gigatos | April 13, 2022
Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, DBE († March 23, 2011 in Los Angeles, California), was an American-British actress. She achieved stardom as a child actress and later as the leading lady of the market-leading Hollywood studio MGM, where she was under contract from 1942 to 1958. Taylor appeared in numerous commercially successful films of the time and was awarded two Oscars and a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Leading Role, among other honors. Through her appearances in the films The Cat on the Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly Last Summer and Surf, her name is also closely associated with the popularization of the dramatic works of Tennessee Williams. Elizabeth Taylor has repeatedly used her celebrity to draw attention to political and social issues; Taylor achieved the greatest response with her fundraising activities for AIDS awareness. In 1999, she was raised to the peerage by Britain”s Queen Elizabeth II.
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Childhood in London and Beverly Hills (1932-1942)
Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was the daughter of art dealer Francis Lenn Taylor (1897-1968) and his wife Sara Viola Taylor, née Warmbrodt (1895-1994), an actress who appeared on several U.S. and London stages under the stage name Sara Sothern until 1927. Because her parents were U.S. citizens, Taylor held both U.S. and British citizenship from birth. Her brother Howard Taylor (b. 1929, † 2017), although actually a marine scientist, had occasional small film and television roles in the 1960s.
The family belonged to the wealthy upper middle class. From early childhood, Elizabeth took riding lessons and ballet classes. From 1937 she attended the private Byron House School in Highgate.
After the beginning of World War II, the family left London, which was threatened by German air raids, and moved to California, first to Pasadena, then to Pacific Palisades and finally to Beverly Hills, where Francis Taylor hoped to find customers for his art business in the film scene. Elizabeth Taylor attended Hawthorne Elementary School there, continued to take riding, ballet and additionally singing lessons. She never really danced or sang well, however, so she was hardly ever used in the film.
The Taylors came to California at a time when people there were excited about cute child stars like Freddie Bartholomew and Shirley Temple. The mother was able – after unsuccessful attempts to get influential Hollywood personalities like Hedda Hopper or Louis B. Mayer to her daughter, whom she compared to the equally dark-haired Vivien Leigh, the mother was finally able to persuade Universal chairman John Cheever Cowdin to use Elizabeth in a small role. So in the late summer of 1941, the nine-year-old participated for a few days in the filming of a short film comedy, which was released in 1942 under the title There”s One Born Every Minute. The film was a flop and Taylor”s contract was not renewed.
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Contract actress at MGM
In 1942, her parents won MGM producer Samuel Marx to use her in the “Lassie” film Homesick. After this lavishly Technicolor-produced film paid off in theaters, Taylor was given a seven-year studio contract that called for her to play a tiny role first in the 1943 literary adaptation The Orphan of Lowood and then a small part in the very profitable patriotic drama The White Cliffs of Dover in 1944. The place of action in all three films was England, and one of the reasons she was chosen for these roles was her British accent, which she had not yet shed.
Because she was good at riding horses and exactly what the producers had in mind for the character, Taylor was chosen in early 1944 for the title role in the lavish prestige production Little Girl, Big Heart. It was Taylor”s first title role and the first film in which the now twelve-year-old appeared in almost every scene. Director Clarence Brown, who had directed seven films with Greta Garbo, knew exactly how to film Taylor”s beauty. As the film proved extremely profitable after its theatrical release in December 1944, MGM”s powerful publicity department began pushing Taylor out as a star. The image created for her was that of an animalistic “girl next door”; Taylor lived up to this by, among other things, publishing a 1946 narrative about her experiences with a tame squirrel (Nibbles and Me).
MGM used Taylor as a child for the last time in Lassie – Hero on Four Paws (1946). With her next films – Our Life with Father (1947), Cynthia (1947), Turmoil for Judy (1948), The Imperfect Lady (1948) and Little Brave Jo (1949) – she moved into the young-girl field. As Brenda Maddox has pointed out, Taylor”s adolescence coincided with the “invention” in the Western world of the teenager, that is, the social concept of an age bracket between childhood and adulthood, whose U.S. representatives as “Bobby Soxers” possessed a distinctive culture of their own, which, as Maddox writes, included “charming customs such as walking together for hours on the telephone.” Through the two films Cynthia and Fuss for Judy, Elizabeth Taylor achieved the status of a teen queen in the U.S., whose stylistic model many of her peers began to emulate. After the release of Cynthia, for example, she appeared on the cover of the influential Life magazine for the first time; in the decades that followed, she was featured there more often than any other movie star. In Cynthia, Taylor embodied an overprotected and unhappy young girl who rebels against the paternalism of her parents, and thus corresponded to the image that the press now also had of the real Elizabeth Taylor.
The talent developers at the major Hollywood studios often tried to have their expensively built child stars move into teenage roles, but rarely had as much luck with them as they did with Elizabeth Taylor. Shirley Temple, for example, lost her popularity in the early 1940s, and Margaret O”Brien, also employed by MGM, failed in 1951 with the film Her First Romance. Taylor”s career was especially dealt with at MGM by Vice President Benjamin Thau. However, he didn”t quite know in the late 1940s how to develop her image and in what type of roles to use her. As Brenda Maddox has pointed out, Taylor had already developed a raw sex appeal since the age of sixteen, through which she could have been built up into a sex symbol in a similar way to Marilyn Monroe at 20th Century Fox. However, MGM was already working with Ava Gardner in this niche. Taylor”s career planning was also hampered by internal power struggles that culminated in the 1951 replacement of powerful studio head Louis B. Mayer by Dore Schary. The company never regained its former efficiency after that, and Taylor remained – along with Grace Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Leslie Caron – one of the last contract actresses to be built up as a star by MGM.
Many of the films in which Taylor played her first adult roles are now considered film history curiosities, occasionally seen in arthouse theaters and on television nighttime programs. She made her debut as a leading lady as a 17-year-old in the spy thriller Conspirators, filmed at England”s MGM Studios in London in 1949. The film, whose mood was born of the Cold War spirit, stars Taylor as a young U.S. woman who learns that her dashing husband, played by 38-year-old Robert Taylor, is a Russian spy. Neither this film nor her next – the comedy Of Cats and Pusses – made much of an impression on audiences or critics.
Not at MGM, but at Paramount, which “loaned” her out in the fall of 1949, Taylor found her first good role as the Leading Lady. MGM received $35,000 in return for this loan-out. Paramount was working on an adaptation of a novel by Theodore Dreiser. In the film, A Place in the Sun, Montgomery Clift played an ambitious young laborer who kills his pregnant girlfriend (Shelley Winters) so he can be with a young lady of high society (Taylor). Directed by George Stevens, who, given the Hays Code, had to cover up any socio-critical implications of the material and focus on the personal motives of the characters, Taylor portrayed the young seductress not as an easygoing woman but so sympathetically that the audience empathized with the killer. The film was released in August 1951 after lengthy editing and grossed $3.5 million. This made it one of the ten most successful of the year. The influential critic Andrew Sarris judged at the time that Clift and Taylor were “the most beautiful couple in the history of cinema.”
The commercially outstanding films MGM produced with Taylor around 1950 were Father of the Bride, A Gift from Heaven, and Ivanhoe – The Black Knight. Father of the Bride (1950) and its sequel A Gift from Heaven (1951) were two films entirely tailored to the talents of Spencer Tracy, about the hilarious experiences of a father whose daughter (Taylor) marries and has her first child. After shooting the first film, Taylor, who had spent her school years at the company”s MGM Studio School beginning in 1942, earned her high school diploma and married hotel heir Conrad Hilton Jr. in May 1950. MGM staged the wedding as a publicity event for the two Spencer Tracy films. By the time Taylor traveled to England in the summer of 1951 to star in Ivanhoe – The Black Knight (1952), however, the marriage had been divorced. In this costume film, she again played only a supporting role, but Ivanhoe achieved the fourth-best box-office result of the year in U.S. cinemas and MGM gave Taylor a new seven-year studio contract.
Despite her success in A Place in the Sun, she was not considered by MGM in the early 1950s – like Grace Kelly, for example – to be a top asset. Had this been the case, the tabloid press, under studio pressure, would have discreetly overlooked her divorce and subsequent love affairs; but Taylor was now getting bad press for the first time. Although she was repeatedly considered for interesting leading roles – e.g. in The Heiress to the Throne, A Heart and a Crown and The Barefoot Countess – other actresses were always preferred. Occasionally, she simply had bad luck with her films, as with the comedy The Sweet Trap, whose theatrical release was delayed until 1952 after her screen partner Larry Parks was blacklisted by the Committee on Un-American Activities.
One lesson MGM learned from Taylor”s success in A Place in the Sun was to use her again and again as the spoiled young lady of glamorous high society, for example in A Spoiled Beast (1953), Elephant”s Path (1954), and Beau Brummell (1954). Other film studios later continued this habit, for example in Giants (1956), Cleopatra (1963), Surf (1968), The Night of a Thousand Eyes (1973) and The Rival (1973). Since her marriage to the wealthy Nicky Hilton, Taylor also presented herself to the public in private as a lover of dissolute luxury; Richard Burton later acquired for her, for example, one of the most valuable collections of jewels in the world. Taylor also made no secret of her frequently changing sexual relationships – behavior that was still heavily shamed on the eve of the “Sexual Revolution.” As Donald Spoto has pointed out, Taylor”s image and the fascination it held for contemporaries were closely intertwined with the naïve enthusiasm that accompanied the economic boom of the 1950s. Taylor, says Spoto, represented to the public a kind of “Miss Libertine” who “carries a torch for absolute autonomy, pointing the way to pleasure-but she was also a flesh-and-blood woman on perpetual vacation, and she played that role to perfection.”
In 1953, MGM loaned her to Paramount for the exotic film Elephant”s Path, in which Taylor replaced Vivien Leigh, who had dropped out during filming. In it, Taylor portrayed an attractive young woman who achieves fairy-tale luxury through a somewhat hasty marriage – her husband is the filthy rich heir to a Ceylonese tea plantation – but discovers that there is actually no place for her in this paradise. The film Elephant”s Path is remarkable because in it Taylor not only played a glamorous creature of luxury, but was also seen for the first time as a “poor rich girl” – a woman who lacks nothing materially, but finds love fulfillment only after undergoing protracted and painful self-denial. Taylor played the roles of such actually strong, but at the same time longing for submission women in different ways again and again later, for example in her following film Symphony of the Heart (1954), but also in The Cat on the Hot Tin Roof (1958), Cleopatra (1963) and pointedly in The Taming of the Shrew (1967).
Another variant of the luxury creature was the type of charming but superficial young woman addicted to self and pleasure, which she had already embodied in Brave Little Jo (1949) and A Spoiled Beast (1953). She did not fully develop such a character, however, until the F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation Then in Paris (1954), in which she portrayed a fun-loving young American woman who falls in love with a young writer (audience favorite Van Johnson) in Paris. She respects his artistic ambitions so little that the marriage fails.
Taylor, as many of her biographers have noted, possessed neither good screenplay judgment nor a sense of which film roles would advance her career. MGM also made many bad decisions on this point. She actually found her next interesting role not at MGM, but in the Warner production Giants, for which director George Stevens had initially intended Grace Kelly. The role was her most challenging to date. In it, Taylor embodied the character of Leslie across a wide age range (21-45), showing her in all her complexity, with witty, emancipated, shy and caring traits. The film, which featured Rock Hudson and James Dean in other leading roles, grossed $14 million in U.S. theaters, making it the most profitable Warner released in 1956.
Now that Taylor had proved so valuable to Warner, MGM also used her in a prestige production. The best-selling film The Land of the Rain Tree (1957) featured her as a Southern belle who loses her mind in a complicated marriage to an unequal partner (Montgomery Clift). She played her first mad scene in it. With the help of a speech coach, Taylor acquired a flawless Southern accent for this role. The film, directed by Edward Dmytryk and produced at great expense using MGM”s in-house Camera 65 process, was MGM”s first widescreen film and was intended to follow up the success of the box-office hit Gone with the Wind.
Although the film fell short of its model, The Land of the Rain Tree was the first MGM film with Taylor as the leading lady to earn top box office receipts. The second followed immediately. In the Tennessee Williams adaptation The Cat on the Hot Tin Roof (1958), Taylor played Maggie, a young wife who tries to save her husband Brick (Paul Newman), who is suffering from an unspeakable problem, from his self-destructive tendencies. In Williams” play, Brick is homosexual, a subject that director Richard Brooks was not allowed to include in the film because of the Hays Code. Brooks therefore paid particular attention to the portrayal of Maggie, and under his direction Taylor interpreted the character as a multi-layered woman with as many human weaknesses as endearing traits, who on the one hand wants to get her hands on the inheritance, but on the other really longs to win her husband”s love. The Cat on a Hot Tin Roof became the most commercially successful MGM film of the year, earning Taylor not only the best reviews of her career to date, but also, for the first time, a place among the top ten box-office stars on Quigley”s Annual List of Box-Office Champions, in which she appeared a total of nine times through 1968.
During the shooting of this film, Taylor”s third husband, film producer Michael Todd, was killed in a plane crash. The fact that shortly thereafter she began a romance with popular singer Eddie Fisher, who left his wife, actress Debbie Reynolds, for her, temporarily earned her very bad press. In consideration of Fisher, who was Jewish and whom she married in the spring of 1959, Taylor, who had been raised by her parents in the Christian Science faith, professed Reform Judaism from that point on.
In 1958, Taylor”s studio contract with MGM expired. She found her first freelance job with Columbia in the summer of 1959. In Suddenly Last Summer, another Tennessee Williams film, she played the role of a seductive young woman who loves a young man. But he abuses her as bait for the men he actually desires. When he meets a bestial end, the circumstances of which his mother (Katharine Hepburn) tries to cover up by all means, the young woman is traumatized and escapes the madness only thanks to an understanding neurologist (Montgomery Clift). Although the film”s depiction of violence, incest, cannibalism and prostitution made it a strong challenge to the Hays Code, it became the most commercially successful Columbia released that year.
Although Taylor was no longer a contract actress for MGM, she still owed the studio one last film. She accepted the role MGM had intended for her – that of Gloria in Telephone Butterfield 8 – only because she needed the fee and couldn”t afford a lawsuit. As Donald Spoto, among others, noted, the characters in this film have no depth, and its theme – the unhappy love of a call girl for a married man – is merely depressing, but achieves no real tragedy. Despite the weak script, Taylor managed to expand her acting repertoire once again in the film, portraying a character with dark, sensual and evil sides for the first time instead of a sweet, innocent young woman. Telephone Butterfield 8 was the most commercially successful film MGM released in 1960, and it gave Elizabeth Taylor, who had already been nominated in 1958, 1959 and 1960, her first Oscar.
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After Butterfield 8, Taylor was no longer bound to MGM and, as had become customary in the industry, only signed contracts for individual film projects. Around 1958, she had already commissioned the influential agent Kurt Frings, who also looked after Audrey Hepburn, to look after her interests. Frings negotiated for Taylor with 20th Century Fox for the title role in the monumental film Cleopatra, a prestige production with which the company, which was under pressure, hoped to rehabilitate itself. Since films with Taylor had previously been safe investments, Fox also agreed to her demand for a fee of one million dollars – a sum that had never been paid to a movie star before. Since Taylor later also shared in the profits as a co-producer, her total earnings from the film eventually amounted to more than seven million dollars. Taylor liked the role because she got to play Cleopatra not simply as a calculating seductress, but also as an idealist committed to world peace and even willing to give up some of her power to achieve it. Filming began in London in the summer of 1960 after very long and complicated production preparations. Since neither the script nor the decorations were finished on time and Taylor fell seriously ill twice, there were again long interruptions, so that the production costs rose from the originally estimated two to more than 37 million dollars in the end.
The final production location became Rome. Stephen Boyd, who was initially to play the role of Marcus Antonius in Cleopatra, was replaced in September 1961 by Richard Burton, whom Taylor had known fleetingly since the early 1950s. Since both Taylor and Burton were married, and studios like Fox had by now run out of discretionary agreements with the press, the love affair that developed between the two actors while filming in Rome caused more public offense than any of Taylor”s previous affairs. Thus, it was publicly criticized not only by the Vatican – by Pope John XXIII, by Vatican Radio, and especially sharply by the Osservatore della Domenica – but also by Iris Blitch, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives who, in the spring of 1962, argued in vain that Taylor and Burton should be barred from re-entering the U.S. after filming was completed. Taylor and Burton”s relationship became, as Donald Spoto puts it, “the most persistently publicized private affair of the 1960s.” From the moment their romance became public in April 1962, Taylor and Burton were constantly besieged by paparazzi and curious crowds. Their ostentatious indifference to the moral outrage they faced and their open disdain for social conventions, as Taylor”s biographers have repeatedly pointed out, played a role in the liberalization process that led to the gradual de-tabooization of “illicit sex.” Taylor and Burton”s relationship was considered a prominent model case that was repeatedly cited in the social discourse that arose around this issue at the time. Randy Taraborrelli wrote, “They were indeed leading a sexual revolution.”
Neither Taylor nor Burton won any acting awards from their performances in Cleopatra, but the film paid for itself in 1966 and is now considered the most commercially successful of its theatrical year.
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Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (1962-1972)
When Taylor and Burton finally married on March 15, 1964, they were such a presence in the tabloid press and the public”s need to see the couple on the big screen was so great that by 1967 all the films in which Taylor and Burton appeared together easily recouped their production costs, even in those that the critics panned. Taylor”s fees were almost always $1 million per film until 1969; Burton usually received less. From 1963 to 1973, the pair appeared in ten more feature films, although Taylor had only very small roles in three (Under the Milk Forest, 1972). In the remaining films – especially Hotel International (1963), … Who Desire Everything (1965), Who”s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), The Taming of the Shrew (1967) and His Divorce, Her Divorce (1973) – they deliberately catered to the expectations of audiences who couldn”t get enough of their turbulent love and married life.
Burton, who until then had “only” had the rank of a first-class Shakespearean actor, achieved international stardom through the films. Artistically, however, the collaboration with Taylor was not very productive for him. Although Burton learned many things about film acting from Taylor, he gave his best performances in films such as Becket (1963), The Night of the Iguana (1964) and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965), in which Taylor did not appear.
All of the films in which Taylor appeared in the following years were produced in Europe. For tax reasons, she also gave up her U.S. citizenship in the mid-1960s and took up formal residence in Switzerland. The romance films Hotel International and … who desire everything were followed in 1965 by
Ellis Auburn laments that this Oscar was the “kiss of death” for Taylor”s career as a serious actress, because it led to a type-casting as a xanthippe that she could hardly escape in the years that followed. She appeared as a nagging or taunting mega-heroine in her next major roles, such as Catherine in Franco Zeffirelli”s Shakespeare adaptation The Taming of the Shrew (with Burton) or as Leonora in John Huston”s artistically and thematically unusual but commercially unsuccessful chamber play Mirror in the Golden Eye (1967). In 1967 Taylor and Burton founded the Taybur company, with which they intended to produce films themselves, but which then never became active. The avant-garde film Surf (1968), in which Taylor again gave herself loud and vulgar, is the first of a whole series of films – The Woman from Nowhere (with Burton), Hammersmith is Out (with Burton), The Night of a Thousand Eyes (1973) and The Rival (1973) – for which she still received million-dollar fees, which, at least in the U.S., no longer received any attention from audiences or critics. In Europe, on the other hand, Taylor was now receiving major film awards, and some critics and writers believe that her best acting performances came during this period, when she dared to portray less attractive women.
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Retirement from the film business and death
Television increasingly replaced cinema as early as the 1950s, and gained ever greater importance in the following two decades. Elizabeth Taylor also appeared in a television role for the first time in 1972, in the TV movie His Divorce, Her Divorce produced for ABC. It was her last film appearance together with Richard Burton. Their marriage was divorced in 1974; they remarried in 1975, but divorced again in 1976.
Taylor”s last feature film appearances – Identikit (1974), The Blue Bird (1976), Smiles of a Summer Night (1977), Murder in the Mirror (1980), Il giovane Toscanini (1988) and Flintstones – The Flintstones Family (1994) – were hardly noticed by audiences or critics. Taylor turned forty in 1972, too old to be a leading lady by Hollywood standards; her search for good roles was also complicated by her increasing corpulence. The end of her film career was further accelerated by her marriage to Republican politician John Warner, with whom she lived in Washington, D.C., from 1978, after his election as U.S. senator. Although she lacked the technique as a film actress, Taylor first appeared as a stage actress in 1981, first in Lillian Hellman”s family drama The Little Foxes, produced for Broadway by Zev Bufman. The play was well received by audiences and earned Taylor $1.5 million in nine months. Noël Coward”s divorce comedy Private Lives followed in 1983, in which Taylor appeared for the last time alongside Richard Burton, who died in 1984. Although it was panned by critics, Private Lives, which this time Taylor also co-produced, was another hit with audiences.
In December 1983, Taylor, who had been an alcoholic and later a drug addict since her relationship with Burton, began a seven-week inpatient rehab at California”s Betty Ford Center. A second inpatient stay there followed in October 1988. Alongside Liza Minnelli, Taylor was the first very prominent personality to speak openly about this treatment and thus also campaign for acceptance and recognition of alcoholism as a disease.
While her feature film work waned, Taylor appeared on and off in television movies – such as Girlfriends for Life (1983), Crazy Hollywood (1985), Shadows of Glory (1986) and Poker Alice (1987) – and individual episodes of television series (General Hospital, All My Children, Hotel and Torches in the Storm) until 2001. From 1992 to 2003, she also appeared occasionally as a voice actress for animated films and series.
Elizabeth Taylor lived in a large mansion in Bel Air, California from 1981. She did not act after 2003, but appeared in talk shows and television programs. She died of heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on March 23, 2011, at the age of 79, at 01:28 local time. She had been hospitalized there since February 2011 for heart problems. The funeral was held a day later at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale) in California. And even for her funeral – as she had stipulated in her will – her coffin was to arrive 15 minutes late.
Elizabeth Taylor had three biological children and one adopted daughter and, apart from numerous romances and engagements spread by the press, was married eight times:
Taylor was friends with actor Roddy McDowall since childhood, with Montgomery Clift since the filming of A Place in the Sun, and with Michael Jackson since 1984. Taylor was also close friends with Rock Hudson since the filming of Giants. She co-organized his memorial service in 1985 after his death. Her commitment to those infected with HIV stemmed in large part from this friendship.
Like many other successful actresses of her generation – e.g. Shirley Temple, Audrey Hepburn, Tippi Hedren, Debbie Reynolds, Kim Novak and Shirley MacLaine – Elizabeth Taylor never received formal acting lessons, but acquired her craft skills exclusively on the set, where she was instructed and trained by her directors (George Stevens, Richard Brooks, Mike Nichols) and later her film partners (Montgomery Clift, Richard Burton). Taraborrelli also mentions her mother as a teacher.
This hands-on training had a number of consequences for Taylor”s acting work. The MGM studios were an extremely efficient institution, where a lot of money was at stake and where discipline counted more than artistic self-realization. Taylor fit into this system well because she had learned very young to live up to her directors” expectations. She was very disciplined and focused on the set and rarely fumbled, usually allowing the first take to be used. At MGM, she was nicknamed One-Shot-Liz (“First-take-Liz”). The Hollywood Women”s Press Club even honored her with its Golden Apple Award in 1985 for her cooperative behavior in every respect. More than other actresses, however, Taylor was also dependent on the ability of her directors, and her weakest acting performances always came when the director was also mediocre.
Unlike the Method actors who began to dominate the acting scene in the 1950s, and similar to Spencer Tracy, for example, Taylor prepared for her lines but did not plan her means of expression (intonation, gestures, etc.) but developed them spontaneously in front of the camera, which was her real element. Her on-screen partners, who had regular training, were occasionally irritated when she merely recited her lines uninvolved during a rehearsal, and only began to act when the camera started up. As with Marilyn Monroe, Taylor”s acting work often received little attention from critics because the direction, camera, lighting, and makeup staged her beauty so professionally and effectively that her actual means of expression behind it were easy to overlook. However, Taylor herself also believed she was at her best when she was carefully costumed, made up, and lit.
In early 1958 – during the Cold War – Taylor”s third husband, film producer Michael Todd, made an attempt to bring the actress out as a goodwill ambassador for a U.S.-Soviet understanding. U.S. authorities, however, would have none of it, and although Taylor managed to be introduced to Bulganin, Khrushchev, Mikoyan and Gromyko during a visit to Moscow on January 27, 1958, her efforts ended unsuccessfully. A second goodwill trip behind the Iron Curtain, made by Taylor and Eddie Fisher in July 1961 on the occasion of the Moscow International Film Festival, received stronger press coverage. In 1975, Taylor appeared in the fairy tale film The Blue Bird, shot in Moscow and Leningrad. The film was the only U.S.-Soviet co-production to occur during the Cold War era. However, it flopped in U.S. theaters. A third “diplomatic mission”, which was not coordinated with the U.S. authorities, took Taylor at the end of 1982 to the Middle Eastern states of Lebanon and Israel, which had just fought an open war in the summer.
In 1976, Taylor gave her name to the founding of a jewelry trading company (Elizabeth Taylor Diamond Corporation), but was deprived of her agreed-upon income in the process and parted ways with the company as early as early 1978. In 1987, Chesebrough-Pond”s subsidiary Parfums International marketed a perfume named after Taylor for the first time; others followed. By the mid-1990s, her earnings from this business made her one of the richest women in the United States, according to Forbes Magazine; by 1994, her personal fortune was more than $600 million.
Together with Burton, who suffered from hemophilia, Taylor had already founded a Richard Burton Hemophilia Fund in 1964, a fundraising organization that raised money for education about the disease. In 1981, the AIDS pandemic broke out in the U.S., and while authorities and politicians ignored the problem, which was initially associated exclusively with homosexuality, in June 1985 Elizabeth Taylor became the first celebrity in the country to use her celebrity to raise public awareness. In 1985, she became chair of one of the first major AIDS benefit organizers (Commitment of Life), whose proceeds benefited AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), and also collaborated in the creation of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmfAR). In 1991, she established her own Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. By 1992, she made more frequent public appearances with her involvement, raising more funds for AIDS work than any other prominent figure in the country. As recently as 1998, she spoke at a fundraising event in Santa Monica.
Taylor”s motion picture career spanned a period of 52 years, during which she matured from naive child to aging lady. Her image continued to evolve during this time, with MGM”s publicity department and later the tabloid press often only following what Taylor herself told them to do. She was, in fact, one of the first creations of MGM to no longer follow the dictates of her father”s Louis B. Mayer and who wanted to make her own decisions about her career – at least to a small extent. When she left MGM in 1958 and thus also formally gained the freedom to determine her own image, she had already made the art of media-effective self-portrayal her second nature. As an MGM creation, she had learned very early on that not only her work in front of the camera, but her entire life – photo shoots, public appearances, award shows – was acting. Taraborrelli wrote in 2006, “She learned to act, to be Elizabeth Taylor, and that was a full-time job.” And, “She loved being a star and rarely complained about it, as so many other celebrities do Since 1964, moreover, Taylor was backed by one of the country”s top press agents, John Springer.
Through her repeated appearances in film adaptations of works by homosexual authors (Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, James Kirkwood, Jr. ), in films that dealt overtly or covertly with homosexuality (Reflection in the Golden Eye, The Woman from Nowhere, X, Y, and Zee), through trash and drag roles such as in Brandung, which were perceived as camp by her gay fans, and through her friendships with bisexual and homosexual colleagues (Roddy McDowall, Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson, Helmut Berger), Taylor also rose to become a homosexual idol. Among the artists who owed her stylistic inspiration was the drag queen Divine.
Pop artist Andy Warhol painted Elizabeth Taylor repeatedly in the 1960s. Michael Jackson, who had set up an “Elizabeth Taylor shrine” at Neverland, jokingly quoted it in his 1988 music video Moonwalker (song Leave Me Alone). He later wrote a song Elizabeth, I Love You, which he sang in a television gala produced for ABC in 1997.
In Japan, the publisher Time Kill Communication launched a magazine in 1998 that promised life help to divorcees and whose title LIZ refers to Elizabeth Taylor, who has been divorced seven times. The toy manufacturer Mattel released three Barbie doll models Elizabeth Taylor in 2000.
Elizabeth Taylor has been repeatedly hailed as the “most beautiful woman in the world” by the press, picture book publishers and individual personalities. The American Film Institute ranked her 7th in their list of the 25 greatest female screen legends in US film history.
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Film reviews and documentaries about Elizabeth Taylor
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Fictional films about Elizabeth Taylor
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Golden Globe Award
Other film awards
Elizabeth Taylor is also immortalized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (at 6336 Hollywood Boulevard).
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All book titles listed are in English unless otherwise noted.
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About Elizabeth Taylor