Elizabeth Taylor

Birth: February 27, 1932
London, England

Death: March 23, 2011
Los Angeles, United States

When Elizabeth Taylor was born she showed her star-quality right away: she had distichiasis. Which means that she was born with an extra row of eyelashes, giving her that sultry look that we all know so well. She was born to American parents, Sara and Francis, who lived in England. Elizabeth had a peaceful childhood in London until she was eight years old. The second World War was about to erupt and Elizabeth, her parents and her younger brother Howard fled to America. Her mother, a former actress, saw the possibilities of living in Los Angeles and decided that her daughter was going to be a star.

Elizabeth signed a contract at Universal at the age of nine and appeared in her first movie: ‘There’s One Born Every Minute’. But after a year the studio fired Elizabeth for unknown reasons. Thankfully, she got a big part in ‘Lassie Come Home’ soon after and signed a contract at MGM. She would remain with the studio for the next eighteen years.
But the movie that really made her a child star was ‘National Velvet’. Twelve year old Elizabeth was determined to play the role of Velvet Brown, the animal loving tomboy, whom she identified with. Her life would never be the same. She was schooled at MGM and did not have a lot of friends. Elizabeth would later say that she missed out on a childhood and that the happiest time of her life was when she lived in England. According to reports Elizabeth even wanted to stop acting several times as a teenager, but her mother convinced her not to. Despite all this, her career was soaring. Her last adolescent role was in 1949 in the classic ‘Little Women’ and she made her transition into adult roles easily.
When Elizabeth was eighteen she got married for the first time to hotel heir Nicky Hilton (related to Paris and Nicky Hilton, the later was named after him). Although she thought she was in love with Nicky, the marriage was also a way to escape her overbearing mother. Unfortunately, Nicky didn’t only drink and gamble, but he also started physically abusing her soon after the wedding. They divorced after nine months. In the meantime Elizabeth played in the classic ‘A Place In The Sun’, which was one of the best performances in her career, according to many critics. Elizabeth wanted to do more movies like this, but MGM wanted her in more light-hearted  movies.

A year after her marriage to Hilton, Elizabeth married actor Michael Wilding. He was twenty years older than her and had a gentle character. Together they had two sons: Michael jr.  and Christopher. They divorced after five years and two weeks later she got married again. This time to producer Mike Todd, who she has always considered as one of the two loves of her life. In 1957 she gave birth to a daughter named Liza.
She had just started shooting the classic ‘Cat On A Hot Tin Roof’, when Mike Todd died in a plane crash. According to reports, Elizabeth should have been on the plane, named Lucky Liz, but stayed at home because she was sick. Elizabeth was devastated and stayed in her room for days. Finally, she found a distraction in shooting ‘Cat On A Hot Tin Roof’ and gave a great performance. She also found comfort in the arms of Mike’s best friend: Eddie Fisher. Eddie was married to actress Debbie Reynolds at the time and this created quite a scandal. They married in 1959.
In 1961 Elizabeth had a near death experience when she developed a double pneumonia. She lost consciousness and had an emergency tracheotomy. A couple of months later she finally won her first Oscar for ‘Butterfield 8’, a movie she loathed but had to make for MGM. She later said it was a sympathy award, but that she was still proud of it.
‘Butterfield 8’ was her last movie for MGM and she chose ‘Cleopatra’ as her first movie now that she could finally chose her movies herself. She became the highest paid actress of her day, with a salary of one million dollar. The movie is famous because it was the start of Elizabeth’s love affair with Richard Burton. They began an on-set romance and eventually divorced their spouses and married each other in 1964. In that same year Elizabeth’s adoption of a two-year old German girl named Maria was finalized. She played opposite her husband in six movies in the following decade. Amongst them was ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’, for which she won her second Oscar. Elizabeth personally thought this was the best performance of her career.

But her success started to diminish by the end of the 60’s. Some of her movies failed at the box-office and she was more famous for her tumultuous marriage to Burton than her career. In 1974 she and Burton divorced, only to marry again a year later. But in 1976 they divorced for the second and last time. A couple of months later she married Republican senator John Warner and lived with him on his ranch. She devoted her time to his career in politics and their life on the ranch and didn’t make much movies. But she became depressed and started to gain weight. During this period she made her stage debut in ‘The Little Foxes’ and her marriage with John Warner came to an end.
In 1983 she checked into The Betty Ford Clinic for an alcohol addiction. In that same year she and former husband Richard Burton joined forces for a Broadway play called ‘Private Lives’. But her focus wasn’t on acting anymore. In 1985 she helped found The American Foundation For AIDS Research. She put all her effort into raising awareness for the disease, which was still a controversial subject at the time.
In 1987 she wrote a self-help book called ‘Elizabeth Takes Off’ with tips on losing weight. She also became the first celebrity to build a perfume franchise, releasing her first fragrance called Passion. She played in movies en TV-series sporadically, but none of them were a big success.
In 1988 Elizabeth returned to The Betty Ford Clinic for an addiction to painkillers. There she met her eighth husband Larry Fortensky, a forty year old construction worker. They married in 1991 on Neverland Ranch, the home of Elizabeth’s close friend Michael Jackson. They divorced in 1996 and Elizabeth never married again. In 1997 she underwent surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. The day before the surgery she attended a gala in honor of her 65th birthday called Happy Birthday, Elizabeth – A Celebration of Life, which aired on ABC.

But Elizabeth still struggled with her health and retreated from the limelight. She would make an exception for AIDS benefits and special occasions like being dubbed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000. In February 2011 she was admitted into the hospital for heart failure. She passed away at the age of 79 on the 23rd of March surrounded by her four children.

 

For the Elizabeth Taylor Gallery go here.

Filmography:

These old Broads (TV movie) 2001
Beryl Mason

The Flintstones 1994
Pearl Slaghoople

Sweet Bird of Youth (TV movie) 1989
Alexandra Del Lago

Il giovane Toscanini 1988
Nadina Bulichoff

Poker Alice  (TV Movie) 1987
Alice Moffit

There Must Be a Pony (TV Movie) 1986
Marguerite Sydney

Malice in Wonderland (TV Movie) 1985
Louella Parsons

Between Friends (TV movie) 1983
Deborah Shapiro

The Mirror Crack’d 1980
Marina Rudd 

Winter Kills 1979
Lola Comante

A Little Night Music 1977
Desiree Armfeldt

Victory at Entebbe (TV Movie) 1976
Edra Vilnofsky

The Blue Bird 1976
Queen of Light

Identikit 1974
Lise

Ash Wednesday 1973
Barbara Sawyer 

Night Watch 1973
Ellen Wheeler

Divorce His – Divorce Hers (TV Movie) 1973
Jane Reynolds

Hammersmith is Out 1972
Jimmie Jean Jackson

Under Milk Wood 1972
Rosie Probert

Zee and Co. 1972
Zee Blakeley

The Only Game in Town 1970
Fran Walker

Anne of the Thousand Days 1969
Courtesan

Secret Ceremony1968
Leonora

Boom 1968
Flora ‘Sissy’ Goforth

The Comedians 1967
Martha Pineda

Reflections in a Golden Eye 1967
Leonara Penderton

Doctor Faustus 1967
Helen of Troy

The Taming of the Shrew 1967
Katharina

Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf 1966
Martha

The Sandpiper 1965
Laura Reynolds

Becket 1964
Extra  

Cleopatra 1963
Cleopatra

The V.I.P.s 1963
Frances Andros

Butterfield 8 1960
Gloria Wandrous

Scent of Mystery 1960
The Real Sally Kennedy

Suddenly, Last Summer 1959
Catherine Holly

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 1958
Maggie Pollit

Raintree Country 1957
Susanna Drake Shawnessy

Giant 1956
Leslie Benedict

The Last Time I Saw Paris 1954
Helen Ellswirth

Beau Brummell 1954
Lady Patricia

Elephant Walk 1954
Ruth Wiley 

Rhapsody 1954
Louise Durant

The Girl Who Had Everything 1953
Jean Latimer

Ivanhoe 1952
Rebecca

Love is Better Than Ever 1952
Anastacia (Stacie) Macaboy

Quo Vadis 1951
Christian Prisoner in Arena   

A Place In The Sun 1951
Angela Vickers 

Father’s Little Dividend 1951
Kay Dunstan

Father of the Bride 1950
Katherine ‘Kay’ Banks

The Big Hangover 1950
Mary Belney

Conspirator 1949
Melinda Greyton

Little Women 1949
Amy

Julia Misbehaves 1948
Susan Packett

A Date With Judy 1948
Carol Pringle

Cynthia 1947
Cynthia Bishop

Life With Father 1947
Mary Skinner

Courage of Lassie 1946
Kathie Eleanor Merrick

National Velvet 1944
Velvet Brown

The White Cliffs of Dover 1944
Betsy Kenney at Age 10

Jane Eyre 1943
Helen Burns

Lassie Comes Home 1943
Priscilla

 

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