Elizabeth Taylor had a spectacular career in Hollywood, which was only matched or even eclipsed by the attention the public gave to her personal life. When it came to the subject of marriage, she put England’s Henry the VIII to shame with his six marriages. She was married eight times to seven different men. In her later years, Taylor’s charity work for AIDS awareness was groundbreaking, and she helped bring attention to the subject, while other entertainers shunned it.
Born Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor in London, England on February 27, 1932. She was born an English subject, but her parents were American. In 1939, at the age of seven, her family relocated to Los Angeles. A family friend noticed young Elizabeth’s striking looks and suggested she have a screen test. At Universal Pictures, her test pleased the executives and she landed her first role in the 1942 film “There’s One Born Every Minute.” After the one picture, Universal dropped her contract, but she was picked up by MGM.
Under contract with MGM, Taylor’s career flourished. She had parts in films such as “Lassie Come Home,” “The White Cliffs of Dover,” and “Jane Eyre.” However, the film that put Taylor on the map was the 1944 classic “National Velvet.”
She would go on to make many more films, but some of her more memorable roles were in 1950’s “Father of the Bride,” 1951’s “A Place in the Sun,” 1956’s “Giant” with Rock Hudson and James Dean, 1958’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” 1959’s “Suddenly, Last Summer,” 1960’s “BUtterfield 8,” 1963’s “Cleopatra,” 1966’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” 1967’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” and “The Comedians,” 1968’s “Boom!,” and “Secret Ceremony,” 1970’s “The Only Game in Town,” 1979’s “Winter Kills,” and 1980’s “The Mirror Crack’d.” Her last big screen role was as Fred Flintstone’s mother-in-law in 1994’s “The Flintstones.” Finally, she acquired some attention in 1992, as the voice of Maggie Simpson, in a season four episode of the Fox animated television series “The Simpsons.” She only uttered one word, which was “Daddy.”
Taylor won two Best Actress Academy Awards during her career. She received her first Oscar for her role as Gloria Wandrous, a call girl who is involved with a married man in 1960’s “BUtterfield 8.” Her second was as Martha opposite real-life husband Richard Burton in 1966’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
Taylor’s marriages were as famous as her awards. Here is the list of her husbands and the longevity of their matrimony.
Conrad “Nicky” Hilton May 6, 1950 – January 29, 1951 (divorce)
Michael Wilding February 21, 1952 – January 26, 1957 (divorce)
Michael Todd February 2, 1957 – March 22, 1958 (Todd died in a plane crash.)
Eddie Fisher May 12, 1959 – March 6, 1964 (divorce)
Richard Burton March 15, 1964 – June 26, 1974 (divorce)
Richard Burton (again) October 10, 1975 – July 29, 1976 (divorce)
John Warner December 4, 1976 – November 7, 1982 (divorce)
Larry Fortensky October 7, 1991 – October 31, 1996 (divorce)
Elizabeth Taylor was one of the few surviving entertainers to crossover from old to new Hollywood. Furthermore, her work was not limited to the silver screen. She was a pioneer in raising awareness about AIDS when the subject was too sensitive for it’s time. Up until 1997, her AIDS organization AMFAR raised over $83 million following its creation in 1985. She made a “Commitment for Life” in honor of her “Giant” co-star Rock Hudson who became ill in 1985. The event featured former First Lady Betty Ford, Burt Lancaster, Shirley MacLaine, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Burt Reynolds. More than $1.3 million was raised.
Her health was always an issue. Suffering from various illnesses and undergoing copious amounts of surgery, including one for a brain tumor, and three for hip replacements, Elizabeth Taylor was hospitalized with congestive heart failure in February. She succumbed to her illness and died at the age of 79 at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.
Publicists for Elizabeth Taylor, said a memorial service will be announced later, after a private family funeral this week. Two sons, one daughter, and one stepdaughter survive her.
Her family has requested that instead of flowers, contributions can be made to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, c/o Derrick Lee, Reback Lee & Co., Inc., 12400 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1275, Los Angeles, CA 90025, or online at www.elizabethtayloraidsfoundation.org.
Sources: IMDb (Thank you,) Los Angeles Times (Elaine Woo)