BUtterfield 8 (1960)

Sixty years ago today, the film BUtterfield 8 premiered at the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles, California. Elizabeth Taylor was never more beautiful. You have to see this movie.

Title: BUtterfield 8
Directed by: Daniel Mann
Produced by: Pandro S. Berman
Screenplay by: Charles Schnee, John Michael Hayes
Based on: Butterfield 8 by John O’Hara
Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Laurence Harvey, Eddie Fisher
Music by: Bronisław Kaper
Cinematography: Charles Harten, Joseph Ruttenberg
Edited by: Ralph E. Winters
Distributed by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date: November 2, 1960 (Paramount Theatre, Los Angeles)
Running time: 109 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $2.8 million
Box office: $10 million
Academy Award Best Actress – Elizabeth Taylor

Gloria Wandrous wakes up in the apartment of wealthy executive Weston Liggett and finds that he has left her $250. Insulted, she finds her dress was torn, and takes the mink coat of Liggett’s wife Emily to cover herself, scrawling “No Sale” in lipstick on the mirror. She orders her telephone answering service, BUtterfield 8, to put Liggett through if he calls.

Gloria visits a childhood friend, pianist Steve Carpenter, who chastises her for wasting her life on one-night stands, but agrees to ask his girlfriend Norma to lend her a dress. Gloria leaves, and Norma tells Steve to choose between her and Gloria. As Norma leaves, he calls, “Gloria, don’t go like this.” “My name is Norma,” she replies.

Liggett takes a train to the countryside, where his wife Emily is caring for her mother. His friend, Bingham Smith, advises him to end his adulterous relationships and return to Bing’s law firm, instead of working for his father-in-law’s chemical business. Meanwhile, Gloria lies to her mother Annie, claiming to have spent the night at Norma’s.

Liggett returns home. Finding the lipstick and money, he phones Gloria to explain the money was meant for her to buy a new dress, to replace the one that he had torn. While drinking later that night, Liggett advises her to ask a high price for her lovemaking talents. She insists she does not take payment from her dates and claims she has been hired as a model to advertise the dress she is wearing at three bistros that night. Liggett follows Gloria, watching her flirt with dozens of men at several clubs. He drives her to a run-down motel. After sleeping together, Liggett and Gloria decide to explore their relationship further. They spend five days together, growing closer and falling genuinely in love with one another. They part only after Liggett’s wife Emily returns.

When Gloria returns home, she confesses to her mother about having been the “slut of all time”, but declares that that is all over now since she is truly in love. Gloria visits her psychiatrist Dr. Tredman to insist that her relationship with Liggett has cured her of promiscuity.

For his part, Liggett also plans to change his life, taking up Bing’s offer of a job at the law firm. When he returns home, Emily has noticed that her mink is gone. Liggett makes excuses and rushes out to search for Gloria at her regular clubs. He is unable to locate her, but in his search he is repeatedly confronted with the reality of Gloria’s promiscuous past. When Gloria finds Liggett at a bistro the following evening, he drunkenly launches into insults. Gloria drives Liggett to his apartment building where Emily, spotting them from a window above, watches as her husband throws the coat at Gloria, saying he would never give the tainted object back to his wife.

Heartbroken, Gloria goes to Steve, saying that she feels she has “earned” the mink coat she is wearing. Having never before taken payment from the men she slept with, she now has, and she laments “what that makes me”. She recounts that when she was 13, a friend of her widowed mother taught her about “evil”. She hates herself because she loved it and thus went on to make her life out of it. Steve insists that Gloria stay the night since both Gloria and he have to decide what to do next. Norma arrives the next morning, finding Gloria asleep on Steve’s couch; having at last made up his mind, he asks Norma to marry him.

The next day, a now-sober Liggett admits to himself that he still loves Gloria and asks Emily for a divorce. Meanwhile, Gloria tells her mother she is moving to Boston to begin a new life.

Upon discovering Gloria’s destination, Liggett drives until he spots her car at a roadside café. He tries to apologize to Gloria by asking her to marry him, but Gloria insists that his insults have “branded” her and that her past is a sore spot that no husband would ever truly be able to accept. They profess their love for each other, and though Gloria initially agrees to go with Liggett to the motel, she ultimately changes her mind and flees in her car. Pursuing Gloria’s car, Liggett sees her miss a sign for road construction and accidentally hurtle over an embankment to her death.

When he returns to the city, Liggett tells his wife about Gloria’s death, announces that he is leaving to “find my pride”, and says that if Emily is still home when he returns, they will see if it has any value to them.

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