Liveblogging Lifetime’s “Liz & Dick”

Below is our transcript from last night’s liveblog. Relive the White Diamonds of train wrecks!

*Note – Feel free to participate in the Liz & Dick drinking game. Every time I use the word “HOWLER,” … down a shot!

We start with “Based On A True Story.” Hmm … wasn’t The Texas Chainsaw Massacre also “Based On a True Story?” I have a feeling this is going to be even more brutal

Speaking of Leatherface, we get our first glimpse of Lindsay Lohan as “Elizabeth Taylor,” as she sits by a pool, as the voice of “Richard Burton,” (played by True Blood‘s Cooter) speaks on the soundtrack about the first time he met her. Cooter looks nothing like Richard Burton, but the makeup people have done a stunning job of making him look like … a bad botox victim.

So this flashback leads to … another flashback … of the last day of Richard Burton’s life, which is helpfully subtitled, “The Last Day of Richard Burton’s Life.” He signs a letter to Elizabeth, “My undying love,” which considering what day we were just told this is, probably doesn’t mean as much as it should.

From there we jump to a darkened stage, which I think is supposed to represent Movie Star Heaven. “Dead Liz” (dressed all in black) is sitting in a chair directly addressing the camera. “I’ve always loved getting Richard’s letters. He writes so beautifully he could’ve been a writer.” And we have our first HOWLER of the evening. And it’s already painfully obvious that Lohan is not even attempting to sound like Taylor.

“Dead Richard” enters (also dressed in black. Movie Star Heaven has a surprisingly bland wardrobe. Where’s Edith Dead when you need her?), and sits down next to her. The two reminisce about meeting on the set of Cleopatra, and we flashback yet again, as Dead Liz and Dead Richard share unintentionally hilarious closeups intercut with the 1961 set of that infamous flop.

Lindsay as Liz as Cleopatra doesn’t conjure up images of the Queen Of the Nile … or even “Walk Like An Egyptian.” Just a girl playing dress-up and making an asp of herself.

Liz and Dick have a tense first meeting, but that doesn’t stop him from arranging an “accidental” dinner meeting, against the advisement of his brother, who knows where this is going, and reminds him that he already has a wife. At the restaurant, Liz is taken aback when Dick delivers the second HOWLER of the night, “You are now a beautiful woman, with the depths of the ocean in your violet eyes, and the promise of a ripe plum, and your soft firm lips and your spilling white hot bosom.” Credit to Cooter for getting through that with a straight face.

Aahh, now we have an explanation. Dick is dead drunk. Only a drunk or a bad screenwriter could come up with “spilling white hot bosom.” His brother explains to Dick’s wife Sybil that he tried being friendly to Liz. In what i hope is supposed to be a moment of comic relief, Sybil has a moment of horrible realization, and says, “Richard tried being friendly?,” which translates as “He’s about to nail another Hollywood bimbo.”

Now we’re back on the set, as Dick fumbles his lines, and Liz takes him to her trailer to rehearse. I swear I’m not trying pick on Lindsay, but she is atrocious in this scene, grasping at her lines, and looking completely out-of-sorts. Thankfully, like most of the scenes so far, it’s over quickly.

Another dinner scene, as we briefly meet Liz’s husband Eddie Fisher, and then we finally get a good look at Liz’s mother Sara, played by one of my favorite actresses of the 80′s, Theresa Russell (If you’ve never seen Black Widow or Impulse, you must check them out.)

In a another HOWLER moment, we see Liz saying “A love scene with him?” immediately followed by Dick saying, “A love scene with her?” So wait a minute … I know that the script of Cleopatra was a work in progress during the making of the film, but it never occurred to either one that Antony and Cleopatra might have a love scene?

Dick and Liz are filming the love scene and Dick is struggling for inspiration. I’m going to refrain from listing this as an official howler because it may be actual dialogue from Cleopatra (I’ve actually never made it all the way through the bloated epic) Liz says,”Are you staring at my chest?” and Dick responds “Why not? it’s the very heart of you. It’s everything you promise, love, sex, and nurture. And I’m going to pretend that it’s all mine.” Oh what the hell. Real dialogue or not, it’s a HOWLER.

As wildly inappropriate music plays, we see the happy couple giddily cheating on their spouses in each other’s trailers, as the assistants and film crew try to keep Sybil and Eddie from catching on. And we learn their pet names for each other, “Stupid,” and “Dumpy.”

The two decide not to hide their newfound love, and are seen in public together, much to the consternation of studio head Daryl Zanuck, played with furious over-the-top zeal by Office star Creed Bratton. He learns a new Italian word – “Paparazzi,” and demands that his lackies put a stop to it.

Dead Liz and Dead Dick recall the scandal, and we get a disturbing scene when Eddie comes home to find a party with the two of them, and Dick announces in front of the partygoers that he’s sleeping with Liz, and demands that she publicly choose which man she loves. She’s forced to admit that she’s in love with Dick, humiliating Eddie. I had always heard that Richard Burton was a prick, but if this scene is true, he’s in a class by himself.

We get a long montage of scenes of the couple at Liz’s Italian villa, where they christen the hot tub, and Liz tries to fry some eggs with a cigarette dangling from her mouth. The paparazzi keep swarming, and Liz responds by mooning the photographers. Thankfully, Cooter remains out of the tabloid picture, for the first time in Lindsay’s life.

The photographers tell Dick that Sybil has tried to kill herself. Dick rushes back home, where he’s admonished by his brother for not being there for the family. When he comes back to Liz, he tells her, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t.” It’s HOWLER time (thankfully, I don’t drink, or we’d be in serous trouble), as Liz runs from the room in a flowing nightgown, shouting, “I won’t live without you,” and we see her popping pills and guzzling booze for the first (but probably not last) time. She downs the dolls and tells Dick that she’s not going to be his responsibility anymore. Cut to Dick bursting through hospital doors carrying Liz..

Cleopatra wraps, and Dick tells Liz he’s going back to Sybil. Liz accuses him of using her to put another notch on his belt, and he says, “My heart is broken, and you have the smashed pieces.” Okay, that’s half a HOWler.

We flash forward to three months later, and Liz is in Switzerland with her kids. This is another bad scene for Lindsay. Very bad. HOWLER bad. Liz is downing more alcohol and looks to the heavens and exclaims, ‘I’m Bored! I’m So Bored!” It doesn’t exactly rise to the heights of Patty Duke and “God! Neely,” but it’s at least on par with Elizabeth Berkley and “I’m So Scared!”

Dick contacts Liz and arranges a meeting, and we get a lengthy montage of boring reconciliation scenes, concluding with Liz insisting that she be the love interest in his new film instead of Sophia Loren. Liz contacts the producer (hey, it’s Mr. Sheffield!), and demands that she be given the role. Mr. Sheffield is adamantly opposed, and says, “No way will Elizabeth Taylor be in this film!”, immediately followed by Mr. Sheffield welcoming Elizabeth Taylor to the film. Wow, the only thing missing from that was a laugh track and Fran‘s nasal bray. And Dick gives Liz a new pet name … “Lumpy.”

Dick has to head home again, leading to an awesome montage of Liz having a mini-episode, where we get get our first liquor bottle thrown against the wall. We also see Liz in a Julie Christie Dr. Zhivago hat, which calls attention to the fact that, so far, the fashions in this movie have been a crushing disappointment.

The pair have to deal with more paparazzi, then they head to New York, where Dick is going to perform on Broadway in Hamlet. They have a rough time of it, though, as they’re descended on by the 60′s version of the Moral Majority, waving signs that read, “Slut On A Hot Tin Roof,” which isn’t half bad.

After The Vatican publicly condemns their sinning, they realize they have to get married as soon as possible, so Liz gets a quick divorce from Eddie (after instructing the divorce lawyer that Eddie needs to cease and desist with his “Cleo- Nympho Of the Nile” song in his act).

They have a low-key wedding, and Dick is a hit in Hamlet (and brings Liz on stage during the curtain call, which I’m sure pleased his co-stars). At the after party, they meet famed producer Ernest Lehman (played by Miranda‘s husband Steve from SATC), who wants Liz to star in the film version of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. Dick wants the male lead, but Ernest isn’t sure he and Liz can convincingly fight. The two of them prove him wrong by insulting each other, culminating in Liz saying “Mellifluous? What was he, some Roman homosexual that you buggered?” Their pretend fight convinces Lehman to give them the roles.

Sadly, Dick loses the Oscar for The Spy Who Came In From The Cold to Lee Marvin for Cat Ballou, which hits him hard, as well it should. Liz helpfully offers to give him her Oscar, which he also doesn’t take well.

We flash forward to the premiere of Virginia Woolf, in which the filmmakers have made the fatal decision to recreate scenes from the classic film. Lindsay as Liz as Martha looks like Rizzo on a bad bender. This is a total miscalculation, and watching her struggle to even come close to the Liz performance in cringe-inducing, and HOWLER worthy.. But hey, life is about to imitate art, as Liz and Dick start to snipe at each other in the audience, George and Martha style. “That’s my gal, the very essence of a frumpy fishwife.” And he gives her yet another new pet name …. “Butterball.”

Back at the hotel, Liz gives us our second bottle smash, and laments that the press is treating her badly, holding up a newspaper with the headline “Cleo-Fat-Ra.” Dick tells her that people want the candid shots now, the unflattering pics, but don’t worry, “I’ll love you even if you get as fat as a hippo.” Romance is alive and well.

Both stars are nominated for Oscars, but Dick is still burned about losing the previous year, so they opt to stay home and listen to the show on the radio. Virginia Woolf wins for Supporting Actress and for Elizabeth as Best Actress, but Dick loses yet again, this time to Paul Scofield. He again takes it hard, and he admits to his brother that he’s worried he’s not enough for Liz. They have bigger problems, though, when their business manager informs them that they’re flat broke, and they need to cut expenses. Dick realizes that the biggest expense right now is security from the press, so he decides they need to live where the paparazzi can’t touch them. He moves the family on to a yacht. I think its’ obvious now that the screenplay for Liz & Dick was written from bits and pieces from Wikipedia.

Liz decides to bring her own photographer on to the yacht to balance out the unflattering pics floating around, but Dick is not impressed, and tells her, “If you so much as stroke his hand, I’ll never speak to you again.” Liz responds, “Same goes for you.” There have been a couple of veiled references to Richard’s sexuality in the film, but I doubt this movie has the courage to actually go there. And he gives her another pet name … “Miss Pudgy Digits.”

What this movie doesn’t need is a series of dull scenes trying to cram years of the relationship in to one segment, but that’s exactly what we get. Dick buys a giant diamond! Dick’s brother breaks his spine and then dies! Dick buys a private plane! Liz is jealous of Raquel Welch! Liz turns 40, and is afraid her leading lady days are behind her!

Thankfully, things perk up on the set of the trash classic Bluebeard (which in addition to Raquel, also stars Joey Heatherton and Sybil Danning), as Dick blames himself for his brother’s death, and rumors start that he’s having a fling with co-star Nathalie Delon. Liz explodes, in a HOWLER scene, as we get our third smashed booze bottle, and an overturned table, as Liz decides to get revenge by calling Aristotle Onassis and setting up the two of them to be seen together.

Divorce papers follow, followed quickly by another reconciliation when Liz is hospitalized (for the first time, her health issues are brought up, as she mentions “back spasms” in passing) and it’s feared she has colon cancer. Luckily, the test comes back negative, and Dick decides that life is too short, and asks her to marry him again. The second marriage lasts a few months.

The final section is one huge HOWLER. We flash forward again to the last day of Dick’s life, and then we see the 1984 version of Lindsay as Liz, which should go down in camp history right up there with Pia Zadora‘s mad scene in The Lonely Lady and Faye Dunaway chopping down that tree. This is my favorite Liz, post-Helena Cassidine but pre-There Must Be a Pony. It was the Lifestyles of The Rich And Famous Liz, the Liz that I first became aware of … and Lindsay captures none of it.

She really is just a girl playing dress-up here, as Carole Bayer-Sager perhaps, or West Hollywood Joan Collins, but it’s kind of sad to think that at no time during the production of these final scenes did someone, anyone, say … this is a Saturday Night Live skit. But there is one exceptional moment … when her mother informs her that Richard has died, Liz does a perfectly executed faceplant on the floor.

Barred from his funeral by Richard’s wife, Liz visits his grave a week later with flowers and a swarm of paparazzi. In the final scene, Dead Liz and Dead Dick are back in Movie Star Heaven … holding hands.

That’s it! Thanks for joining me. We survived!

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