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On March 23, 2011, celebrated British-American actress and twice Oscar winner Elizabeth Taylor died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Elizabeth was seventy-nine years old and suffering from congestive heat failure. Her four children, Michael Wilding, Christopher Wilding, Liza Todd, and Maria Burton, were by her side when the actress breathed her last.

The Star with Violet Eyes

Elizabeth's family settled in Los Angeles when she was very young. Soon Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) signed her as a child actress and her debut in There's One Born Every Minute in 1942 was at the age of nine. Soon Elizabeth was acting in movies like Jane Eyre and The White Cliffs of Dover in England. Taylor got her stardom three years later when she took on the title role in National Velvet. The movie was made part of the National Film Registry with the Library of Congress in 2003. She went on to become a very successful adolescent actress in movies like A Date with Judy, Life with Father, and Little Women. Elizabeth's unique features like her violet eyes and double eyelashes would soon make millions of fans across the world.

Elizabeth's earliest adult movies, Conspirator and The Big Hangover, despite their lack of success at the box office won her the attention that would lead to successes like Father of The Bride in 1950 and a Place in the Sun in 1951. Elizabeth was nominated for the Oscars Best Actress category five times for films including Giant (1956) and Raintree County (1957). Her two Academy Award winning performances came in 1960 and 1966 in the movies BUtterfield 8 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? But the one performance for which Elizabeth Taylor shall never be forgotten is her titular role in Cleopatra in 1963.

Elizabeth Taylor's legendary beauty and screen presence was an important reason for the success of movies like The Sandpiper (1965) and Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967). Elizabeth received the prestigious Legion of Honor from France in 1987 and was ranked Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2001. Elizabeth's induction into the California Hall of Fame in 2007 came as no surprise. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild in 1997.

Seven Marriages and a Committed Wife

"I never planned to acquire a lot of jewels or a lot of husbands" - Elizabeth 'Liz' Taylor

But then she did. Elizabeth married seven different men eight times. She wed the Hilton heir, Conrad Hilton, in May 1950. Her marriage lasted a mere nine months and ended in divorce. The split was attributed to Elizabeth's drinking habits and abusive behavior. In 1952 she married Michael Wilding, the British actor, only to end the relationship in January 1957. Michael Todd, of Around the World in Eighty Days fame, became her next husband in 1957. Todd's death the following year left Elizabeth a widow and free to marry Eddie Fisher in May 1959. On March 6, 1964, Elizabeth divorced Fisher and within the next ten days was married to Richard Burton, whom she often referred to as the love of her life. Her ten year long marriage was closely followed by the press and the paparazzi. The two stars of the silver screen divorced in 1974 only to remarry in 1975. But they again ended their marriage in 1976. She then married Republican Senator John Warner the same year but could not adjust to life in Washington. In 1991 Elizabeth married Larry Fortensky but once again divorced in 1996. Larry and Elizabeth remained on cordial terms till the end of her days. Despite her many romances outside marriage with celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Glenn Davis, Elizabeth claimed she made a very committed wife. Elizabeth's love life and marriages were followed with fascination by the press and by her fans across the world. Being the free spirit that she was, Elizabeth lived life on her own terms.

White Diamonds and a Love Affair

Besides being the "greatest movie star of all", as she was popularly called, Elizabeth Taylor was a fashion diva and a style icon. Her passion for jewelry and diamonds was legendary. Howard Hughes is known to have sprinkled diamonds on her before proposing to her. The jewelry owned by Elizabeth was valued at US $150 million at the time of her death. The two sparklers that caused much sensation in the press during her lifetime were the 69.4 carat Taylor-Burton Diamond and the 33.1 carat Krupp Diamond. She published a record of her collection in the book My Love Affair with Jewelry in 2002.

Often seen in the latest Valentino or Halston, Elizabeth was often known to be assisted by MGM outfitters during her career as an actress. Elizabeth endorsed and marketed many merchandise brands. The three perfumes launched by Elizabeth recorded sales of over US $69 million in 2010. White Diamonds, her own personal perfume was a rage.

Liz with a Cause

Apart from her glamorous lifestyle and highflying career, Elizabeth Taylor was much appreciated for her dedication towards social causes. The one cause that she devoted much of her time and money was the funding of HIV and AIDS research. Having seen some of her gay friends suffer from HIV and later AIDS, Elizabeth made sustained efforts towards the cause and hosted many AIDS fundraisers. She helped raised about US $100 million to fund projects dedicated to finding a cure for the dreaded disease. She also co-founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research in 1985. In 1993 the actress set up the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation to provide assistance and support to AIDS patients in need. Her work earned her the Jean Hersholt Academy Award in 1992, a special award recognizing her sustained efforts for the welfare of HIV and AIDS patients. Elizabeth donated over US $40,000 to a New Orleans based non-profit organization for AIDS assistance in the year 2006.

Besides HIV and AIDS, Elizabeth also worked hard for the Jewish causes. She earned the wrath of the Arab nations, Egypt in particular, for her large scale purchase of Israeli Bonds in 1959.

Life on her Own Terms

Elizabeth Taylor had struggled for a large part of her life with a number of health issues. She had injured her back on several occasions, had her hips replaced, underwent a hysterectomy, and combated skin cancer. In November 2004, Elizabeth announced that she was suffering from congestive heat failure, a condition which caused her heart to grow progressively weaker. Her heart could not pump adequate blood and in 2009 she underwent a major cardiac surgery.

Elizabeth died at the age of seventy-nine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and was buried in Glendale Park, California, at Forest Lawn Memorial in a Jewish ceremony.  

Last Updated on: September 30th, 2021
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