Kate Collins, The Courier Mail, 9 September

Over lunch with Elizabeth Taylor on Sam Spiegel’s yacht during filming Suddenly Last Summer, author Susanna de Vries-Evans realised first impressionists are lasting.

‘I was living at S’Agaro, a resort on the Costa Brava running a water-skiing school when over the horizon came [film producer the late Sam Spiegel] in a floating gin palace crammed with Renoirs and Cezannes.

“The stars of the film Spiegel was directing, Suddenly Last Summer were Montgomery Clift, who was drinking himself to death, Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher were glowering at each other and Spiegel, the typical nouveau riche Impressionist collector with a statuesque blonde on either arm and a wall full of bosomy Renoirs, was thinking about location for scenes in what would become a major film.

Susanna says, ‘Liz Taylor and I were the only ones looking at the paintings. Her father Francis was an art dealer in London and I had studied art history so could talk about it which none of the rest of the film crew could. Elizabeth Taylor knew a lot about paintings, she had already bought Degas, Renoir, Pissarro, Monet and would spend her fee from filming Cleopatra on a van Gogh. While Richard Burton gave her diamonds, she gave him paintings.’

It’s a long way from Brisbane to that bay in Spain where de Vries-Evans, one-time British water-ski champion and Sorbonne-trained art historian, encountered the glitterati of Hollywood. These memories surface in her book The Impressionists Revealed (Random Australia $49.95), a ravishing glimpse of Renoirs, Monets and their owners who included Hollywood greats like Liz Taylor, Hal Wallis, Edward G. Robinson, Greta Garbo and Alain Delon, along with Alan Bond, Janet Holmes a Court and Brisbane collector the late Lady Peggy Trout.