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Elizabeth Taylor – Film’s New Jane Austen?

Hollywood Filmmakers Turn to a 20th Century English Novelist

Could writer Elizabeth Taylor be film's new Jane Austen?Francois Ozon directed "8 Women" and "Swimming Pool," so he knows a juicy woman's story when he sees one. Midway through the 1957 novel "Angel" by the late Elizabeth Taylor, he already could envision it as a movie.


"It's a book about what happens when you become very famous, and prefer to live in a fantasy and not deal with the real things around you," the filmmaker said. He assumed some savvy Hollywood production company had long ago scooped up the rights to the 1957 novel, "because to me, it was like 'Gone with the Wind.' But no, it wasn't so, so I decided to buy them." Arriving in England to shoot his first English-language movie, Ozon also was surprised when none of the Brits he encountered had heard of "Angel" or its author.

More than 30 years after Taylor's death, she's been discovered

But the fortunes of the writer whom Anne Tyler has compared to Jane Austen, Barbara Pym and Elizabeth Bowen -- "soul sisters all," in Tyler's words -- are suddenly looking up. More than 30 years after Taylor's death, she's been discovered not just by Ozon, whose "The Real Life of Angel Deverell" will be out early next year, but also by American director Dan Ireland. His screen adaptation of Taylor's "Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont" came out in this country first and has made close to $1 million. A British distributor picked it up at Cannes, and the movie will be released in England in the fall.

Besides "Angel" and "Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont," both of which have been made into feature films, here are the other books by Elizabeth Taylor that were recently reissued:

"At Mrs. Lippincote's'': Taylor's first novel is set during World War II and focuses on the wife of an RAF officer who moves with her husband into a moth-eaten furnished house. Their marriage is under strain not just because of the war, but also because of the couple's very different needs.

"Blaming'': is Taylor's final book, which she was determined to finish even as cancer ravished her body

"A View of the Harbour'': By writing of an extra-marital affair furtively carried out in a coastal village, Taylor wryly comments on the British need to keep up appearances at all costs. The adulterer's wife is a precursor of the title character in "Angel," another novelist so caught up in her fictional world that she's oblivious to what's happening around her.

"In a Summer Season'': Generally considered to be Taylor's most sex-infused work, it tells the story of a rich woman who marries a man 10 years her junior. Her passion for him makes her ignore friends who think he's after her money, but she can't overlook his attraction to her neighbor's seductive young daughter.

"Blaming'': This is Taylor's final book, which she was determined to finish even as cancer ravished her body. The thought of death obviously was preoccupying her because she begins her novel with the sudden demise of the main character's husband while they're on vacation. The saga of the new widow's unlikely friendship with an American writer is seeped in tragedy.

Full report in the San Francisco Chronicle