Butterfield 8 opens
For all the acrimony and anger created by its production, Butterfield 8, Daniel Mann’s adaptation of John O’Hara’s 1935 novel about a part-time prostitute (played by Elizabeth Taylor), should have been a catastrophe. Even the New York Times critic Bosley Crowther though so: “By the odds, it should be a bomb. But a bomb it is not, let us tell you. At least, it is not the sort of thing to set you to yawning and squirming, unless Elizabeth Taylor leaves you cold.” O’Hara’s novel was based on the true-life misadventures of Starr Faithfull, a beautiful young woman who was found dead in Long Beach, Long Island in 1931. While too risqué to adapt for years, MGM decided to push it into production in 1959 while Taylor was still under contract with the Studio. But Taylor, who was looking forward to starring in the big-budget production of Cleopatra, wanted nothing to do with this story. “I hate the girl I play,” Taylor declared publicly. “I don’t like what she stands for––the men, the sleeping around.” Next she went after the story, exclaiming that “it’s the most pornographic script I’ve ever read,” an insult novelist John O’Hara humorously greeted in print with the declaration, "The cracks Miss Taylor has taken at my novel gave me some bruises which were healed by the MGM accounting department with their tender, loving royalty checks." In the end, Taylor’s taunts may have actually helped the film by giving it the appropriate aura of scandal. The film’s $2.5 million budget brought in $9 million domestically, and, best of all, Taylor won her first Oscar after being nominated (and losing) the three previous years for Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and Raintree County (1957).