December 10, 2014

A Look at a Legend: Elizabeth Taylor


A rising star before she reached puberty, Elizabeth Taylor has long been one of the most recognised and celebrated names in Hollywood. Earning awards and accolades year upon year, she remained in the spotlight for decades thanks to her indisputable talent, her blinding beauty and her roller coaster love life. Billionaires has taken a look at the life and work of this screen legend, joining her on a journey from her years as a bright-eyed child star to her time as an influential philanthropist with a persistent drive to change the world.

Child Stardom
Born on 27 February 1932, Elizabeth Taylor spent her early years in London, England before returning to her parents’ home in Los Angeles, US. A natural performer from an early age, a friend suggested she take a screen test and soon afterwards she was signed up with Universal Studios. Taylor made her screen debut at the age of 10 in There’s One Born Every Minute in 1942 but her breakout role came in 1944 when acted in National Velvet, becoming an overnight star at 12 years old.(still shot above).

Although one of the youngest stars in Hollywood, Taylor showed early on that she was destined for the spotlight and continued to take her increasing fame and fortune in her stride. Unlike many child stars before her, Elizabeth also proved early on that she was capable of transitioning from the world of child stardom to more adult roles. Aided by her indisputable beauty, Taylor began playing larger, adult roles at the age of just 18, making her adult debut in Father of the Bride in 1950 opposite Spencer Tracy. Around this time, Elizabeth also saw her increasingly public personal life begin to shift, and aged just 17 she made her first journey into married life when she wed hotel heir Conrad ‘Nicky’ Hilton, much to the delight of the media and her growing fan base.

The Golden Girl of Cinema
During the 1950s and 1960s, Elizabeth wowed her fans with riveting performance after riveting performance, starring in such classics as A Place in the Sun, Giant, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. She even earned her first Oscar, winning the Best Actress award for her role as a call girl in 1960 film Butterfield 8. Throughout this time, Elizabeth was also drawing in public attention for her tragic and scandalous love life. Following the unexpected death of her third husband Mike Todd in 1958, Taylor began an affair with his close friend Eddie Fisher. Fisher became completely embroiled in the relationship, and divorced wife Debbie Reynolds so he could wed Taylor in 1959. 

However, after five years of marriage she left Fisher for actor Richard Burton, in a love story that had truly captured the public’s attention based on their insatiable interest in “the most famous film star in the world and the man many believed to be the finest classical actor of his generation”.

Having met on the set of Cleopatra in 1963, the pair drove the media wild with their passionate affair, driving up the ratings of an already successful actress along with her multi-million dollar films.

 The union between the two actors was no doubt the height of her news-worthy love life, and also coincided with the height of her career. The pair acted together in multiple films, pulling in staggering ratings with their enchanting combined on-screen presence. After the filming of V.I.P’s in 1963, their next major blockbuster came with the critically acclaimed Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, a movie classic that earned Taylor her second Oscar. But despite their apparent connection, the couple divorced in 1976, marking the start of years of on-off relationships for Taylor.


A Lasting Legacy
Although Taylor continued to act in her later years, she devoted much of her time to philanthropy. Following the death of her close friend Rock Hudson after his battle with HIV/AIDS, the actress began working to find a cure for the disease. 

In 1991 she launched the Elizabeth Taylor HIV/AIDS Foundation as a means of offering support to those who were suffering from the disease, as well as to fund research for advanced treatments. Not only did this earn her favour from her loyal fans, but also boosted her already legendary reputation within the film world. The accolades began flooding in, and she was awarded the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award as well as the honour of becoming Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1993 and 2000, respectively.


Throughout her later years, Taylor managed and overcame a huge number of health problems including diabetes and a brain tumour, and even underwent successful heart surgery. However, on 23 March 2011 her ill health finally took its toll, and Elizabeth passed away from congestive heart failure. Survived by her four children and a legacy that’s been proven to last beyond a lifetime, Elizabeth Taylor has left a lasting mark not just on the lives of her family and devoted fans, but on the landscape of the film industry, which has suffered a great loss in light of her passing. “My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humour, and love, “ said her son Michael Wilding shortly after her death. “We will always be inspired by her enduring contribution to our world.”

By Jess Koehl
With thanks to Billionaires Australia 



Cleopatra picture credit:Cinemagraphe
Bottom picture credit:Classic Movie Stars
Taming of the Shrew picture credit: Elizabeth Taylor Archives

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