Born27 February 1932
Died23 March 2011
The phrase ‘talented beauty’ best depicts Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor and her life. While it was her stunningly beautiful face and magnetic appeal that drew her to the world of showbiz, her prolific career that spanned over six decades was due to her great performance, exceptional talent and inherent creativity. A performer by birth, acting was an intrinsic part of the personality of this beautiful actress. She took on the robes of an actress even before she had hit the double digit of her age and rest as they say is history. By the time she entered teenage, she was a star in her own right with the biggest hit of the year, ‘National Velvet’ in her kitty. While journalists adorned her with the title of ‘precious jewel of Hollywood’, directors and fellow actors referred to her as ‘One-Shot Liz’ for her ability to shoot a scene in one take. What is interesting to note in her career graph is that unlike other artists, the transition from a child actor to an adolescent star and from an adolescent star to a mainstream actress was a smooth and seamless one. She left an indelible mark in all the three phases of her career with movies, which have gained a cult status and are deemed as ‘classics’ today.
Childhood & Early Life
Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born in London to American parents Francis Lenn Taylor and Sara Sothern. Both of them were art dealers in London. At the outbreak of World War II, they returned to The US along with young Elizabeth.
While her mother was an actress before her marriage, young Elizabeth started training herself at ballet when she was just three. She even gave a recital for Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.
Her charismatic face, breathtaking beauty and attractive looks made Hollywood as the ultimate destination. Following the advice of several people, she applied for a screen test.
Interestingly, the Hollywood giants, Universal and MGM both were willing to place her under contract due to her angelic looks and striking appeal. However, Universal edged past MGM and secured her by offering a seven year contract without even waiting for a screen test!
At the age of nine, she started filming for her debut motion picture, ‘There’s One Born Every Minute’, which released in 1942. Her contract with Universal studio was broken as she was fired after the film.
She then gave a screen test for the MGM. Passing the same, she was offered a long term contract with the studio. Her first film under the MGM banner was the 1943 release, ‘Lassie Come Home’. The film was received exceptionally well at the box office.
Next, she was featured as Helen Burns in the remake of the Charlotte Bronte novel ‘Jane Eyre’. In 1943, she starred in the MGM production, ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’.
While her earlier films were a success, the real breakthrough came with, ‘National Velvet’, which released in 1944. Cast opposite Mickey Rooney and Angela Lansbury, the film garnered immense success grossing about $4 million.
The success of ‘National Velvet’ led her being the natural choice for the 1946 animal film, ‘Courage of Lassie‘. The movie replicated the success story.
In 1947 and 1948, she gave powerful performance is a number of movies, which established her reputation as an adolescent actor. The last film which portrayed her in an adolescent role was the American classic, ‘Little Women’.
During her teenage years, she wished to give up acting and lead a normal life, just like other children and be educated. However, her mother resented and rebuked the idea
The transition from an adolescent to an adult was seamless for this stunningly beautiful and talented lady. Her first film as an adult was ‘Conspirator’. Though the film bombed at the box office, her performance was praised by critics.
The year 1950 marked the release of the comedy ‘The Father of the Bride’. Cast alongside Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett, it was her first successful movie as an adult.
The 1951 release, ‘A Place in the Sun’ revolutionised American cinema and catapulted her position further. She was extolled and admired for her commendable performance by both audience and the critics.
Post the glorious success of ‘A Place in the Sun’, she starred in some of the forgetful projects such as ‘The Barefoot Contessa’, ‘I'll Cry Tomorrow’, ‘Callaway Went Thataway’, ‘Love Is Better Than Ever’ and ‘Rhapsody. The films failed terribly at the box office.
The 1954 released film, ‘The Last Time I Saw Paris’ was the only saving grace for the downward leap that her career graph had taken. The film was somewhat successful at the box office.
Her yearning for a substantial role ended with George Stevens' epic ‘Giant’, which released in 1956. Following this, she was seen in successful films including ‘Raintree County’, ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’, ‘Suddenly, Last Summer’ and ‘BUtterfield 8’.
‘BUtterfield 8’ was her last film under the MGM contract which lasted for 18 years. The row of successful films made her edge to the Top Ten list of successful actors, a position she retained for the next decade as well.
In 1966, she played the lead role in the movie ‘Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ opposite Robert Burton. Her portrayal of the character of Martha was wholesomely appreciated for the authenticity she brought to it.
Post the magnificent success of ‘Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’, she starred alongside Burton in several box-office blockbusters including ‘The V.I.P.s’, ‘The Sandpiper’ and ‘The Taming of the Shrew’. The films garnered a total of $200 million at the box office.
However, with the end of the decade, several of her movies flopped at the Box Office. Some of these were ‘Doctor Faustus’, ‘The Comedians’, ‘Boom!’, ‘Reflections in a Golden Eye’ and ‘The Only Game in Town’.
The decade of 1970s saw her in theatrical films and made-for-TV movies. In 1980s, she jumped back to the big screen with the movie, ‘The Mirror Crack’d’. She was later seen in ‘Malice in Wonderland’ and ‘Poker Alice’.
‘The Flintstones’, released in 1994, was her last theatrical film. Towards the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the new century, she featured in a number of television series, soap operas and animated series.
In 2007, she was paired opposite James earl Jones in the A. R Gurney’s play, Love Letters. The play was essentially staged to raise funds for the AIDS Foundation.
Her first major breakthrough on the big screen was with the movie ‘National Velvet’. The film was widely appreciated and grossed about US$4 million at the box office.
Her films with Burton, ‘Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’, ‘The V.I.P.s’, ‘The Sandpiper’ and ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, were box-office blockbusters. They garnered immense positive reviews and amassed about US $200 million at the box office.
Awards & Achievements
In her lifetime, she was felicitated numerous times for her outstanding contribution to cinema. She twice won Academy Awards, a Golden Globe award, BAFTA Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award.
n February 1997 Taylor participated in the ABC-TV (American Broadcasting Company-television) special, "Happy Birthday Elizabeth—A Celebration of Life," which marked her sixty-fifth birthday and raised money for AIDS research. The following day she underwent an operation to remove a two-inch tumor from her brain. She also underwent operations on her hip and broke her back in 1998. In the summer of 1999 she fell and suffered a fracture to her spine.
In May 2000 Taylor was dubbed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, the female version of a knight. Queen Elizabeth (1926–) presented her with the award for services to the entertainment industry and to charity. That same year she was given the Marian Anderson Award for her efforts on behalf of the AIDS community. She also returned to the hospital briefly after coming down with pneumonia. Taylor is a beautiful, much-beloved woman with a larger-than-life presence, both on and off the screen.
Personal Life & Legacy
She walked down the aisle eight times with seven husbands. Conrad ‘Nicky’ Hilton was the first and was followed by Michael Wilding, Mike Todd, Eddie Fisher, Richard Burton, whom she married twice, John Warner and Larry Fortensky.
Despite her extravagant list of husbands, she had affairs and extra marital relations with important men and eminent personalities including Glenn Davis, Howard Hughes, Frank Sinatra, Henry Kissinger, and Malcolm Forbes.
She was blessed with three children, including two sons and one daughter and an adopted girl child Maria.
She faced serious medical issues since 1950s. She had undergone 20 major operations and was hospitalized at least 70 times. In 2004, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Five years later, she underwent a cardiac surgery. In 2011, she breathed her last after suffering from heart failure.
She was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, in a private Jewish ceremony.
This talented violet-eyed actress of Hollywood gave some unforgettable hits as an adolescent star and mainstream actress including ‘National Velvet’, ‘‘Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ and ‘BUtterfield 8’.
Pain and loss
Taylor then moved to Broadway for the first time in a well-received staging of The Little Foxes. She and Richard Burton appeared together in a 1983 production of Private Lives, but critics felt that the dramatic spark between them was no longer there. In 1983 Taylor checked into the Betty Ford Clinic in California for treatment for her alcohol addiction. The death of Burton in August 1984, however, combined with back pain and general ill health, led to her return to drinking and drugs.
Taylor was also alarmed as a number of her friends, including actor Rock Hudson (1925–1985) and fashion designer Halston, became ill with AIDS. Taylor began to speak out on behalf of AIDS research. In 1985 she became the cofounder and chair of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR). Her "Commitment to Life" benefit of that year was the first major AIDS research fundraiser staged by the Hollywood community.
Taylor returned to the Betty Ford Clinic in 1988, where she met a forty-year old construction worker named Larry Fortensky. Their friendship continued outside the clinic and they married in 1991. In 1993 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored Taylor with a special humanitarian (supporter of human welfare) award for her years with AmFAR. In 1994 Taylor returned to the movies after a fourteen-year absence for a small part in The Flintstones. She then announced her retirement from films. Her marriage to Fortensky ended in 1996.
1. “The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they're going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”
2. “Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.”
3. “I don't entirely approve of some of the things I have done, or am, or have been. But I'm me. God knows, I'm me.”
4. “You just do it. You force yourself to get up. You force yourself to put one foot before the other, and God damn it, you refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about the business of living. That’s how I’ve done it. There’s no other way.”
5. “You find out who your real friends are when you're involved in a scandal.”
6. “I feel very adventurous. There are so many doors to be opened, and I'm not afraid to look behind them.”
7. “When people say: She's got everything. I've only one answer: I haven't had tomorrow.”
8. “I've only slept with the men I've been married to. How many women can make that claim?”
9. “I'm a survivor - a living example of what people can go through and survive.”
10. “The rain hit the windows like rice; the fire roared hollowly; the autumn afternoon discoloured into darkness.”
11. “It appeared to Harriet that she was always the one who remembered having seen other people. They never remembered having seen her. She did not like to seem (even to herself) so much more caught up in the importance of others when they cared so little for her.”
12. “I've been pronounced dead and I've read my own obituaries. And they were the best reviews I ever read.”
13. “She had about her a strong smell of hair-spray and her lunch-time whisky.”
14. “She seemed to be lovely still to herself, as if no amount of looking into mirrors could ruin her illusion.”
15. “The day comes in slowly to those who are ill. The night has separated them from the sleepers, who return to them like strangers from a distant land, full of clumsy preparations for the living, the earth itself creaking towards the light.”