Elizabeth Taylor – R.I.P.!

By on 23 March, 2011

Two-time Oscar winner Elizabeth Taylor, who was as world famous for her private life as for her acting, died today (Wednesday 23rd March, 2011) in Los Angeles of congestive heart failure. She was 79.

The former child star cemented her reputation as a good actress and a beautiful young starlet by age 19. But a decade later, when both Eddie Fisher and Richard Burton left their wives for her, the violet-eyed actress went from being the world’s most beautiful woman to the world’s most wicked – according to some of her exes.

That eventually gave way to her being known as the world’s most courageous woman, as she battled a series of illnesses, becoming one of the first celebrities to talk openly about her substance abuse and addictions and led the fight against AIDS.

Taylor is mostly known for her iconic role in ‘Cleopatra‘, where her salary for the 1963 movie was unprecedented $1 million. In a male-dominated industry at the time, this was a massive acomplishment! But with stardom came the heartache, primarily in her liaisons with leading men and her eight marriages – of which sparked plenty of controversy. She remained much talked about (and sometimes even admired) even in the worst of times.

Born on the 27th February 1932, in London to American parents, Taylor had her first ballet lesson at age 3, and when she was 7, her parents returned to the U.S. and settled in Los Angeles, where her father operated an art gallery at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Her first film was ‘There’s One Born Every Minute‘ released by Universal (where she was under contract) in 1942. After Louis B. Mayer signed her on at MGM, she appeared in ‘Lassie Come Home‘ in 1943 and the following year became a star at the age of 12 in ‘National Velvet‘ (in between there were ‘Jane Eyre‘ and ‘White Cliffs of Dover‘).

Several young-lady roles followed in the late ’40s, including ‘A Date With Judy‘, ‘Life With Father‘, ‘Julia Misbehaves‘ and 1949’s ‘Little Women‘.

Her first grown-up romantic leading role was opposite Robert Taylor in 1949’s ‘Conspirator‘, but it was Vincente Minnelli‘s ‘Father of the Bride‘ (and its year-later sequel ‘Father’s Little Dividend‘) that proved her natural talents as a leading lady.

Her marital relationships were more closely followed and speculated upon than her films. She met hotel heir Nicky Hilton in 1949, when she was 17, and married him in 1950 (when ‘Father of the Bride‘ was released); they divorced nine months later. That same year she received her high school diploma at Los Angeles’ University High School.

For the next several years, she juggled career, marriage and motherhood, and in 1952 she married the much older Michael Wilding and had two sons, Michael and Christopher.

During these years, MGM (where her weekly salary quickly rose from $1,500 to $5,000) put her in bland comedies like ‘Love Is Better Than Ever‘, costume dramas such as ‘Ivanhoe‘ and 1954’s ‘Rhapsody‘. Two of her worst roles she took on were on ‘Elephant Walk‘ (replacing an ailing Vivien Leigh) and ‘The Last Time I Saw Paris

Following her second divorce in 1956, she married bon vivant producer Michael Todd, by whom she had a third child, Liza.

Todd, who took home the best pic Oscar for 1956’s ‘Around the World in 80 Days‘, had his life tragically cut short in a New Mexico plane crash in 1958. Taylor was emotionally crushed as she played the lead in Tennessee Williams‘ ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof‘ – for which she was paid $500,000 and 10% of the gross!

The movie resulted in her second Oscar nod, but she quickly outraged fans by pairing up with Eddie Fisher, then married to one of her best friends, Debbie Reynolds. They were married soon thereafter. She and Fisher adopted a German orphan (who later took on Richard Burton‘s name to become Maria Burton).

In 1959, another Williams adaptation, ‘Suddenly Last Summer‘ earned her a third consecutive Oscar nomination, but she finally won on her fourth straight bid, for 1960’s ‘Butterfield 8‘ – though many felt it was a sentimental win.

Then of course was the famous ‘Cleopatra‘, which had brought her the then-unheard-of $1 million fee – despite rumours at the time suggesting she had collected more than $2 million! The movie, which at the time was THE most expensive flick ever made ($37 million) nearly sank 20th Century Fox; the studio had to sell off precious parts of its studio, which later became Century City.

During the lensing of ‘Cleopatra‘ she met co-star Burton, even though both were married at the time. When the two finally married, their over-indulgent alcohol and extravagant lifestyle (they reportedly went through $30 million) reports were legendary.

Taylor then gave one of her best performances in 1966’s ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf‘, opposite Burton, which secured her second Oscar for her work as a blowsy, middle-aged vicious-but-tender drunk. She and Burton then went on to star in other movies such as ‘The V.I.P.s‘, ‘Boom‘, ‘Hammersmith Is Out‘ and the TV movie ‘Divorce His, Divorce Hers

They divorced, remarried, then divorced again. After their second divorce, the pair capitalised on their notoriety by touring in Noel Coward‘s ‘Private Lives‘ which also played on Broadway. The gimmick worked, and the show was a sell-out hit!

Life after Burton was good but not great, with roles opposite Marlon Brando in ‘Reflections in a Golden Eye‘ and in 1970’s ‘The Only Game in Town‘ with Warren Beatty. In general, the leading roles were pretty lame; though she’d been at the top of box office stars since 1960, she dropped from the list after 1968, never to return again!

Her final leading role on the big screen was in the 80s flick ‘The Mirror Crack’d‘ – an adaptation of an Agatha Christie mystery, where she played an actress.

Taylor then married Republican Senator. John Warner of Virginia and for a time playing the dutiful D.C. wife. She soon tired of this and then publicly booed his positions on women and the draft. Finally, in 1982, they divorced. A year later she entered the Betty Ford Clinic for prescription drug and alcohol dependency.

In 1988 she returned to the Betty Ford Clinic, where she met her eighth husband, the non-pro, two decades younger Larry Fortensky. In 1990, she almost succumbed to pneumonia again, then married Fortensky in a $1.5 million ceremony on Michael Jackson‘s estate. Before separating from Fortensky in 1995, she twice had surgery for hip replacement.

In 1985, after the death of her friend Rock Hudson, Taylor became a founding co-chairman for AMFAR (the American Foundation for AIDS Research). Thereafter she toured the country and the world, calling attention to and raising funds for AIDS research and care, more so than any other celebrity. In 1993, she received the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences’ Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

In 1994, she filed suit to stop production on an unauthorised TV biography but failed. The “and then I married” piece succeeded only in the ratings.

That same year, she returned to comedy as Wilma Flintstone‘s mother in ‘The Flintstones‘ movie, and in 2001 she starred alongside Reynolds, Joan Collins and Shirley MacLaine in ‘These Old Broads‘ – co-written by Reynolds‘ daughter Carrie Fisher.

In May 2000, she was honoured Buckingham Palace where they made her Dame of the British Empire.

Due to her larger-than-life image, she successfully managed to remain a star long after her final leading role on the big screen, and until the mid-1990s she still grabbed bigger headlines in newspapers and tabloids than more current actors and actresses. That is an achievement in itself.

Elizabeth Taylor is survived by four children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

In respect to anyone wishing to send any flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. As yet, no details have been released for her memorial service.

Liz Taylor, a true icon, may she truly rest in peace!

About Ed Bonilla

Ed is an entertainment news writer, and founder of TOMORROW'S NEWS. He always keeps a watchful eye on who and what's trending in the entertainment world. His articles focus on tomorrow's news today, including celebrity news, film news, music news and so much more!

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