Roseberry assumed they might have been seeing each other. However, given what we now know about the secret lives of both Clift and Hudson, Roseberry wonders:

"Was he there to see Liz Taylor or Rock Hudson?"

The celebrity visits would also be a memorable time for Roseberry's younger sister, who has since passed away, but who, age 20 then, took a liking to co-star Rod Taylor, the Australian actor best known for his role in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), whom her brother had arranged for her to meet.

"She thought he was the nicest looking man she had ever seen," says Roseberry. "And they ended up going out on a date that night."

While Liz may be gone, it appears Rod Taylor is still going strong at 81. The actor played Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino's 2009 film Inglourious Basterds and is currently in talks to play Mikhail Gorbachev in a bio-pic of Margaret Thatcher. 

Taylor's Virginia connections didn't end with Giant. In 1976, in what became her sixth marriage, she wed a former U.S. Navy Secretary named John Warner who was then living in Middleburg and who became a U.S. Senator two years later. The couple divorced in 1982.

The 79-year-old Taylor died Wednesday, March 23 after a long battle with congestive heart failure.

(note: Albemarle spelling corrected; number of nominations corrected)

–story updated at 1:09pm 3/28/2011 with tales of Montgomery Clift


Did not know Giant was shot in Keswick! Very cool.

Albemarle...not Albemalre...

This is the most narcissistic community I have ever known.

Some of the horse scenes were also shot on or near what is/was the Rogan Winery on Garth Road. Some older timers in the area probably remember the hoop-la and would be able to give names to the Garth Road properties used for the filming. Beautiful scenery, too bad most people who watch the movie probably believe it was Maryland countryside, the supposed location of Ms. Taylor's character's family home. For people who have not seen the movie, I recommend it for a movie night. Worth seeing on it's own merit, but the local connection is another good reason to enjoy it.

Well, Ron, who was Narcissus but someone renowned for his beauty?

yes and one day in 1978 Eliz and Sen Big John Warmonger walked into Alderman Library and you'd had thought gods had landed on this earth.Everything came to standsill as we all bowed and scraped. It was hilarious and very good lesson to a young man in pure fatuousness.

Did you know Elvis Presley once took a dump at the White Spot? Seriously, what a joke. Most towns celebrate former residents that actually did something noteworthy instead of famous people stopping by, even small ones. I guess when you're a flyspeck full of incompetents with a big ego you have to take what you can get though.

Honestly, does everything have to revolve around Charlottesville? There's always some local angle on everything that happens around the world that gets more of a write-up than the actual event.

Many, many communities in Virginia can write about having a connection or visit by Elizabeth Taylor simply because she was Senator Warner's wife and she did campaign for him. That was interesting and fascinating. It doesn't diminish her death or life; it definitely does not make this area more "special." But honestly, this town just fetishes every celebrity that merely drives through town and if they actually sit down or gasp! live here, they become either canonized or cannibalized (depending on their behavior). I propose we establish a museum or church and have Relics of the Celebrities, locks of hair, etc. The Hook can lead up the campaign.

Liz was also the grand marshall of the Dogwood Parade. Still have the old home movie.

On the day that Liz Taylor died, what is wrong with a local paper reminiscing about the fact that she shot one of her biggest movies here? Giant was a seminal film and the last one James Dead ever made. It is historic, grand and epic.

I've lived other places, bigger places that had much more noteworthy things happen and many more opportunities for all kinds of people. This is a small town. What is wrong with celebrating its specialness?

Yes there is a provincial and insular aspect to this fetishization of all things local. But, believe it or not, this is true anywhere outside the orbit of New York City.

I think there are some people bitter about this town and wanting to take all who revel in the unique qualities of this area down a peg.

Haters be hating. Keep up the good work, Hook.

It's wrong to be bitter about the fact that 90% of the people that you meet in this town display smug, pomposity and "town pride" yet can't be tasked to drive properly, engage in conversation that's not laughably ignorant, show even a modicum of consideration toward anyone and dress in the most hideous and unintentionally comical ways ever? I guess I should lower my standards down to that of the average resident and that will fix that.

Cruncher, I don't know where you've been hanging, but there are plenty of people around whose identity and persona have nothing to do with pride in the town.

So it sounds like you're hanging out with the wrong crowd. As far as lowering your standards, this implies that you have expectations when you meet someone. Again, I don't know what those would be, but I find that when I meet someone if I just focus on enjoying myself no matter what, I find that I can like and get along with just about anyone.

Maybe, just maybe, there are subtle adjustments you could make in your attitude that might result in you attracting people whose company you would enjoy. Or maybe you are doomed to a lifetime of unhappy encounters with people who just aren't up to your "standards".

People are just people and everywhere you go people have faults. The only thing you can really control is yourself. The world isn't going to change for you. So, if you want to be happy, maybe you should make an effort to fit into this world during the short time you have on it.

Ms. Taylor had all the talent and opportunities to win three academy awards. Unfortunately she was an awful role model. She was indeed the character in her greatest movie- "Who's Afraid if Virginia Woolf".

I am glad that her death has not been glamorized by the press to the point of her being held up as an icon.

In the movie Giant it was clearly stated that this was Virginia - don't know where you got the idea that it was supposed to be Maryland

What's happened to Belmont in Keswick...?

To 'meanwhile' : I like the way you think - Excellent comment to 'The Cruncher'! Should also apply to 'Ron'. Such negative comments are not necessary. Find a perfect town, I don't think one exists. Hating is not cool.

Yeah expectations that they be human beings is just so much to ask. And no, "people are not just people" and it undoubtedly means you're an ignorant mouth breather just by saying that. To have pride in yourself and the place you're from means more than grasping at every bit of recognition and living in denial about the sheer incompetence and mismanagement that is all around you at all times. For instance, the Downtown Mall, a place directly subsidized by the city through marketing and other means that will never ever turn a profit because they refuse to put ample parking anywhere. Or the tremendous joke that is the Meadowcreek Bypass and the big egos of tiny, tiny men that keep that from being a reality. Not to mention the people are self centered, egotistical, so much less observant or insightful than anywhere else I've ever been (including hippie California somehow) and can yet somehow think they are the upper crust of humanity due to some mass delusion caused by constant funding from the University covering up the constant failures and money bleeding. And whenever confronted with this fact, the standard response seems to be clicking your heels three times and saying "There's no man like TJ, there's no man like TJ" and somehow that makes everything good again. It's hilarious and very very sad at the same time, and the fact you seem to be oblivious to it tells me everything I need to know about you.

Cruncher, I agree the Mall is a subsidized annoyance at times, but there are two parking garages that are rarely filled. They used to be, but not now. There is the parking lot for the Omni, also never filled. So, yes, there is plenty of DT parking, it's just that no one wants to pay for it. They don't mind driving thirsty SUVs, and they have no trouble plunking down outrageous amounts of money for so so food, but they don;t want to pay a few bucks and hour to park.

The Meadowcreek Parkway is a small idea by even smaller men/women. It is a [athetic design, and I spoke up about it's pathetic design 10 years ago. A whole slew of new stoplights to clog the roads up with. When/if that road opens, it will be jam packed with more development all around it, so it will become pointless as well.

"Belmont" is still in Keswick - somewhat overgrown. It is on the left on Rt 22, coming from Shadwell - shortly before the Keswick Post Office and near the Keswick Hunt Club. I do not know the present owners, but years ago a lovely British woman named Sasha Bernath lived there. Sasha was a dear friend who died of cancer at the young age of 41.

Hey, this story has been updated with some great stories from photographer Ed Roseberry. Enjoy!


I'm ipemrsesd! You've managed the almost impossible.

cpopad qopoeroxxriu