Born in London, England on February 27, 1932, Elizabeth Taylor was the epitome of a movie star. She had beauty, glamour, a celebrity lifestyle and an enormous talent.
She was a child actress, performing in National Velvet at the age of 12 before moving on to adult roles such as A Place in the Sun at age 20 and winning an Oscar for BUtterfield 8 at age 28. Considering she was never professionally trained in acting, her skills were exceptional. Though many critics wondered if anyone as beautiful as Elizabeth Taylor could also be talented, she could play a vixen, a wounded victim or a melodramatic heroine. It seemed she had to prove her abilities all her life.
Her next film, Cleopatra, would change her life. She received $1 million for that film (the first actress to do so), and she met Richard Burton, who played Mark Anthony. They began a tempestuous relationship, causing them to marry and divorce twice and their lives would be forever bound together, some would say.
Of her seven husbands, Burton was “the love of her life.” She even said that had he not died, she probably would have married him a third time.
Taylor was dogged by the paparazzi, but she existed for her fans. Her private life played out in the magazines and scandal pages. But behind all that press was a star with a sense of morality, even though she habitually married her lovers. People remarked that she became “Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky.”
She said once, “I’ve been lucky all my life. Everything was handed to me. Looks, fame, wealth, honors, love. I rarely had to fight for anything.”
But she did have her share of misfortune. Richard Burton died before his time and Michael Todd (her third husband), died in a plane crash at 48.
She struggled with alcohol and an overeating problem. Juggling five doctors, she managed hundreds of antidepressant and painkiller prescriptions which sent her to Betty Ford. Plus she suffered at least 70 incidents requiring hospitalization.
But she didn’t need to make movies to make money and influence the public. She marketed her own perfume and made millions. She raised nearly $300 million for AIDS and was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1993. In 2000, Queen Elizabeth II honored her with a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (an honor on the level of knighthood).
Taylor was also known for her love of jewels and her remarkable collection was the most valuable jewelry collection ever. When it was sold at Christie’s it brought in $156,756,576 and every single item sold. It generated intense interest from bidders throughout the world.
On March 23, 2011 she died of congestive heart failure. At her request, the funeral began 15 fashionable minutes late because she stated she wanted to be late for her own funeral. She’s buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif. In the Hall of Memory you’ll see a 12-foot-high, Michelangelo-like carved statue of an angel with arms outstretched, beneath which is the crypt of Elizabeth Taylor.