Elizabeth Taylor

Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor DBE (February 27, 1932 – March 23, 2011) was a British-American actress, businesswoman, and humanitarian. She began her career as a child actress in the early 1940s, and was one of the most popular stars of classical Hollywood cinema in the 1950s. She continued her career successfully into the 1960s, and remained a well-known public figure for the rest of her life. In 1999, the American Film Institute named her the seventh-greatest female screen legend.

Born in London to wealthy, socially prominent American parents, Taylor moved with her family to Los Angeles in 1939, and she was soon given a film contract by Universal Pictures. She made her screen debut in a minor role in There's One Born Every Minute (1942), but Universal terminated her contract after a year. Taylor was then signed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and had her breakthrough role in National Velvet (1944), becoming one of the studio's most popular teenaged stars. She made the transition to adult roles in the early 1950s, when she starred in the comedy Father of the Bride (1950) and received critical acclaim for her performance in the drama A Place in the Sun (1951).

Despite being one of MGM's most bankable stars, Taylor wished to end her career in the early 1950s. She resented the studio's control and disliked many of the films to which she was assigned. She began receiving roles she enjoyed more in the mid-1950s, beginning with the epic drama Giant (1956), and starred in several critically and commercially successful films in the following years. These included two film adaptations of plays by Tennessee Williams: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), and Suddenly, Last Summer (1959); Taylor won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for the latter. Although she disliked her role as a call girl in BUtterfield 8 (1960), her last film for MGM, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.

Taylor was then paid a record-breaking $1 million to play the title role in the historical epic Cleopatra (1963), the most expensive film made up to that point. During the filming, Taylor and co-star Richard Burton began an extramarital affair, which caused a scandal. Despite public disapproval, she and Burton continued their relationship and were married in 1964. Dubbed "Liz and Dick" by the media, they starred in 11 films together, including The V.I.P.s (1963), The Sandpiper (1965), The Taming of the Shrew (1967), and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). Taylor received the best reviews of her career for Woolf, winning her second Academy Award and several other awards for her performance. She and Burton divorced in 1974, but reconciled soon after, and remarried in 1975. The second marriage ended in divorce in 1976.

Taylor's acting career began to decline in the late 1960s, although she continued starring in films until the mid-1970s, after which she focused on supporting the career of her sixth husband, Senator John Warner. In the 1980s, she acted in her first substantial stage roles and in several television films and series, and became the first celebrity to launch a perfume brand. Taylor was also one of the first celebrities to take part in HIV/AIDS activism. She co-founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research in 1985, and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1991. From the early 1990s until her death, she dedicated her time to philanthropy, for which she received several accolades, including the Presidential Citizens Medal.

Throughout her career, Taylor's personal life was the subject of constant media attention. She was married eight times to seven men, endured several serious illnesses, and led a jet set lifestyle, including assembling one of the most expensive private collections of jewelry in the world. After many years of ill health, Taylor died from congestive heart failure in 2011, at the age of 79.

Elizabeth Taylor

Colorized film still of Elizabeth Taylor, late 1950s
Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor

February 27, 1932
London, England, U.K.
DiedMarch 23, 2011 (aged 79)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California, U.S.
NationalityBritish, American
Other namesLiz Taylor
OccupationActress, entrepreneur
Years active1942–2003
AwardsFull list

Early life

Elizabeth Taylor with parents at Stork Club 1947
Fifteen-year-old Taylor with her parents at the Stork Club in Manhattan, 1947

Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born on February 27, 1932, at Heathwood, her family's home on 8 Wildwood Road in Hampstead Garden Suburb, London.[1]:3–10 She received dual British-American citizenship at birth, as her parents, art dealer Francis Lenn Taylor (1897–1968) and retired stage actress Sara Sothern (née Sara Viola Warmbrodt, 1895–1994), were United States citizens, both originally from Arkansas City, Kansas.[1]:3–10[a] They moved to London in 1929, and opened an art gallery on Bond Street; their first child, a son named Howard, was born the same year.[5]:61[1]:3–11

The family led a privileged life in London during Taylor's childhood.[1]:11–19 Their social circle included artists such as Augustus John and Laura Knight, and politicians such as Colonel Victor Cazalet.[1]:11–19 Cazalet was Taylor's unofficial godfather, and an important influence in her early life.[1]:11–19 She was enrolled in Byron House, a Montessori school in Highgate, and was raised according to the teachings of Christian Science, the religion of her mother and Cazalet.[1]:3,11–19,20–23

In the spring of 1939, the Taylors decided to return to the United States due to the increasingly tense political situation in Europe.[1]:22–26 United States ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy also contacted Francis and encouraged him to return to the U.S. with his family.[6] Sara and the children left first in April 1939 aboard the ocean liner SS Manhattan, and moved in with Taylor's maternal grandfather in Pasadena, California.[1]:22–28[7] Francis stayed behind to close the London gallery, and joined them in December.[1]:22–28 In early 1940, he opened a new gallery in Los Angeles, and after briefly living in Pacific Palisades, the family settled in Beverly Hills, where Taylor and her brother were enrolled in Hawthorne School.[1]:27–34

Acting career

Early roles and teenage stardom (1941–1949)

In California, Taylor's mother was frequently told that her daughter should audition for films.[1]:27–30 Taylor's eyes in particular drew attention; they were blue to the extent of appearing violet, and were rimmed by dark double eyelashes, caused by a genetic mutation.[8][1]:9 Sara was initially opposed to Taylor appearing in films, but after the outbreak of war in Europe made return there unlikely, she began to view the film industry as a way of assimilating to American society.[1]:27–30 Francis Taylor's Beverly Hills gallery had gained clients from the film industry soon after opening, helped by the endorsement of gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, a friend of the Cazalets.[1]:27–31 Through a client and a school friend's father, Taylor auditioned for both Universal Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in early 1941.[5]:27–37 Both studios offered Taylor contracts, and Sara Taylor chose to accept Universal's offer.[5]:27–37

Taylor began her contract in April 1941 and was cast in a small role in There's One Born Every Minute (1942).[5]:27–37 She did not receive other roles, and her contract was terminated after a year.[5]:27–37 Universal's casting director explained her dislike of Taylor, stating that "the kid has nothing ... her eyes are too old, she doesn't have the face of a child".[5]:27–37 Biographer Alexander Walker agrees that Taylor looked different from the child stars of the era, such as Shirley Temple and Judy Garland,[5]:32 and she herself later explained that, "apparently, I used to frighten grown ups, because I was totally direct".[9]

Taylor received another opportunity in late 1942, when her father's acquaintance, MGM producer Samuel Marx, arranged her to audition for a minor role requiring an actress with an English accent in Lassie Come Home (1943).[1]:22–23,27–37 After a trial contract of three months, she was given a standard seven-year contract in January 1943.[1]:38–41 Following Lassie, she appeared in minor uncredited roles in two other films set in England – Jane Eyre (1943), and The White Cliffs of Dover (1944).[1]:38–41

Mickey Rooney and Taylor in National Velvet (1944), her first major film role

Taylor was cast in her first starring role at the age of 12, when she was chosen to play a girl who wants to compete in the exclusively male Grand National in National Velvet.[1]:40–47 She later called it "the most exciting film" of her career.[10] MGM had been looking for a suitable actress with a British accent and the ability to ride horses since 1937, and chose Taylor at the recommendation of White Cliffs director Clarence Brown, who knew she had the required skills.[1]:40–47 As she was deemed too short, filming was pushed back several months to allow her to grow; she spent the time practicing riding.[1]:40–47 In developing her into a new star, MGM required her to wear braces to correct her teeth, and had two of her baby teeth pulled out.[1]:40–47 The studio also wanted to dye her hair and change the shape of her eyebrows, and proposed that she use the screen name "Virginia", but Taylor and her parents refused.[9]

National Velvet became a box-office success upon its release on Christmas 1944.[1]:40–47 Bosley Crowther of The New York Times stated that "her whole manner in this picture is one of refreshing grace",[11] while James Agee of The Nation wrote that she "is rapturously beautiful... I hardly know or care whether she can act or not."[12]

Taylor later stated that her childhood ended when she became a star, as MGM started to control every aspect of her life.[9][13][1]:48–51 She described the studio as a "big extended factory" where she was required to adhere to a strict daily schedule:[9] Days were spent attending school and filming at the studio lot, and evenings in dancing and singing classes and in practising the following day's scenes.[1]:48–51 Following the success of National Velvet, MGM gave Taylor a new seven-year contract with a weekly salary of $750, and cast her in a minor role in the third film of the Lassie series, Courage of Lassie (1946).[1]:51–58 The studio also published a book of Taylor's writings about her pet chipmunk, Nibbles and Me (1946), and had paper dolls and coloring books made after her.[1]:51–58

Elizabeth Taylor Argentinean Magazine AD
Publicity photograph, circa 1947

When Taylor turned 15 in 1947, MGM began to cultivate a more mature public image for her by organizing photo shoots and interviews that portrayed her as a "normal" teenager attending parties and going on dates.[5]:56–57; 65–74 Film magazines and gossip columnists also began comparing her to older actresses such as Ava Gardner and Lana Turner.[5]:71 Life called her "Hollywood's most accomplished junior actress" for her two film roles that year.[5]: 69 In the critically panned Cynthia (1947), she portrayed a frail girl who defies her over-protective parents to go to the prom, and the love interest of a stockbroker's son in the period film Life with Father (1947), opposite William Powell and Irene Dunne.[14][1]:58–70[15]

They were followed by supporting roles as a teenaged "man-stealer" who seduces her peer's date to a high school dance in the musical A Date with Judy (1948), and as a bride in the romantic comedy Julia Misbehaves (1948), which became a commercial success by grossing over $4 million in the box office.[14][1]:82 Taylor's last adolescent role was as Amy March in Mervyn LeRoy's Little Women (1949). While it did not match the popularity of the previous 1933 film adaptation of Louisa M. Alcott's novel, it was a box-office success.[16] The same year, Time featured Taylor on its cover, and called her the leader among Hollywood's next generation of stars, "a jewel of great price, a true sapphire".[17]

Transition to adult roles (1950–1951)

Taylor made the transition to adult roles when she turned 18 in 1950. In her first mature role, the thriller Conspirator (1949), she plays a woman who begins to suspect that her husband is a Soviet spy.[1]:75–83 Taylor had been only 16 at the time of its filming, but its release was delayed until March 1950, as MGM disliked it and feared it could cause diplomatic problems.[1]:75–83[18] Taylor's second film of 1950 was the comedy The Big Hangover (1950), co-starring Van Johnson.[19] It was released in May, and the same month, Taylor married hotel-chain heir Conrad Hilton, Jr., in a highly publicized ceremony.[1]:99–105 The event was organized by MGM, and used as part of the publicity campaign for Taylor's next film, Vincente Minnelli's comedy Father of the Bride (1950), in which she appeared opposite Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett as a bride preparing for her wedding.[1]:99–105 The film became a box-office success upon its release in June, grossing $6 million worldwide, and was followed by a successful sequel, Father's Little Dividend (1951), ten months later.[20]

Taylor's next film release, George Stevens' A Place in the Sun (1951), marked a departure from her earlier films. According to Taylor, it was the first film in which she had been asked to act, instead of simply being herself,[13] and it brought her critical acclaim for the first time since National Velvet.[1]:96–97 Based on Theodore Dreiser's novel An American Tragedy (1925), it featured Taylor as a spoiled socialite who comes between a poor factory worker (Montgomery Clift) and his pregnant girlfriend (Shelley Winters).[1]:91 Stevens cast Taylor as she was "the only one ... who could create this illusion" of being "not so much a real girl as the girl on the candy-box cover, the beautiful girl in the yellow Cadillac convertible that every American boy sometime or other thinks he can marry".[1]:92[21]

A Place in the Sun was a critical and commercial success, grossing $3 million.[22] Herb Golden of Variety stated that Taylor's "histrionics are of a quality so far beyond anything she has done previously, that Stevens' skilled hands on the reins must be credited with a minor miracle",[23] and A.H. Weiler of The New York Times wrote that she gives "a shaded, tender performance, and one in which her passionate and genuine romance avoids the pathos common to young love as it sometimes comes to the screen".[24]

Continued success at MGM (1952–1955)

Taylor next starred in the romantic comedy Love Is Better Than Ever (1952).[1]:124–125 According to Alexander Walker, MGM cast her in the "B-picture" as a reprimand for divorcing Hilton in January 1951 after only nine months of marriage, which had caused a public scandal that reflected negatively on her.[1]:124–125 After completing Love Is Better Than Ever, Taylor was sent to Britain to take part in the historical epic Ivanhoe (1952), which was one of the most expensive projects in the studio's history.[1]:129–132 She was not happy about the project, finding the story superficial and her role as Rebecca too small.[1]:129–132 Regardless, Ivanhoe became one of MGM's biggest commercial successes, earning $11 million in worldwide rentals.[25]

Taylor's last film made under her old contract with MGM was The Girl Who Had Everything (1953), a remake of the pre-code drama A Free Soul (1931).[1]:145 Despite her grievances with the studio, she signed a new seven-year contract with MGM in the summer of 1952.[1]:139–143 Although she wanted more interesting roles, the decisive factor in continuing with the studio was her financial need; she had recently married British actor Michael Wilding, and was pregnant with her first child.[1]:139–143 In addition to granting her a weekly salary of $4,700, MGM agreed to give the couple a loan for a house, and signed Wilding for a three-year contract.[1]:141–143 Due to her financial dependency, the studio now had even more control over her than previously.[1]:141–143

The Last Time I Saw Paris 1
Van Johnson and Taylor in the romantic drama The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954)

Taylor's first two films made under her new contract were released ten days apart in spring 1954.[1]:153 The first was Rhapsody, a romantic film starring her as a woman caught in a love triangle with two musicians. The second was Elephant Walk, a drama in which she played a British woman struggling to adapt to life on her husband's tea plantation in Ceylon. She had been loaned to Paramount Pictures for the film after its original star, Vivien Leigh, fell ill.[1]:148–149

In the fall, Taylor starred in two more film releases. Beau Brummell was a Regency era period film, another project in which she was cast against her will.[1]:153–154 Taylor disliked historical films in general, as their elaborate costumes and make-up required her to wake up earlier than usual to prepare, and later stated that she gave one of the worst performances of her career in Beau Brummell.[1]:153–154 The second film was Richard Brooks' The Last Time I Saw Paris, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story. Although she had instead wanted to be cast in The Barefoot Contessa (1954), Taylor liked the film, and later stated that it "convinced me I wanted to be an actress instead of yawning my way through parts".[1]:153–157[26] While The Last Time I Saw Paris was not as profitable as many other MGM films, it garnered positive reviews.[1]:153–157[26] Taylor became pregnant again during the production, and had to agree to add another year to her contract to make up for the period spent on maternity leave.[1]:153–157

Critical acclaim (1956–1960)

Taylor - Hudson - Giant
Taylor and Rock Hudson in Giant (1956)

By the mid-1950s, the American film industry was beginning to face serious competition from television, which resulted in studios producing fewer films, and focusing instead on their quality.[5]:158–165 The change benefited Taylor, who finally found interesting roles after several years of career disappointments.[5]:158–165 After lobbying director George Stevens, she won the female lead role in Giant (1956), an epic drama about a ranching dynasty, which co-starred Rock Hudson and James Dean.[5]:158–165 Its filming in Marfa, Texas, was a difficult experience for Taylor, as she clashed with Stevens, who wanted to break her will to make her easier to direct, and was often ill, resulting in delays.[5]:158–165[14] To further complicate the production, Dean died in a car accident only days after completing filming; grieving Taylor still had to film reaction shots to their joint scenes.[5]:158–166 When Giant was released a year later, it became a box-office success, and was widely praised by critics.[5]:158–165 Although not nominated for an Academy Award like her co-stars, Taylor's performance also garnered positive reviews, with Variety calling it "surprisingly clever",[27] and The Manchester Guardian lauded it as "an astonishing revelation of unsuspected gifts", and named her one of the film's strongest assets.[28]

MGM next re-united Taylor with Montgomery Clift in Raintree County (1957), a Civil War drama it hoped would replicate the success of Gone with the Wind (1939).[1]:166–177 Taylor found her role as a mentally disturbed Southern belle fascinating, but overall disliked the film.[1]:166–177 Although the film failed to become the type of success MGM had planned,[29] Taylor was nominated for the first time for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.[30]

Cat roof
Promotional poster for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

Taylor considered her next performance as Maggie the Cat in the screen adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) a career "high point", although it coincided with one of the most difficult periods in her personal life.[13] After completing Raintree Country, she had divorced Wilding and married producer Mike Todd. She had completed only two weeks of filming in March 1958, when Todd was killed in a plane crash.[1]:186–194 Although she was devastated, pressure from the studio and the knowledge that Todd had large debts led Taylor to return to work only three weeks later.[1]:195–203 She later stated that she "in a way ... became Maggie", and that acting "was the only time I could function" in the weeks after Todd's death.[13]

During the production, Taylor's personal life drew further public attention when she began an affair with singer Eddie Fisher, whose marriage to actress Debbie Reynolds had been idealized by the media as the union of "America's sweethearts".[1]:203–210 The affair – and Fisher's subsequent divorce – changed Taylor's public image from a grieving widow to a "homewrecker". MGM used the scandal to its advantage by featuring an image of Taylor posing on a bed in a négligée in the film's promotional posters.[1]:203–210 Cat grossed $10 million in American cinemas alone, and made Taylor the year's second-most profitable star.[1]:203–210 She received positive reviews for her performance, with Bosley Crowther of The New York Times calling her "terrific",[31] and Variety praising her for "a well-accented, perceptive interpretation".[32] Taylor was nominated for an Academy Award[30] and a BAFTA.[33]

Butterfield8 movieposter
Promotional poster for BUtterfield 8, for which Taylor won her first Academy Award

Taylor's next film, Joseph L. Mankiewicz' Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), was another Tennessee Williams adaptation, and co-starred Montgomery Clift and Katharine Hepburn. The independent production earned Taylor $500,000 for playing the role of a severely traumatized patient in a mental institution.[1]:203–210 Although the film was a drama about mental illness, childhood traumas, and homosexuality, it was again promoted with Taylor's sex appeal; both its trailer and poster featured her in a white swimsuit. The strategy worked, as the film became a financial success.[34] Taylor received her third Academy Award nomination[30] and her first Golden Globe for Best Actress for her performance.[1]:203–210

By 1959, Taylor owed one more film for MGM, which it decided should be BUtterfield 8 (1960), a drama about a high-class prostitute.[1]:211–223 The studio correctly calculated that Taylor's public image would make it easy for audiences to associate her with the role.[1]:211–223 She hated the film for the same reason, but had no choice in the matter, although the studio agreed to her demands of filming in New York and casting Eddie Fisher in a sympathetic role.[1]:211–223 As predicted, BUtterfield 8 was a major commercial success, grossing $18 million in world rentals.[1]:224–236 Crowther wrote that Taylor "looks like a million dollars, in mink or in negligée",[35] while Variety stated that she gives "a torrid, stinging portrayal with one or two brilliantly executed passages within".[36] Taylor won her first Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.[1]:224–236

Cleopatra and other films with Richard Burton (1961–1967)

Taylor and Burton Cleopatra
Richard Burton as Mark Antony with Taylor as Cleopatra in Cleopatra (1963)

After completing her MGM contract, Taylor starred in 20th Century-Fox's Cleopatra (1963) – a historical epic which, according to film historian Alexander Doty, made her more famous than ever before.[37] She became the first actress to be paid $1 million for a role; Fox also granted her 10% of the film's profits, as well as shooting the film in Todd-AO, a widescreen format for which she had inherited the rights from Mike Todd.[5]:10–11[1]:211–223 The film's production – characterized by costly sets and costumes, constant delays, and a scandal caused by Taylor's extramarital affair with her co-star Richard Burton – was closely followed by the media, with Life proclaiming it the "Most Talked About Movie Ever Made".[5]:11–12,39,45–46, 56 Filming first began in England in 1960, but had to be halted several times due to bad weather and Taylor's ill health.[5]:12–13 In March 1961, she developed nearly fatal pneumonia, which necessitated a tracheotomy; one news agency even erroneously reported that she had died.[5]:12–13 Once she had recovered, Fox discarded the already filmed material, and moved the production to Rome, changing its director to Joseph Mankiewicz, and the actor playing Mark Antony to Burton.[5]:12–18 Filming was finally completed in July 1962.[5]:39 The film's final cost was $62 million, making it the most expensive film made up to that point.[5]:46

Cleopatra became the biggest box-office success of 1963 in the United States; the film grossed $15.7 million at the box office.[5]:56–57 Regardless, it took several years for the film to earn back its production costs, which drove Fox near to bankruptcy. The studio publicly blamed Taylor for the production's troubles and unsuccessfully sued Burton and Taylor for allegedly damaging the film with their behavior.[5]:46 The film's reviews were mixed to negative, with critics finding Taylor overweight and her voice too thin, and unfavorably comparing her with her classically trained British co-stars.[5]:56–58[1]:265–267[38] In retrospect, Taylor called Cleopatra a "low point" in her career, and stated that the studio cut out the scenes which provided the "core of the characterization".[13]

Taylor and Burton in The Sandpiper (1965)

Taylor intended on following Cleopatra by headlining an all-star cast in Fox's black comedy What a Way to Go! (1964), but negotiations fell through, and Shirley MacLaine was cast, instead. In the meantime, film producers were eager to profit from the scandal surrounding Taylor and Burton, and they next starred together in Anthony Asquith's The V.I.P.s (1963), which mirrored the headlines about them.[5]:42–45[1]:252–255,260–266 Taylor played a famous model attempting to leave her husband for a lover, and Burton her estranged millionaire husband. Released soon after Cleopatra, it became a box-office success.[1]:264 Taylor was also paid $500,000 to appear in a CBS television special, Elizabeth Taylor in London, in which she visited the city's landmarks and recited passages from the works of famous British writers.[5]:74–75

After completing The V.I.P.s, Taylor took a two-year hiatus from films, during which Burton and she divorced their spouses and married each other.[5]:112 The supercouple continued starring together in films in the mid-1960s, earning a combined $88 million over the next decade; Burton once stated, "They say we generate more business activity than one of the smaller African nations."[5]:193[39] Alexander Walker compared these films to "illustrated gossip columns", as their film roles often reflected their public personae, while Doty has noted that the majority of Taylor's films during this period seemed to "conform to, and reinforce, the image of an indulgent, raucous, immoral or amoral, and appetitive (in many senses of the word) 'Elizabeth Taylor'".[1]:294[40] Taylor and Burton's first joint project following her hiatus was Vincente Minelli's romantic drama The Sandpiper (1965), about an illicit love affair between a bohemian artist and a married clergyman in Big Sur, California. Its reviews were largely negative, but it grossed a successful $14 million in the box office.[5]:116–118

Their next project, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), featured the most critically acclaimed performance of Taylor's career.[5]:142,151–152[1]:286 She and Burton starred as Martha and George, a middle-aged couple going through a marital crisis. In order to convincingly play 50-year-old Martha, Taylor gained weight, wore a wig, and used make-up to make herself look old and tired – in stark contrast to her public image as a glamorous film star.[5]:136–137[1]:281–282 At Taylor's suggestion, theater director Mike Nichols was hired to direct the project, despite his lack of experience with film.[5]:139–140 The production differed from anything she had done previously, as Nichols wanted to thoroughly rehearse the play before beginning filming.[5]:141 Woolf was considered ground-breaking for its adult themes and uncensored language, and opened to "glorious" reviews.[5]:140,151 Variety wrote that Taylor's "characterization is at once sensual, spiteful, cynical, pitiable, loathsome, lustful, and tender",[41] and Stanley Kauffmann of The New York Times stated that she "does the best work of her career, sustained and urgent".[42] The film also became one of the biggest commercial successes of the year.[5]:151–152[1]:286 Taylor received her second Academy Award, a BAFTA, a National Board of Review, and a New York City Film Critics Circle awards for her performance.

In 1966, Taylor and Burton also performed Doctor Faustus for a week in Oxford to benefit the Oxford University Dramatic Society; he starred and she appeared in her first stage role as Helen of Troy, a part which required no speaking.[5]:186–189 Although it received generally negative reviews, Burton produced it into a film, Doctor Faustus (1967), with the same cast.[5]:186–189 It was also panned by critics and grossed only $600,000 in the box office.[5]:230–232 Taylor and Burton's next project, Franco Zeffirelli's The Taming of the Shrew (1967), which they also co-produced, was more successful.[5]:164 It posed another challenge for Taylor, as she was the only actor in the project with no previous experience of performing Shakespeare; Zeffirelli later stated that this made her performance interesting, as she "invented the part from scratch".[5]:168 Critics found the play to be fitting material for the couple, and the film became a box-office success by grossing $12 million.[5]:181, 186

Taylor's third film released in 1967, John Huston's Reflections in a Golden Eye, was her first without Burton since Cleopatra. It was a drama about a repressed homosexual and his unfaithful wife, and was originally slated to co-star Taylor's old friend Montgomery Clift. His career had been in decline for several years due to his substance-abuse problems, but Taylor was determined to secure his involvement in the project, even offering to pay for his insurance.[5]:157–161 However, Clift died from a heart attack before filming began; he was replaced by Marlon Brando.[5]:175,189 Reflections was a critical and commercial failure at the time of its release.[5]:233–234 Taylor and Burton's last film of the year was the Graham Greene adaptation The Comedians, which received mixed reviews and was a box-office disappointment.[5]:228–232

Career decline (1968–1979)

Elizabeth Taylor 1971
Taylor in 1971

Taylor's career was in decline by the late 1960s. She had gained weight, was nearing middle age, and did not fit in with New Hollywood stars such as Jane Fonda and Julie Christie.[5]:135–136[1]:294–296,307–308 After several years of nearly constant media attention, the public was also tiring of Burton and her, and criticized their jet set lifestyle.[5]:142, 151–152[1]:294–296,305–306 In 1968, Taylor starred in two films directed by Joseph LoseyBoom!, and Secret Ceremony – both of which were critical and commercial failures.[5]:238–246 The former, based on Tennessee Williams' The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, features her as an aging, serial-marrying millionaire, and Burton as a younger man who turns up on the Mediterranean island on which she has retired.[5]:211–217 Secret Ceremony is a psychological drama which also stars Mia Farrow and Robert Mitchum.[5]:242–243, 246 Taylor's third film with George Stevens, The Only Game in Town (1970), in which she played a Las Vegas showgirl who has an affair with a compulsive gambler, played by Warren Beatty, was unsuccessful.[5]:287[43]

The three films in which Taylor acted in 1972 were somewhat more successful. Zee and Co., which portrayed Michael Caine and her as a troubled married couple, won her the David di Donatello for Best Foreign Actress. She then appeared with Burton in the Dylan Thomas adaptation Under Milk Wood; although her role was small, its producers decided to give her top-billing to profit from her fame.[5]:313–316 Her third film role that year was playing a blonde diner waitress in Peter Ustinov's Faust parody Hammersmith Is Out, her tenth collaboration with Burton. Although it was overall not successful,[5]:316 Taylor received some good reviews, with Vincent Canby of The New York Times writing that she has "a certain vulgar, ratty charm",[44] and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times stating, "The spectacle of Elizabeth Taylor growing older and more beautiful continues to amaze the population".[45] Her performance won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival.[43]

Burton Taylor Divorce His Hers 1973
In Divorce His, Divorce Hers (1973), Taylor's last film with Burton

Taylor and Burton's last film together was the Harlech Television film Divorce His, Divorce Hers (1973), fittingly named as they divorced the following year.[5]:357 Her other films released in 1973 were the British thriller Night Watch (1973) and the American drama Ash Wednesday (1973).[5]:341–349,357–358 For the latter, in which she starred as a woman who undergoes multiple plastic surgeries in an attempt to save her marriage, she received a Golden Globe nomination.[46] Her only film released in 1974, the Italian Muriel Spark adaptation The Driver's Seat (1974), was a failure.[5]:371–375

Taylor took fewer roles after the mid-1970s, and focused on supporting the career of her sixth husband, Republican politician John Warner. In 1976, she participated in the Soviet-American fantasy film The Blue Bird (1976), a critical and box-office failure, and had a small role in the television film Victory at Entebbe (1976), and in 1977, she sang in the critically panned film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music (1977).[5]:388–389,403

Stage and television roles; retirement (1980–2007)

Elizabeth Taylor 2
Taylor at an event honoring her career in 1981

After a period of semi-retirement from films, Taylor starred in The Mirror Crack'd (1980), adapted from an Agatha Christie mystery novel and featuring an ensemble cast of actors from the studio era, such as Angela Lansbury, Kim Novak, Rock Hudson, and Tony Curtis.[5]:435 Wanting to challenge herself, she then appeared in her first substantial stage role, playing Regina Giddens in a Broadway production of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes.[5]:411[1]:347–362 Instead of portraying Giddens in negative light as had often been the case in previous productions, Taylor's idea was to show her as a victim of circumstance, explaining, "She's a killer, but she's saying, 'Sorry fellas, you put me in this position'".[1]:349 The production premiered in May 1981, and had a sold-out six-month run despite mixed reviews.[5]:411[1]:347–362 Frank Rich of The New York Times wrote that Taylor's performance as "Regina Giddens, that malignant Southern bitch-goddess ... begins gingerly, soon gathers steam, and then explodes into a black and thunderous storm that may just knock you out of your seat",[47] while Dan Sullivan of the Los Angeles Times stated, "Taylor presents a possible Regina Giddens, as seen through the persona of Elizabeth Taylor. There's some acting in it, as well as some personal display."[48] She appeared as evil socialite Helena Cassadine in the day-time soap opera General Hospital in November 1981.[1]:347–362 The following spring, she continued performing The Little Foxes in London's West End, but received largely negative reviews from the British press.[1]:347–362

Encouraged by the success of The Little Foxes, Taylor and producer Zev Buffman founded the Elizabeth Taylor Repertory Company.[1]:347–362 Its first and only production was a revival of Noël Coward's comedy Private Lives, starring Taylor and Burton.[5]:413–425[1]:347–362[49] It premiered in Boston in spring 1983, and although commercially successful, received generally negative reviews, with critics noting that both stars were in noticeably poor health – Taylor admitted herself to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center after the play's run ended, and Burton died the following year.[5]:413–425[1]:347–362 After the failure of Private Lives, Taylor dissolved her theater company.[50] Her only other project that year was television film Between Friends.[51]

From the mid-1980s, Taylor acted mostly in television productions. She made cameos in the soap operas Hotel and All My Children in 1984, and played a brothel keeper in the historical mini-series North and South in 1985.[5]:363–373 She also starred in several television films, playing gossip columnist Louella Parsons in Malice in Wonderland (1985), a "fading movie star" in the drama There Must Be a Pony (1986),[52] and a character based on Poker Alice in the eponymous Western (1987).[1]:363–373 She re-united with director Franco Zeffirelli to appear in his French-Italian biopic Young Toscanini (1988), and had the last starring role of her career in a television adaptation of Sweet Bird of Youth (1989), her fourth Tennessee Williams play.[1]:363–373 During this time, she also began receiving honorary awards for her career – the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1985,[46] and the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Chaplin Award in 1986.[53]

In the 1990s, Taylor focused her time on HIV/AIDS activism. Her few acting roles included characters in the animated series Captain Planet and the Planeteers (1992) and The Simpsons (1992, 1993),[54] and cameos in four CBS series – The Nanny, Can't Hurry Love, Murphy Brown, and High Society – in one night in February 1996 to promote her new fragrance.[55] Her last theatrically released film was in the critically panned, but commercially very successful, The Flintstones (1994), in which she played Pearl Slaghoople in a brief supporting role.[5]:436 Taylor received American and British honors for her career: the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1993,[56] the Screen Actors Guild honorary award in 1997,[57] and a BAFTA Fellowship in 1999.[58] In 2000, she was made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II.[59] After supporting roles in the television film These Old Broads (2001) and in the animated sitcom God, the Devil and Bob (2001), Taylor announced that she was retiring from acting to devote her time to philanthropy.[5]:436[60] She gave one last public performance in 2007 when, with James Earl Jones, she performed the play Love Letters at an AIDS benefit at the Paramount Studios.[5]:436

Other ventures

HIV/AIDS activism

Taylor was one of the first celebrities to participate in HIV/AIDS activism, helping to raise more than $270 million for the cause.[61] She began her philanthropic work in 1984, after becoming frustrated with the disease being widely discussed, but very little being done about it.[62] She later explained for Vanity Fair that she "decided that with my name, I could open certain doors, that I was a commodity in myself – and I'm not talking as an actress. I could take the fame I'd resented and tried to get away from for so many years – but you can never get away from it – and use it to do some good. I wanted to retire, but the tabloids wouldn't let me. So, I thought: If you're going to screw me over, I'll use you."[63]

Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Taylor Testifying Before the House Budget Committee on HIV-AIDS Funding (5978837887) (cropped)
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi alongside Taylor, who is testifying in 1990 before the House Budget Committee on HIV-AIDS Funding

Taylor began her philanthropic efforts by helping to organize and by hosting the first AIDS fund-raiser to benefit the AIDS Project Los Angeles.[63][64] In August 1985, with Dr. Michael Gottlieb, she founded the National AIDS Research Foundation after her friend and former co-star Rock Hudson announced that he was dying of the disease.[63][64] The following month, the foundation merged with Dr. Mathilde Krim's AIDS foundation to form the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR).[65][66] As amfAR focuses on funding research, Taylor founded the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF) in 1991 to raise awareness and to provide support services for people with HIV/AIDS, paying for its overhead costs herself.[63][64][67] Her trust continues to do so, and 25% of her image and likeness royalties are donated to ETAF.[67] In addition to her work for people affected by HIV/AIDS in the United States, Taylor was instrumental in expanding amfAR's operations to other countries; ETAF also operates internationally.[63]

Taylor testified before the Senate and House for the Ryan White Care Act in 1986, 1990, and 1992.[66][68] She persuaded President Ronald Reagan to acknowledge the disease for the first time in a speech in 1987, and publicly criticized presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton for lack of interest in combatting the disease.[63][64] Taylor also founded the Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center to offer free HIV/AIDS testing and care at the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, D. C., and the Elizabeth Taylor Endowment Fund for the UCLA Clinical AIDS Research and Education Center in Los Angeles.[66] In 2015, Taylor's business partner Kathy Ireland claimed that Taylor ran an illegal "underground network" that distributed medications to Americans suffering from HIV/AIDS during the 1980s, when the Food and Drug Administration had not yet approved them.[69] The claim was challenged by several people, including amfAR's former vice president for development and external affairs, Taylor's former publicist, and activists who were involved in the Project Inform in the 1980s and 1990s.[70]

Taylor was honored with several awards for her philanthropic work. She was made a Knight of the French Legion of Honour in 1987, and received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1993, the Screen Actors' Guild Lifetime Achievement Award for Humanitarian service in 1997, the GLAAD Vanguard Award in 2000, and the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001.[66]

Elizabeth Taylor at Neiman Marcus store, Dallas
Taylor promoting her first fragrance, Passion, in 1987

Fragrance and jewelry brands

Taylor was the first celebrity to create her own collection of fragrances.[71][72] In collaboration with Elizabeth Arden, Inc., she began by launching two best-selling perfumes – Passion in 1987, and White Diamonds in 1991.[71] Taylor personally supervised the creation and production of each of the 11 fragrances marketed in her name.[71] According to biographers Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger, she earned more money through the fragrance collection than during her entire acting career,[5]:436 and upon her death, the British newspaper The Guardian estimated that the majority of her estimated $600 million-$1 billion estate consisted of revenue from fragrances.[71] In 2005, Taylor also founded a jewelry company, House of Taylor, in collaboration with Kathy Ireland and Jack and Monty Abramov.[73]

Personal life

Marriages, relationships, and children

Conf55-11 nov-55
Taylor's relationships were subject to intense media attention throughout her adult life, as exemplified by a 1955 issue of gossip magazine Confidential.

Throughout her adult years, Taylor's personal life, and especially her eight marriages, drew a large amount of media attention and public disapproval. According to biographer Alexander Walker, "Whether she liked it or not ... marriage is the matrix of the myth that began surrounding Elizabeth Taylor from [when she was sixteen]".[1]:126 MGM organized her to date football champion Glenn Davis in 1948, and the following year, she was briefly engaged to William Pawley, Jr., son of U.S. ambassador William D. Pawley.[1]:75–88 Film tycoon Howard Hughes also wanted to marry her, and offered to pay her parents a six-figure sum of money if she were to become his wife.[1]:81–82 Taylor declined the offer, but was otherwise eager to marry young, as her "rather puritanical upbringing and beliefs" made her believe that "love was synonymous with marriage".[13] Taylor later described herself as being "emotionally immature" during this time due to her sheltered childhood, and believed that she could gain independence from her parents and MGM through marriage.[13]

Taylor was 18 when she married Conrad "Nicky" Hilton, Jr., heir to the Hilton Hotels chain, at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills on May 6, 1950.[1]:106–112 MGM organized the large and expensive wedding, which became a major media event.[1]:106–112 In the weeks after their wedding, Taylor realized that she had made a mistake; not only did she and Hilton have few interests in common, but he was also abusive and a heavy drinker.[1]:113–119 She was granted a divorce in January 1951, eight months after their wedding.[1]:120–125

Taylor married her second husband, British actor Michael Wilding – a man 20 years her senior – in a low-key ceremony at Caxton Hall in London on February 21, 1952.[1]:{{{1}}} She had first met him in 1948 while filming The Conspirator in England, and their relationship began when she returned to film Ivanhoe in 1951.[1]:131–133 Taylor found their age gap appealing, as she wanted "the calm and quiet and security of friendship" from their relationship;[13] he hoped that the marriage would aid his career in Hollywood.[1]:136 They had two sons: Michael Howard (b. 1953), and Christopher Edward (b. 1955).[1]:148,160 As Taylor grew older and more confident in herself, she began to drift apart from Wilding, whose failing career was also a source of marital strife.[1]:160–165 When she was away filming Giant in 1955, gossip magazine Confidential caused a scandal by claiming that he had entertained strippers at their home.[1]:164–165 Taylor and Wilding announced their separation in the summer of 1956,[74] and were divorced in 1957.[75]

Liz Taylor, Liza Todd and family by Toni Frissell, 1957
Taylor with her third husband Mike Todd and her three children in 1957

Taylor married her third husband, theater and film producer Mike Todd, in Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico, on February 2, 1957.[1]:178–180 They had one daughter, Elizabeth "Liza" Frances (b. 1957).[1]:186 Todd, known for publicity stunts, encouraged the media attention to their marriage; for example, in June 1957, he threw a birthday party at Madison Square Garden, which was attended by 18,000 guests and broadcast on CBS.[5]:5–6[1]:188 His death in a plane crash on March 22, 1958, left Taylor devastated.[5]:5–6[1]:193–202 She was comforted by Todd's and her friend, singer Eddie Fisher, with whom she soon began an affair.[5]:7–9[1]:201–210 As Fisher was still married to actress Debbie Reynolds, the affair resulted in a public scandal, with Taylor being branded a "homewrecker".[5]:7–9[1]:201–210 Taylor and Fisher were married at the Temple Beth Sholom in Las Vegas on May 12, 1959; she later stated that she married him only due to her grief.[5]:7–9[1]:201–210[13]

While filming Cleopatra in Italy in 1962, Taylor began an affair with her co-star, Welsh actor Richard Burton, although Burton was also married. Rumors about the affair began to circulate in the press, and were confirmed by a paparazzi shot of them on a yacht in Ischia.[5]:27–34 According to sociologist Ellis Cashmore, the publication of the photograph was a "turning point", beginning a new era in which it became difficult for celebrities to keep their personal lives separate from their public images.[76] The scandal caused Taylor and Burton to be condemned for "erotic vagrancy" by the Vatican, with calls also in the U.S. Congress to bar them from re-entering the country.[5]:36 Taylor was granted a divorce from Fisher on March 6, 1964, in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico, and married Burton nine days later in a private ceremony at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal.[5]:99–100 Burton subsequently adopted Liza Todd and Maria Burton (born August 1, 1961), a German orphan whose adoption process Taylor had begun while married to Fisher.[77][78]

Lucille Ball Elizabeth Taylor Richard Burton Heres Lucy 1974
Richard Burton, Lucille Ball, and Taylor in the sitcom Here's Lucy, 1970

Dubbed "Liz and Dick" by the media, Taylor and Burton starred together in 11 films, and led a jet-set lifestyle, spending millions on "furs, diamonds, paintings, designer clothes, travel, food, liquor, a yacht, and a jet".[5]:193 Sociologist Karen Sternheimer states that they "became a cottage industry of speculation about their alleged life of excess. From reports of massive spending [...] affairs, and even an open marriage, the couple came to represent a new era of 'gotcha' celebrity coverage, where the more personal the story, the better."[79] They divorced for the first time in June 1974, but reconciled, and remarried in Kasane, Botswana, on October 10, 1975.[5]:376,391–394 The second marriage lasted less than a year, ending in divorce in July 1976.[5]:384–385,406 Taylor and Burton's relationship was often referred to as the "marriage of the century" by the media, and she later stated, "After Richard, the men in my life were just there to hold the coat, to open the door. All the men after Richard were really just company."[5]:vii,437 Soon after her final divorce from Burton, Taylor met her sixth husband, John Warner, a Republican politician from Virginia.[5]:402–405 They were married on December 4, 1976, after which Taylor concentrated on working for his electoral campaign.[5]:402–405 Once Warner had been elected to the Senate, she started to find her life as a politician's wife in Washington, D. C., boring and lonely, becoming depressed, overweight, and increasingly addicted to prescription drugs and alcohol.[5]:402–405 Taylor and Warner separated in December 1981, and divorced a year later in November 1982.[5]:410–411

After the divorce from Warner, Taylor dated actor Anthony Geary, and was engaged to Mexican lawyer Victor Luna in 1983–1984,[5]:422–434 and New York businessman Dennis Stein in 1985.[80] She met her seventh – and last – husband, construction worker Larry Fortensky, at the Betty Ford Center in 1988.[5]:437[1]:465–466 They were married at the Neverland Ranch of her long-time friend Michael Jackson on October 6, 1991.[61] The wedding was again subject to intense media attention, with one photographer parachuting to the ranch[61] and Taylor selling the wedding pictures to People for $1 million, which she used to start her AIDS foundation.[66] Taylor and Fortensky divorced in October 1996.[5]:437

Support for Jewish and Israeli causes

Taylor was raised as a Christian Scientist, and converted to Judaism in 1959.[5]:173–174[1]:206–210 Although two of her husbands – Mike Todd and Eddie Fisher – were Jewish, Taylor stated that she did not convert because of them, but had wanted to do so "for a long time",[81] and that there was "comfort and dignity and hope for me in this ancient religion that [has] survived for four thousand years... I feel as if I have been a Jew all my life".[82] Walker believed that Taylor was influenced in her decision by her godfather, Victor Cazalet, and her mother, who were active supporters of Zionism during her childhood.[1]:14

Following her conversion, Taylor became an active supporter of Jewish and Zionist causes.[83][84] In 1959, she purchased $100,000 worth of Israeli bonds, which led to her films being banned by Muslim countries throughout the Middle East and Africa.[85][84] She was also barred from entering Egypt to film Cleopatra in 1962, but the ban was lifted two years later after the Egyptian officials deemed that the film brought positive publicity for the country.[83] In addition to purchasing bonds, Taylor helped to raise money for organizations such as the Jewish National Fund,[83] and sat on the board of trustees of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.[86]

She also advocated for the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel, cancelled a visit to the USSR because of its condemnation of Israel due to the Six-Day War, and signed a letter protesting the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 of 1975.[83] In 1976, she offered herself as a replacement hostage after more than 100 Israeli civilians were taken hostage in the Entebbe skyjacking.[83] She had a small role in the television film made about the incident, Victory at Entebbe (1976), and narrated Genocide (1981), an Academy Award-winning documentary about the Holocaust.[86]

Style and jewelry collection

Elizabeth Taylor 1
Taylor in a studio publicity photo in 1953

Taylor is considered a fashion icon both for her film costumes and personal style.[87][88][89] At MGM, her costumes were mostly designed by Helen Rose and Edith Head,[90] and in the 1960s by Irene Sharaff.[88][91] Her most famous costumes include a white ball gown in A Place in the Sun (1951), a Grecian dress in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), and a slip and a fur coat in BUtterfield 8 (1960).[87][88][89] Her make-up look in Cleopatra (1963) started a trend for "cat-eye" make-up done with black eyeliner.[5]:135–136

Taylor collected jewelry through her life, and owned the 33.19-carat (6.638 g) Krupp Diamond, the 69.42-carat (13.884 g) Taylor-Burton Diamond, and the 50-carat (10 g) La Peregrina Pearl, formerly owned by Mary I of England – all three were gifts from husband Richard Burton.[5]:237–238,258–259,275–276 She also published a book about her collection, My Love Affair with Jewelry, in 2002.[88][92] Taylor helped to popularize the work of fashion designers Valentino Garavani[90][93] and Halston.[88][94] She received a Lifetime of Glamour Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) in 1997.[95] After her death, her jewelry and fashion collections were auctioned by Christie's to benefit her AIDS foundation, ETAF. The jewelry sold for a record-breaking sum of $156.8 million,[96] and the clothes and accessories for a further $5.5 million.[97]

Health problems and death

Elizabeth Taylor Walk of Fame
Taylor's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the days following her death in 2011

Taylor struggled with health problems for most of her life.[61] She was born with scoliosis[98] and broke her back while filming National Velvet in 1944.[1]:40–47 The fracture went undetected for several years, although it caused her chronic back problems.[1]:40–47 In 1956, she underwent an operation in which some of her spinal discs were removed and replaced with donated bone.[1]:175 Taylor was also prone to other illnesses and injuries, which often necessitated surgery; in 1961, she survived a near-fatal bout of pneumonia that required a tracheotomy.[5]:12–14,129,142,160,244–245,253–254,295–296

In addition, she was addicted to alcohol and prescription pain killers and tranquilizers. She was treated at the Betty Ford Center for seven weeks from December 1983 to January 1984, becoming the first celebrity to openly admit herself to the clinic.[5]:424–425 She relapsed later in the decade, and entered rehabilitation again in 1988.[1]:366–368 Taylor also struggled with her weight – she became overweight in the 1970s, especially after her marriage to Senator John Warner, and published a diet book about her experiences, Elizabeth Takes Off (1988).[99][100] Taylor was a heavy smoker until she experienced a severe bout of pneumonia in 1990.[101]

Taylor's health increasingly declined during the last two decades of her life, and she rarely attended public events after about 1996.[98] Taylor had serious bouts of pneumonia in 1990 and 2000,[64] underwent hip replacement surgery in the mid-1990s,[61] underwent surgery for a benign brain tumor in 1997,[61] and was successfully treated for skin cancer in 2002.[98] She used a wheelchair due to her back problems, and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 2004.[102][103] Six weeks after being hospitalized, she died of the illness at age 79 on March 23, 2011, at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.[104] Her funeral took place the following day at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. The service was a private Jewish ceremony presided over by Rabbi Jerome Cutler. At Taylor's request, the ceremony began 15 minutes behind schedule, as, according to her representative, "she even wanted to be late for her own funeral".[105] She was entombed in the cemetery's Great Mausoleum.[106]


Taylor was one of the last stars of classical Hollywood cinema,[108][109] and also one of the first modern celebrities.[110][111][112][113][114] During the era of the studio system, she exemplified the classic film star. She was portrayed as different from "ordinary" people, and her public image was carefully crafted and controlled by MGM.[115] When the era of classical Hollywood ended in the 1960s, and paparazzi photography became a normal feature of media culture, Taylor came to define a new type of celebrity, whose real private life was the focus of public interest.[116][110][117] According to Adam Bernstein of The Washington Post, "[m]ore than for any film role, she became famous for being famous, setting a media template for later generations of entertainers, models, and all variety of semi-somebodies."[118]

Regardless of the acting awards she won during her career, Taylor's film performances were often overlooked by contemporary critics;[10][119] according to film historian Jeanine Basinger, "No actress ever had a more difficult job in getting critics to accept her onscreen as someone other than Elizabeth Taylor... Her persona ate her alive."[118] Her film roles often mirrored her personal life, and many critics continue to regard her as always playing herself, rather than acting.[110][118][120] In contrast, Mel Gussow of The New York Times stated that "the range of [Taylor's] acting was surprisingly wide", despite the fact that she never received any professional training.[10] Film critic Peter Bradshaw called her "an actress of such sexiness it was an incitement to riot – sultry and queenly at the same time", and "a shrewd, intelligent, intuitive acting presence in her later years".[121] David Thomson stated that "she had the range, nerve, and instinct that only Bette Davis had had before – and like Davis, Taylor was monster and empress, sweetheart and scold, idiot and wise woman".[122] Three films in which she starred – National Velvet, Giant, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – have been preserved in the National Film Registry, and the American Film Institute has named her the seventh greatest female screen legend of classical Hollywood cinema.

Taylor has also been discussed by journalists and scholars interested in the role of women in Western society. Camille Paglia writes that Taylor was a "pre-feminist woman" who "wields the sexual power that feminism cannot explain and has tried to destroy. Through stars like Taylor, we sense the world-disordering impact of legendary women like Delilah, Salome, and Helen of Troy."[123] In contrast, cultural critic M.G. Lord calls Taylor an "accidental feminist", stating that while she did not identify as a feminist, many of her films had feminist themes and "introduced a broad audience to feminist ideas".[124][b] Similarly, Ben W. Heineman, Jr., and Cristine Russell write in The Atlantic that her role in Giant "dismantled stereotypes about women and minorities".[125]

Taylor is considered a gay icon, and received widespread recognition for her HIV/AIDS activism.[118][126][127][128] After her death, GLAAD issued a statement saying that she "was an icon not only in Hollywood, but in the LGBT community, where she worked to ensure that everyone was treated with the respect and dignity we all deserve",[126] and Sir Nick Partridge of the Terrence Higgins Trust called her "the first major star to publicly fight fear and prejudice towards AIDS".[129] According to Paul Flynn of The Guardian, she was "a new type of gay icon, one whose position is based not on tragedy, but on her work for the LGBTQ community".[130] Speaking of her charity work, former President Bill Clinton said at her death, "Elizabeth's legacy will live on in many people around the world whose lives will be longer and better because of her work and the ongoing efforts of those she inspired."[131]


  1. ^ In October 1965, as her then-husband Richard Burton was British, she signed an oath of renunciation at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, but with the phrase "abjure all allegiance and fidelity to the United States" struck out. U.S. State Department officials declared that her renunciation was invalid due to the alteration, and Taylor signed another oath, this time without alteration, in October 1966.[2] She applied for restoration of U.S. citizenship in 1977, during then-husband John Warner's Senate campaign, stating she planned to remain in America for the rest of her life.[3][4]
  2. ^ For example, National Velvet (1944) was about a girl attempting to compete in the Grand National despite gender discrimination; A Place in the Sun (1951) is "a cautionary tale from a time before women had ready access to birth control"; her character in BUtterfield 8 (1960) is shown in control of her sexuality; Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) "depicts the anguish that befalls a woman when the only way she can express herself is through her husband's stalled career and children".[124]


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  • Capua, Michelangelo (2002). Montgomery Clift: A Biography. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-1432-1.
  • Cashmore, Ellis (2006). Celebrity/Culture. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-37310-4.
  • Clark, Beverly Lyon (2014). The Afterlife of "Little Women". Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-1-4214-1558-1.
  • Curtis, James (2011). Spencer Tracy: A Biography. Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-178524-3.
  • Doty, Alexander (2012). "Elizabeth Taylor: The Biggest Star in the World". In Wojcik, Pamela Robertson. New Constellations: Movie Stars of the 1960s. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0-8135-5171-5.
  • Daniel, Douglass K. (2011). Tough as Nails: The Life and Films of Richard Brooks. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0-299-25123-9.
  • Dye, David (1988). Child and Youth Actors: Filmography of Their Entire Careers, 1914-1985. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., pp. 226–227.
  • Gehring, Wes D. (2006) [2003]. Irene Dunne: First Lady of Hollywood. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-5864-0.
  • Hernán, Vera; Gordon, Andrew M. (2003). Screen Saviors: Hollywood Fictions of Whiteness. Rowman and Littlefield. ISBN 0-8476-9947-1.
  • Heymann, David C. (1995). Liz: An Intimate Biography of Elizabeth Taylor. Birch Lane Press. ISBN 1-55972-267-3.
  • Kashner, Sam; Schoenberger, Nancy (2010). Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century. JR Books. ISBN 978-1-907532-22-1.
  • Kelley, Kitty (1981). Elizabeth Taylor: The Last Star. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4516-5676-3.
  • Lower, Cheryl Bray; Palmer, R. Barton (2001). Joseph L. Mankiewicz: Critical Essays with an Annotated Bibliography and a Filmography. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-0987-7.
  • Moss, Marilyn Ann (2004). Giant: George Stevens, a Life on Film. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-20430-8.
  • Rojek, Chris (2012). Fame Attack: The Inflation of Celebrity and its Consequences. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 978-1-84966-071-6.
  • Sternheimer, Karen (2015). Celebrity Culture and the American Dream (Second Edition). Taylor and Francis. ISBN 978-1-138-02395-6.
  • Stubbs, Jonathan (2013). Historical Film: A Critical Introduction. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 978-1-84788-498-5.
  • Troyan, Michael (1999). A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson. The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-9150-8.
  • Walker, Alexander (1990). Elizabeth: The Life of Elizabeth Taylor. Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-3769-5.

External links

A Date with Judy (film)

A Date with Judy is a 1948 MGM musical film starring Wallace Beery, Jane Powell, and Elizabeth Taylor. Directed by Richard Thorpe, the movie was based on the radio series of the same name.

The film was photographed in Technicolor and largely served to showcase the former child star Elizabeth Taylor, age 16 at the time. Taylor was given the full MGM glamor treatment, including specially designed gowns.

Robert Stack appears in a prominent supporting part. Many others in the MGM stock company appear in their customary roles, including Leon Ames as a dignified father figure, the same role he played in the Judy Garland film Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) and top-billed Wallace Beery in his penultimate role as a contrasting "rough and ready" father figure.

The film features the soprano singing voice of young Jane Powell, and is also a showcase for the musical performances of the Latin American singer Carmen Miranda and bandleader Xavier Cugat. In this film, she is given to humorous malapropisms such as "His bite is worse than his bark" and "Now I'm cooking with grass". The songs "Judaline" and "It's a Most Unusual Day" also debuted in this film.

Betty Taylor (athlete)

Elizabeth Garner "Betty" Taylor (later Campbell, February 22, 1916 – February 2, 1977) was a Canadian athlete who competed in the 1932 Summer Olympics and in the 1936 Summer Olympics.

She was born in Ingersoll, Ontario.

In 1932 she was eliminated in the first round of the Olympic 80 metre hurdles event.

Four years later she won the bronze medal in the 80 metre hurdles competition.

She won the silver medal in the 80 metre hurdles contest at the 1934 Empire Games and as well at the 1934 Women's World Games.

Cleopatra (1963 film)

Cleopatra is a 1963 American epic historical drama film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, with a screenplay adapted by Mankiewicz, Ranald MacDougall and Sidney Buchman from the book The Life and Times of Cleopatra by Carlo Maria Franzero, and from histories by Plutarch, Suetonius, and Appian. It stars Elizabeth Taylor in the eponymous role. Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Roddy McDowall, and Martin Landau are featured in supporting roles. It chronicles the struggles of Cleopatra, the young Queen of Egypt, to resist the imperial ambitions of Rome.

The film achieved notoriety during its production for its massive cost overruns and production troubles, which included changes in director and cast, a change of filming locale, sets that had to be constructed twice, lack of a firm shooting script, and personal scandal around co-stars Taylor and Burton. It was the most expensive film ever made up to that point and almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox.

Cleopatra was the highest-grossing film of 1963, earning box-office of $57.7 million in the United States and Canada (equivalent to $472 million in 2018), yet lost money due to its production and marketing costs of $44 million (equivalent to $360 million in 2018), making it the only film ever to be the highest-grossing film of the year to run at a loss. It received nine nominations at the 36th Academy Awards including for Best Picture and won the following four : Best Production Design (Color), Best Cinematography (Color), Best Visual Effects and Best Costume Design (Color).

Doctor Faustus (1967 film)

Doctor Faustus is a 1967 film adaptation of the 1588 Christopher Marlowe play The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus directed by Richard Burton and Nevill Coghill. The first theatrical film version of a Marlowe play, it was the only film directed by Burton or Coghill, Burton's mentor. It starred Burton as the title character Faustus. Elizabeth Taylor made a silent cameo appearance as Helen of Troy. The film is a permanent record of a stage production that Burton starred in and staged with Coghill at the Oxford University Dramatic Society in 1966. Burton wouldn't appear onstage again until he took over the role of Martin Dysart in Equus on Broadway ten years later.

Eddie Fisher (singer)

Edwin John "Eddie" Fisher (August 10, 1928 – September 22, 2010) was an American singer and actor. He was one of the most popular artists during the first half of the 1950s, selling millions of records and hosting his own TV show. Fisher divorced his first wife, actress Debbie Reynolds, to marry Reynolds' best friend, actress Elizabeth Taylor, after Taylor's husband, film producer Mike Todd, was killed in a plane crash. The scandalous affair was widely reported, bringing unfavorable publicity to Fisher. He later married Connie Stevens. Fisher fathered Carrie Fisher and Todd Fisher with Reynolds, and Joely Fisher and Tricia Leigh Fisher with Stevens.

Elizabeth Taylor (novelist)

Elizabeth Taylor (née Coles; 3 July 1912 – 19 November 1975) was an English novelist and short-story writer. Kingsley Amis described her as "one of the best English novelists born in this century". Antonia Fraser called her "one of the most underrated writers of the 20th century", while Hilary Mantel said she was "deft, accomplished and somewhat underrated".

John N. and Elizabeth Taylor House

The John N. and Elizabeth Taylor House (more commonly just Taylor House) is a historic home in Columbia, Missouri which has been restored and once operated as a bed and breakfast. The house was constructed in 1909 and is a 2 1/2-story, Colonial Revival style frame dwelling. It features a wide front porch and side porte cochere. The home was featured on HGTV special called "If walls could talk."It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. In 2010 the house became a contributing property of the newly formed West Broadway Historic District.

John Warner

John William Warner KBE (born February 18, 1927) is an American attorney and former politician who served as the United States Secretary of the Navy from 1972 to 1974 and a five-term Republican U.S. Senator from Virginia from 1979 to 2009. He currently works for the law firm of Hogan Lovells, where he had previously worked before joining the United States Department of Defense as the Under Secretary of the Navy during the presidency of Richard Nixon in 1969.

Warner was the sixth husband of actress Elizabeth Taylor, whom he married before being elected to the Senate. He is a veteran of the Second World War and Korean War, and was one of five World War II veterans serving in the Senate at the time of his retirement. He did not seek reelection in 2008.

Kathy Ireland

Kathleen Marie Ireland (born March 20, 1963) is an American model and actress, turned author and entrepreneur. Ireland was a supermodel in the 1980s and 1990s, best known for appearing in 13 consecutive Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues. In 1993, she founded a brand marketing company, kathy ireland Worldwide (kiWW), which has made her one of the wealthiest former models in the world. As a result of her career as a businesswoman, she had made a $420 million personal fortune by 2015. In 2012, $2 billion worth of products bearing her company's brand were sold.She has remained involved with various charities and non-profit organizations dedicated to education, emergency response and training for children, disease research and management, and HIV/AIDS.

Larry Fortensky

Larry Fortensky (January 17, 1952 – July 7, 2016) was a construction worker best known as the seventh and last husband (but eighth marriage) of actress Elizabeth Taylor.

Fortensky and Taylor were married on October 6, 1991 at Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch and divorced on October 31, 1996.

Mary Elizabeth Taylor

Mary Elizabeth Taylor is the former White House Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs of Nominations for President Donald Trump. In August 2018, the White House announced that she would be nominated to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs.In March 2017, she gained social media attention for her presence at the confirmation hearings of Judge Neil Gorsuch. Taylor worked on Judge Gorsuch's nomination team when he met with U.S. senators before the confirmation hearings. In December 2018, Gorsuch officiated at Taylor's formal swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Department of State.Taylor previously worked as an aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. She began her career in Capitol Hill as an intern for the United States Senate in July 2006. Taylor also worked in the Senate Republican cloakroom as a Senior Cloakroom Assistant.Taylor has a degree in political science from Bryn Mawr College and interned at Koch Industries while a college student.She is on the Forbes 30 under 30 list for 2018

Men in Her Life (painting)

Men in Her Life is a 1962 painting by Andy Warhol. It is a black and white painting inspired by the life of Elizabeth Taylor, a seven foot tall creation of the artist.

National Velvet (film)

National Velvet is a 1944 American Technicolor sports film directed by Clarence Brown and based on the novel of the same name by Enid Bagnold, published in 1935. It stars Mickey Rooney, Donald Crisp, and a young Elizabeth Taylor. In 2003, National Velvet was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Raintree County (film)

Raintree County is a 1957 American Technicolor melodramatic film set during the American Civil War, directed by Edward Dmytryk. It stars Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, Eva Marie Saint, and Lee Marvin. It was adapted from the novel of the same name by Ross Lockridge Jr.

Richard Burton

Richard Burton, CBE (; born Richard Walter Jenkins Jr.; 10 November 1925 – 5 August 1984) was a Welsh actor. Noted for his mellifluous baritone voice, Burton established himself as a formidable Shakespearean actor in the 1950s, and he gave a memorable performance of Hamlet in 1964. He was called "the natural successor to Olivier" by critic and dramaturge Kenneth Tynan. An alcoholic, Burton's failure to live up to those expectations disappointed critics and colleagues and fuelled his legend as a great thespian wastrel.Burton was nominated for an Academy Award seven times, but never won an Oscar. He was a recipient of BAFTAs, Golden Globes, and Tony Awards for Best Actor. In the mid-1960s, Burton ascended into the ranks of the top box office stars. By the late 1960s, Burton was one of the highest-paid actors in the world, receiving fees of $1 million or more plus a share of the gross receipts. Burton remains closely associated in the public consciousness with his second wife, actress Elizabeth Taylor. The couple's turbulent relationship was rarely out of the news.

Shelley E. Taylor

Shelley Elizabeth Taylor (born 1946) is a distinguished professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University, and was formerly on the faculty at Harvard University. A prolific author of books and scholarly journal articles, Taylor has long been a leading figure in two subfields related to her primary discipline of social psychology: social cognition and health psychology. Her books include The Tending Instinct and Social Cognition, the latter by Susan Fiske and Shelley Taylor.

Taylor's professional honors include the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association (APA; 1996), the William James Fellow Award from the Association for Psychological Science (APS; 2001), and the APA's Lifetime Achievement Award, which she received in August 2010. Taylor was inducted into the United States National Academy of Sciences in 2009. She was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2018.

Suddenly, Last Summer (film)

Suddenly, Last Summer is a 1959 American Southern Gothic mystery film based on the play of the same name by Tennessee Williams. The film was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and produced by Sam Spiegel from a screenplay by Gore Vidal and Williams with cinematography by Jack Hildyard and production design by Oliver Messel. The musical score was composed by Buxton Orr, using themes by Malcolm Arnold.

The plot centers on a young woman who, at the insistence of her wealthy aunt, is being evaluated by a psychiatric doctor to receive a lobotomy after witnessing the death of her cousin Sebastian Venable while travelling with him in Spain the previous summer.

The film stars Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, and Montgomery Clift with Albert Dekker, Mercedes McCambridge, and Gary Raymond.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (film)

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a 1966 American black comedy-drama film directed by Mike Nichols. The screenplay by Ernest Lehman is an adaptation of the play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee. The film stars Elizabeth Taylor as Martha and Richard Burton as George, with George Segal as Nick and Sandy Dennis as Honey.The film was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Mike Nichols, and is one of only two films to be nominated in every eligible category at the Academy Awards (the other being Cimarron). All of the film's four main actors were nominated in their respective acting categories.

The film won five awards, including a second Academy Award for Best Actress for Elizabeth Taylor and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Sandy Dennis. However, the film lost to A Man for All Seasons for the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay awards, and both Richard Burton and George Segal failed to win in their categories.

In 2013, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

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