Elizabeth Taylor: movies, philanthropy and fast cars

James Raia

One of the more unique, often overlooked components of the long, varied career of Elizabeth Taylor was her sex appeal in cars. The actress, AIDS activist and philanthropist who died March 23, spent a fair amount of time in movies driving cars.

Affairs of the heart, money, intrigue and the politics of romance were all usually part of Taylor’s scenes that also included automobiles.Elizabeth Taylor: movies, philanthropy and fast cars 1

Of course, Taylor’s driving was the creation of Hollywood. Nevertheless, some of her car scenes, including a high speed chase from more than 50 years ago, remain part of “cars in movies” lore.

In BUtterfield 8, made in 1960, Taylor, age 28, starred as a call girl. The uppercase “U” in the film’s title is deliberate. It was the style of the long ago telephone dialing system.

In the climatic scene, Taylor leaves a roadside motel dirt parking lot — the scene of a pending rendezvous with Laurence Harvey — at rather swift pace in her Sunbeam Alpine. Harvey chases her in a Mercedes-Benz sedan.

The frantic Taylor, who the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role, accelerates after paying for the toll (50 cents) on the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York.

While looking to view the whereabouts of the ever-gaining Harvey in his tan Mercedes-Benz, Taylor crashes through a construction zone and the Sunbeam plummets over a cliff.


Article Last Updated: March 23, 2011.

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