I watched two Elizabeth Taylor films recently since her death (Cleopatra, Reflections in a Golden Eye) and it turns out she is an interesting face to look at, but is not a great actress. In a re-released interview, Taylor said she never took an acting class. I believe it. She is thoroughly out acted in Cleopatra by Rex Harrison and Richard Burton and even though she does a bit better in Reflections in a Golden Eye, she plays opposite Marlon Brando who blows her out of the water.
I am not going to write very much about Cleopatra, it is not very good. It is far too long at four and a half hours and I saw both seasons of Rome which makes watching Cleopatra superfluous. John Huston’s Reflections in a Golden Eye; however, is outstanding. It is colored in a sepia tone and the hue is referenced in the film as the world being seen through the reflection of a peacock’s eye. Marlon Brando is a Major in the Army and a very in the closet homosexual. His wife is an Army brat, so much so that she gets away with calling the post’s commanding General “Old Sugar”. She realizes what her husband is hiding and is having an affair with the next door neighbor, a Lieutenant Colonel.
The ins and outs of the plot are not very important; it’s Brando’s character which is fascinating. He becomes infatuated with a Private (Robert Forster) who in turn is infatuated with the Major’s wife (Taylor). The sepia coloring chosen by Huston was wonderful to watch and it’s too bad audiences in the theater did not get to see it that way. After just one week, the studio changed its mind and forced Huston to change the movie into straight up regular color which I think would take away from what he is trying to do here.
This was also Brando in 1967, just on the cusp of giving up on his body and showing up obese in 1972’s The Godfather. His voice hasn’t changed into that lazy drawl from The Godfather or Apocalypse Now; it’s crisper like On the Waterfront, but not as whiny and breezy. He plays the Major as a hard ass as well, perfect posture and short, crisp words with a southern accent. It is a very enjoyable performance to watch.