Elizabeth Taylor was an acting legend from the golden age of Hollywood. AFI listed her as seventh on the “Female Legends List”. Her acting career lasted over sixty years, starting at the age of ten and ending at the age of 71.
Elizabeth Taylor was born in London, England. The daughter of Americans who were residing in England at the time. Due to the circumstances of her birth, she had dual citizenship as a British-American. During World War II, her parents moved back to the United States to avoid hostilities. They eventually settled in Los Angeles, California.
Due to family connections, Taylor received her first opportunity at acting with Universal Pictures. She signed her first contract at the age of 9, of which she would earn $100 a week. She only starred in one film with Universal, “There’s One Born Every Minute”. In the same year of her contract cancellation, MGM signed her to a three month contract, earning the same $100/week. She would star as Priscilla in the movie “Lassie Come Home”.
Upon the success of Lassie Come Home, Taylor received a longer running contract. Her real break-through role came with the film “National Velvet”, with Taylor playing the main character, Velvet Brown, at the age of 12. The film received acclaim from both critics and movie-goers alike, catapulting Taylor into true stardom.
Taylor’s first adult role came in 1948, starring in the film “Conspirator”. The film bombed at the box office, with many not ready to accept Taylor in adult roles. She played a 21 year-old debutante, even though she was really 16 at the time. Taylor’s first box-office success as and adult would come in 1950 with the classic “Father of the Bride”, starring alongside Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett. The film immediately spawned a sequel, “Father’s Little Dividend”. During this same time, Taylor began work on what would become known as her pivotal role; she starred as Angela Vickers in “A Place In The Sun”.
The early part of the 50’s proved trying for Taylor, as she was type-casted into roles she had little interest in. Although the early part of the decade proved trying, it ended on a high note. Taylor was nominated for an Oscar four years in a row (’58, ’59, ’60, ’61) for the films: Raintree County, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly, Last Summer, and Butterfield 8. Of the four nominations she would win the award for Butterfield 8. In 1960, in the middle of her nomination run, Taylor became the highest paid actress in Hollywood. In 1960, she signed a one million dollar contract to star in the blockbuster “Cleopatra”. It was during this movie Taylor would begin her famous relationship with the actor Richard Burton.
During the 60’s, Taylor would appear in six films with Richard Burton. In 1966, she starred opposite of him in the now classic “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”. She would receive her second Academy Award for Best Actress.
Though the 1960’s brought huge success for Elizabeth Taylor, her star power would diminish in the 70’s. She continued to appear in films, but very few of them were successful at the box office. In the 80’s, Taylor shifted her focus and during this time appeared in soap operas, Broadway, and television mini-series. General Hospital and All My Children were the soap operas she was a part of.
Taylor’s last theatrical film was in 1994. Afterwards, she continued her legacy through her love of jewelry, perfume, and her time invested to raise funds for AIDS research. Her jewelry and perfume collections became huge successes. The Elizabeth Taylor collection included the fragrances “Passion”, “White Diamonds”, and “Black Pearls”. Altogether, they accumulated around $200 million in annual sales.
Taylor’s personal life was just as famous as her acting career. She was married eight times to seven different husbands. Of the seven, she divorced six of them and was widowed by one (Michael Todd). Her most famous marriage was to Richard Burton, with whom she was married to from 1964-1974. After the divorce in 1974, they were then married again in October 1975. They were divorced again within the year. Taylor had four children, one of which she adopted during the Burton marriage. As of January 2011 Taylor had nine grandchildren, of which she is survived by.
- February, 27, 1932
- London, England
- March, 23, 2011
- Los Angeles, California
Cause of Death
- congestive heart failure
- Forest Lawn Memorial Park
- Glendale, California