On this day we celebrate the birthday of one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, the late Dame Elizabeth Taylor, who would’ve been 82 years old.
Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born on February 27, 1932 in London to American parents. The family of four resided in the city until 1939, when they moved back to the United States. By November of that year the family had already settled in Los Angeles, California where his father, an art dealer, set up an art gallery. There, practically everyone who saw the young Elizabeth and her striking beauty (she was known for her violet eyes and double eyelashes) persuaded her mother to have her undergo a screen test.
In 1942, Elizabeth appeared in her very first film, “There’s One Born Every Minute” under Universal Pictures which scrambled to sign her a seven-year contract, especially since Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was also interested in her. Oddly enough, the studio fired her shortly after. By the following year, Elizabeth signed a seven-year contract with MGM. Her first movie with them was “Lassie Come Home” (1943), and got her first break through her lead role in “National Velvet” (1944). The subsequent films she made as a teenager were all successful. Also, back then, Elizabeth was fondly called “One Shot Liz” because it took her only one take to shoot her scenes.
Despite her misgivings on continuing her career, plus driven by her mother’s fierce insistence, Elizabeth’s talent in acting was still topnotch and so transitioning to adult roles turned out to be easy for her. TIME magazine, in a cover article for an issue published in the late ‘40s, even hailed her as “a jewel of great price, a true sapphire.” Particularly, critics praised her roles in “Conspirator” (1949), “Father of the Bride” (1950), and “A Place in the Sun” (1951). Elizabeth herself aimed for more substantial roles; however, she was reportedly frustrated as her mother studio only gave her roles in less than stellar films.
In 1956, Elizabeth starred opposite James Dean and Rock Hudson in “Giant”. Beginning the following year, Elizabeth would be nominated four consecutive times for the Academy Awards’ Best Actress nod – for “Raintree County”, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, “Suddenly, Last Summer”, and for “BUtterfield 8”. It was the latter that finally gained her the coveted Oscar.
One of the most famous films Elizabeth had ever starred in was “Cleopatra” (1960), through which she became the highest paid actress of the time. In 1966, she would win her second Best Actress Oscar for her role on “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”. Elizabeth starred in a handful more films after this before making her Broadway and West End debut in 1982 through a revival of Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes.” By the time she made her last theatrical film in 1994, Elizabeth was able to expand her career from the movies to theater and on television, too.
Elizabeth made headlines not only with her work but also with her love life. She was famously married eight times to seven different men, in addition to her often controversial affairs. Elizabeth had three children from her marriage and an adopted daughter. Aside from this, Elizabeth was a philanthropist known for her efforts in helping to seek the cure for HIV/AIDS and championing Jewish causes. For all her humanitarian efforts she was honored with numerous awards, including the Jean Herscholt Humanitarian Academy Award in 1992 and the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001. In addition to these, she was bestowed the French Legion of Honour in 1987 and was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000.
For most of her life, Elizabeth was plagued with many illnesses and other health problems. In February 2011, she was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Hospital for congestive heart failure. She passed away within a month, On March 23. Reportedly, in fulfilling one of her requests, her funeral started 15 minutes after it was scheduled. A representative was quoted as saying to have told the media, “She even wanted to be late for her own funeral.” The world remembers Elizabeth not only as a great actress but also as a champion of worthy causes, and an “extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humor, and love” by her family.
Further reading: Elizabeth Taylor’s biography on the New York Times.
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