March 23, 2011
Hollywood Legend Elizabeth Taylor Dies
The 79 year old was in her second month at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where she was being treated for symptoms of congestive heart failure.
"Legendary actress, businesswoman, and fearless activist Elizabeth Taylor died peacefully today [Wednesday] in Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. She was surrounded by her children -- Michael Wilding, Christopher Wilding, Liza Todd and Maria Burton," publicist Sally Morrison said in a statement, adding that Taylor was also survived by 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Wilding said, "My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humor and love. Though her loss is devastating to those of us who held her so close and so dear, we will always be inspired by her enduring contribution to our world."
He added, "Her remarkable body of work in film, her ongoing success as a businesswoman and her brave and relentless advocacy in the fight against HIV/AIDS, all make us all incredibly proud of what she accomplished. We know, quite simply, that the world is a better place for Mom having lived in it. Her legacy will never fade, her spirit will always be with us and her love will live forever in our hearts."
Taylor, who spent virtually her entire life in the public eye, was an iconic film star who won two Academy Awards, an eight-times bride, a humanitarian who campaigned indefatigably against AIDS and a collector of some of the world's most glamorous jewels.
More memories of Elizabeth Taylor .
Despite her failing health in recent years, the wheelchair-bound actress was forced to deny rumors of another impending marriage -- this time to talent manager Jason Winters -- as recently as last spring.
Born in London on Feb. 27, 1932, to American parents -- her father was an art dealer, her mother was once an actress -- she moved to California with her family when she was seven and was quickly spotted by a talent scout.
She made her film debut aged 10 in "There's One Born Every Minute" and then hit the big time at 12 playing horse-crazy Velvet Brown in "National Velvet," though she blamed several spills from a horse during filming for later back problems.
The film, a smash hit, made her a household name, and she went on to star in nearly 60 movies and dazzle as the last great glamorous star of the Hollywood studio system. Her first adult role was in "Father of the Bride" (1950), and she followed that with such classics as "A Place in the Sun" (1951), "Giant" (1956), "Raintree County" (1957), "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958), "Butterfield Eight" (1960), "Cleopatra" (1963) and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966).
She was considered one of the world's most beautiful women, with her electric violet eyes, cloud of dark hair and voluptuous figure, and she acquired husbands with regularity: Conrad "Nicky" Hilton (1950-51), Michael Wilding (1952-57), Michael Todd (1957-58), Eddie Fisher (1959-64), Richard Burton (1964-74 and 1975-76), John Warner (1976-82) and Larry Fortensky (1991-1996). Todd died in a plane crash, leaving her a widow, but she divorced all the others.
Taylor's most high-profile relationship was with acclaimed Welsh actor Burton. They met during the filming of "Cleopatra," in which he played Marc Antony to her Queen of the Nile. Both were married to others, and their tempestuous relationship burned up the headlines for years.
It was also Burton who bought her several of her magnificent jewels, including the pear-shaped 69-carat diamond that came to be called the Burton-Taylor Diamond. She later auctioned it off to fund a hospital in Botswana.
The couple acted together again in a riveting version of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" -- for which Taylor, playing an unkempt shrew, won a Best Actress Academy Award to add to her earlier one for "Butterfield 8" -- as well as in a string of lesser films including "The Sandpiper," "The Comedians" and "Boom!"
She was also an entrepreneur, introducing several perfumes such as "White Diamonds" and "Black Pearls" and a line of diamond and precious stone jewelry. For her various activities, Taylor was made a Dame of the British Empire and a Commander of Arts and Letters by the French government.
After the death of her close friend and "Giant" costar Rock Hudson from AIDS, Taylor threw herself into raising funds to fight the disease and co-founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research.
She was also a known for her longtime friendship with pop star Michael Jackson and supported the singer throughout the notorious child abuse claims that dogged him in his later years. Her attendance at his funeral in 2009 marked a return to the public eye after several years shunning the limelight.
Her own health went through precarious patches, including a near-fatal illness while filming "Butterfield 8," a benign brain tumor, congestive heart failure, skin cancer, a repeatedly broken back, hip replacements, pneumonia and finally, heart failure. Amid all the tumult of her life -- all the headlines and publicity, both good and bad -- Taylor just carried on. "I'm a survivor," she once said. "A living example of what people can go through and survive."