Roseberry catches Taylor leaving dinner at the old Thomas Jefferson Inn, with Montgomery Clift, who was not in the film, lurking at right in the background.
Roseberry surprises the cast at the Thomas Jefferson Inn: Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor at right, Rod Taylor center, and Paul Fix, best known as the marshal on The Rifleman, at left.
photo by Edwin Roseberry
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