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Elizabeth 'Liz' Taylor: Young, Powerful Hollywood Icon Who Changed Celebrity

Icons | February 27, 2020

Left: Elizabeth Taylor in 'The Taming of the Shrew,' 1967. Right: Taylor in 'Cleopatra,' 1963. Sources: RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images; IMDB

Elizabeth Taylor was a rare star, a celebrity whose greatest performance was being Liz Taylor. Her list of classic films beats just about anyone's: A Place In The Sun (1951), Giant (1956), Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958), Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), Butterfield 8 (1960), Cleopatra (1963), Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf? (1966), The Taming Of The Shrew (1967). But early on in her career -- around her third marriage, perhaps -- we all came to suspect that the great movies, with their high drama and alluring costumes, were just the sideshow to the main event, Liz Taylor starring Elizabeth Taylor as Liz, which was itself chock full of drama and looked fabulous at all times. 

Elizabeth Taylor Was Born In England

With Carl Alfalfa Switzer in There's One Born Every Minute. Source: (fanpop)

Elizabeth Taylor was born on February 27, 1932 in London to American parents. Her parents left Britain for America in 1939, after they were warned of the impending war. By 1940, they had settled in Beverly Hills. Her mother, Sara Southern, was also an actress who had Broadway credits to her name. Elizabeth Taylor’s career began shortly after they moved to California, as she was only 10 years old during her first film, There’s One Born Every Minute. Her breakout role came after that, in 1944 in National Velvet. During her career, she was nominated for five Academy Awards for Best Actress and won two Oscars, for her performances in BUtterfield 8 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Liz Taylor's Legendary Love Life Began Early

With Richard Burton in 'Cleopatra' and on their wedding day. Sources: Pinterest; Parade

She dated Howard Hughes and at 17, and got married for the first time, to Conrad “Nicky” Hilton, the hotel heir. MGM paid for that wedding in 1950. The marriage was short-lived, and she married Michael Wilding in 1952. All told, she was married eight times; two of her marriages and divorces were to Richard Burton. As she said, she would have married Richard Burton again, had he not died. During her first wedding to Burton, she wore yellow because that was the color she was wearing when she first fell in love with him. Over the course of her marriages, she had four children.

A Beauty And Her Eyes

Source: (mic.com)

Many people believe that Taylor had violet eyes, but in reality, her eyes were a deep blue, and their violet appearance was caused by lighting and make-up. She was born with a genetic mutation known as lymphedema-distichiasis. In addition to causing problems with the lymphatic symptom, it gave her a double row of eyelashes. As Richard Burton, her two-time husband said of her beauty, she had many flaws, including a double chin, but "she has wonderful eyes." He also described her as exceedingly beautiful.

Elizabeth Taylor Married Again And Again And Again

With Mike Todd. Source: (fanpop)

After one husband, Mike Todd, a film producer who was her third husband, was killed in a plane crash in 1958, she had an affair with his friend, Eddie Fisher. Fisher divorced his wife, Debbie Reynolds, and then married Taylor. That marriage lasted five years, and then Taylor left Fisher for Richard Burton. Her final marriage was to Larry Fortensky, a construction worker Taylor met in rehab. Their marriage began to fall apart after she had her hips replaced and they divorced in 1996, but even after the divorce, they remained close.

Elizabeth Taylor Converted To Judaism

In Cleopatra. Source: (Variety)

Her husbands were not the only thing that changed at the end of the 1950s. Although she was raised as a Christian Scientist, she converted to Judaism in 1959. Her Jewish name is Elisheba Rachel.

Taylor Had Many Unusual Film Moments

In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Source: (pinterest)

When she appeared in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, co-starring Paul Newman, filming began the day that Mike Todd died, resulting in a stutter. She was able to mask the stutter with the Southern accent she used for the film. This was not her only unusual film moment; when Elizabeth Taylor appeared in Hammersmith is Out with Beau Bridges, Bridges had to fart on Taylor, a scene he trained for days to film. Her acting credits also extended to cartoons: she appeared on The Simpsons, giving a voice to Maggie Simpson and appeared as herself in the episode “Krusty Gets Kancelled.”

Taylor Found A Cause In The AIDS Epidemic

With Rock Hudson. Source: (fanpop)

She became an advocate for AIDS research after her close friend Rock Hudson died from the disease in 1985 and co-founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. When she died, her jewelry collection was auctioned off at Christies for a record $115.9 million and the proceeds went to the cause.

Elizabeth Taylor Saved Montgomery Clift's Life

With Montgomery Clift. Source: (Purple Clover)

This was not the first time she acted out of concern for a friend. Actor Montgomery Clift crashed his car into a tree after leaving Taylor’s home. Taylor rushed out to him and pulled the teeth out of his tongue to keep him from choking.

Taylor Was A Famous Celebrity Godmother

Source: (pinterest)

Of course, she had connections to people throughout Hollywood, including Michael Jackson. She was the godmother of Paris and Prince Jackson, his children.

Liz Taylor -- What A Dame

With John Warner, meeting Queen Elizabeth II Source: (pinterest)

She was honored not just as an actress in America, but by the Queen of England. Elizabeth II awarded her the title of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

'Cleopatra' Wasn't Her Biggest Paycheck

In The Flintsones. Source: (IMDB)

While she made less than $100 a week for her work on Lassie Come Home (Lassie made $200 per week), after Cleopatra, Taylor was the first actress to make a million dollars for a single film. However, the film also had some unexpected consequences. She had an affair with Richard Burton on the set of the film and the scandal almost led to her and Richard Burton being forbidden from entering the U.S. Cleopatra was not her biggest payday; she earned $2.5 million for her role in The Flintstones.

Taylor Loved Her Jewelry And Perfume

Source: (ABX Designer)

She won a pair of diamond earrings playing ping pong with Richard Burton; he promised her the earrings if she was able to score at least 10 points against him. Burton also gave her a 33.19 carat diamond which she auctioned off to fund a hospital in Botswana. However, one of her most valuable pieces of jewelry was the Cartier La Peregrina pearl, diamond, and ruby necklace, which was auctioned for $11.8 million. The necklace had a pearl found by a slave in the 1500s and belonged to Philip II of Spain. She also loved perfume and never went a day without it, dreaming of creating a scent 25 years before she did; her Twitter followers named the scent Violet Eyes.

Taylor Was Plagued By Health Issues

Source: (Saturday Evening Post)

Over the course of her life she was hospitalized more than 100 times. She suffered from multiple health problems throughout the 1990s, including diabetes, hip replacements for both hips, the removal of a brain tumor, and congestive heart failure, the disease that took her life on March 23, 2011. Her much-publicized health issues led to her obituary for the New York Times being written prior to her death. She outlived the obituary writer, Mel Gussow by six years.

Tags: Elizabeth Taylor | Ladies | The Golden Age Of Cinema

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Cyn Felthousen-Post

Writer

Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!