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Liz Taylor, a Sunbeam Alpine and an Oscar

Before Paris Hilton, hell, before Gloria Steinem, there was Liz Taylor as Gloria Wandrous in Butterfield 8, a model-slash-call-girl whose personal shame was the shot heard round the world for the women's movement. She also drove a sweet Sunbeam Alpine.


Taylor, who won an Academy Award for her role in the 1960 film, died today at 79, after a six-week battle with congestive heart failure.

As celebrated as Butterfield 8 is, it's been said Taylor ultimately hated the film. Having recently scooped up co-star Eddie Fisher from his then-wife Debbie Reynolds, Taylor was at the time being chastised in the press as a "slut" and a "homewrecker," which directly mirrored her B8 character. Then there were the overtones of victimization by an exploitative, disapproving patriarchy, which struck a spark for what would become the full-blown womens' movement later in the 1960s.


Oh yes, the car. Director Daniel Mann cast a red Sunbeam Alpine Series I as Gloria's ride of choice, which helped in her "racy" characterization and ultimately served as a prop for her self-destruction, in the scene above.

Launched in 1959, the Alpine Series I borrowed heavily from the Hillman Husky. It was powered by a 1.5-liter four that could get the lil' roadster from 0-60 in 13.6 seconds, and on to a top speed of 99 mph.

And as Gloria found out, it can't fly.

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She made any vehicle look good. She wasn't afraid to marry and divorce the same man twice or stand up for issues that weren't popular at the time. Even though she kept a low profile in her later years, it was comforting to know she was still around. Rest in peace sweet Liz, the world is suddenly less glamorous.