character: Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

In late middle-age after a long marriage Barbara Sawyer (Elizabeth Taylor) discovers that her husband is having an affair with a woman younger than their daughter. As one does, she sets off for some extensive and secret cosmetic surgery in Switzerland from which she emerges looking remarkably like a forty-year-old Elizabeth Taylor. Unfortunately, from there it’s downhill – slowly – all the way. She spends an awfully long time deciding whether or not to have an affair with a young man who finds her new look attractive. Meanwhile her husband is interminably delayed on ‘business’. When her husband does turn up he basically tells her she looks nice but he’s leaving her anyway.

Roger Ebert summed it up nicely: ‘The problem is that not enough happens; she waits at the resort, she drinks, she eats, she meets her daughter for a tearful lunch, she talks with a friendly fashion photographer, she waits, she has the affair, she waits, sighs, telephones, looks at herself and models the Edith Head wardrobe. It’s all so slight.’

The makeup

Alberto De Rossi was Elizabeth Taylor’s makeup artist; he had worked with her before on The Taming of the Shrew and Cleopatra. His son Giannetto De Rossi was also a makeup artist on the movie.