A London-born beauty who never lost her clipped, clean way of speaking, Ms. Taylor possessed vivid features known to three generations of filmgoers: Raven hair, dark eyebrows, ivory skin, a near-perfect figure and, most remarkably, violet eyes that were among the most commented-on physical attributes in Hollywood history. Her great beauty arguably both aided and hampered her career as an actress — winning her roles that her modest acting skills were sometimes not quite up to, and distracting audiences and critics when she did turn in excellent performances. – Playbill
But her defining role, one that lasted long past her moviemaking days, was “Elizabeth Taylor,” ever marrying and divorcing, in and out of hospitals, gaining and losing weight, standing by Michael Jackson, Rock Hudson and other troubled friends, acquiring a jewelry collection that seemed to rival Tiffany’s. – The Globe and Mail
Making mundane clothes seem magnificent was one of Taylor’s most potent onscreen powers. Her heyday on the big screen – which spanned from the mid-1940s to the late 1960s — is rife with such moments. The white Edith Head-designed debutante dress that showed off her impossibly tiny waist in “A Place in the Sun”; the rustic Western wear designed by Marjorie Best for “Giant”; and the Grecian-goddess-esque white dress designed by Helen Rose for “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” are among Hollywood’s least-complicated and most iconic looks. – Los Angeles Times
But her talents as an actress went only a small way to explaining her rumbustious, headline-making appeal. Married eight times to seven different husbands, she conducted her affairs like a Beverly Hills Wife of Bath. Plagued by accidents as she was, she was also blessed with apparent indestructibility. She bounced back after divorce, bereavement, alcohol and drug addiction, career droughts and the venom of the world’s press. – The Times
As the nation mourns the death of legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor, we pause for a moment to recall that she played a political role as the wife of GOP Sen. John Warner. The Academy Award-winning actress helped Warner, a former Navy secretary, get elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978. She stirred things up at the Virginia Republican Party convention that year, showing up in a tiger-striped pantsuit to shake hands with delegates and gin up support for Warner. – USA Today
The 5ft 2in, violet-eyed beauty’s career became inextricably bound up with a much publicised private life, when her idyllic screen marriage coincided with her disastrous real-life marriage to the hotel heir Nicky Hilton, first of her seven husbands. From then on, she was exploited by every gossip columnist and patronised by virtually every film reviewer, dismissed as a substandard actress, condemned as a predatory home-breaker – but elevated to superstar status. – The Guardian
Her personal life set a Hollywood standard for glamour and tumult. After the death of her third husband, film producer Mike Todd, in 1958, she found herself in a well-chronicled love triangle with singer Eddie Fisher and his wife actress Debbie Reynolds, before marrying Fisher. At the time she famously said: “I’m not taking anything away from Debbie because she never really had it.” – The Telegraph
Two years after her 1959 marriage to Fisher, Taylor met Richard Burton on the set of Cleopatra. “Has anybody ever told you that you’re a very pretty girl?” said the hard-living actor. Her reaction: “Here’s the great lover, the great wit, the great intellectual of Wales, and he comes out with a line like that!” – The Washington Post
Elizabeth once told me that she thought her career was over before she hit her teens. She recalled how she made There’s One Born Every Minute, her first film. ‘The studio didn’t like me and dropped me. I was ten years of age. It was cruel.Then MGM signed me up and I made Lassie Come Home and never looked back after that. You have to remember that in the days of those early films I made people went to the movies all the time, sometimes two or three times a week. Television hadn’t taken hold then. People listened to the radio and went to the movies. ‘The magazines and gossip writers followed your every move. You can’t imagine what it was like. But we had the time of our lives. We had the best of it. We made movies then, they don’t really make them now, do they?’ – The Daily Mail
Celebrities took to Twitter to post tributes to the star, whose death was announced at around 6:00am local time. Latin star Ricky Martin simply wrote, “Elizabeth Taylor RIP,” while British singer Kylie Minogue retweeted a message Taylor had posted in July last year that read, “Give. Remember always to give. That is the thing that will make you grow.” British broadcaster Piers Morgan, who hosts CNN show, “Piers Morgan Tonight,” wrote “Liz Taylor has died. One of the great movie stars of all time, on and off screen.” Prolific Twitter user, British comedian Stephen Fry paid tribute to the star with the message, “RIP Dame Elizabeth Taylor, surely the last of a breed…” Elton John said that “we have just lost a Hollywood giant; more importantly, we have lost an incredible human being.” Taylor, who had more than 300,000 followers and had tweeted 131 times, last used the microblogging site on Feb. 9 when wrote, “My interview in Bazaar with Kim Kardashian came out!!!” and posted a link to the interview. – New York Post
In her final decades, as her stardom outgrew the need for movies, Miss Taylor sailed on in a state of perpetual celebrity buoyed by personalized perfumes, a diet book, pioneering AIDS charity work, illnesses, and romance, always romance. Her final husband was a construction worker she had met in rehab. She called her close friend Michael Jackson “the most normal person I know.” She had her 60th birthday party at Disneyland, and irony was not on the menu. We will not see her like again. – The Boston Globe
Lives that represent an era that pass from the scene have a particular power to move us. Perhaps they remind us of our own mortality, after all if the screen gods and goddesses can die — we are all so vulnerable. But when someone like Elizabeth Taylor dies I believe that we feel more for her passing than we do for our fears. Her bold and vivid life was always enough to distract us briefly from our own life concerns and for that we are grateful. About her it can be said, “She lived a life.” – Huffington Post
There was more than a touch of Ms. Taylor herself in the roles she played. She acted with the magnet of her personality. Although she could alter her look for a part — putting on weight for Martha in “Virginia Woolf” or wearing elaborate period costumes — she was not a chameleon, assuming the coloration of a character. Instead she would bring the character closer to herself. For her, acting was “purely intuitive.” As she said, “What I try to do is to give the maximum emotional effect with the minimum of visual movement.” – The New York Times
Taylor was also one of the earliest Hollywood activists fighting against AIDS. After her friend and co-star Rock Hudson died of the disease, she decided she could not sit back any longer. Taylor joined with a group of physicians and scientists to form amfAR in 1985. “I could no longer take a passive role as I watched several people I knew and loved die a painful, slow and lonely death,” Taylor said in an interview about heractivism. “Even if we make the smallest gesture, at least we are making an impact.” Taylor went on to found an organization that bore her own name and it’s one of the few celebrity AIDS charities to focus primarily on victims in the United States. Taylor dedicated the past 25 years of her life to battling the epidemic, testifying on Capitol Hill, paying visits to victims in hospitals, and lobbying politicians for funds to find a cure. “I hope with all of my heart that in some way I have made a difference in the lives of people with AIDS,” Taylor once said. “I want that to be my legacy. Better that than for the mole on my cheek.” – Newsweek
A private family funeral will be held later this week. Instead of flowers, the family has requested that contributions be made to the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation. – BBC
“Today my friend Elizabeth Taylor passed away. Oddly, we all knew this day was coming but still her passing took my breath away. She was a funny, loud, joke tellin’, diamond loving, fantastic woman. She played a big role in shaping my life as Whoopi Goldberg. It really is the end of an era.” – Whoopi Goldberg on Facebook
“I am deeply saddened that Elizabeth has passed away and send my love and sympathy to her family. Elizabeth and I began our careers about the same time at MGM. Throughout her tumultuous life, she will be remembered for some unique and memorable work. And she will be ever remembered and appreciated for her forthright support of Amfar. (American Foundation for Aids Research)” – Angela Lansbury
“Dame Elizabeth was without doubt one of the most inspirational figures in the fight against Aids. She was among the first to speak out on behalf of people living with HIV when others reacted with fear and often outright hostility. Dame Elizabeth’s compassion, radiance and generosity of spirit will be greatly missed by us all. She leaves a monumental legacy that has improved and extended millions of lives and will enrich countless more for generations to come,” Amfar’s staff and board of trustees
“Today, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community lost an extraordinary ally in the movement for full equality. At a time when so many living with HIV/AIDS were invisible, Dame Taylor fearlessly raised her voice to speak out against injustice. Dame Taylor was an icon not only in Hollywood, but in the LGBT community where she worked to ensure that everyone was treated with the respect and dignity we all deserve.” – GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios
If Taylor’s career waned in the later years, then her early years were enough to ensure a wealth of career honors—from the American Film Institute, the Kennedy Center, the Motion Picture Academy, and even the Queen of England, who deigned Taylor a Dame of the British Empire in 2000. – E! Online
Reuters Key Films of her career:
“There’s One Born Every Minute,” 1942
10-year-old Elizabeth’s screen debut.
“Lassie, Come Home,” 1943
Paired Taylor with Roddy McDowall, who would become a lifelong friend.
“National Velvet,” 1944
Co-starring Mickey Rooney, the movie that made Taylor a star.
“Father of the Bride,” 1950
The film opened two days after Taylor’s real-life marriage to Conrad Hilton Jr., which gave the film a considerable publicity boost. Spencer Tracy played her father.
“The Last Time I Saw Paris,” “Beau Brummell,” “Elephant Walk” and “Rhapsody,” 1954
The busiest year of Taylor’s career.
Epic story of oilmen and ranchers in Texas co-starring Rock Hudson and James Dean, who was killed in a car crash late in production.
“Raintree County,” 1957
Taylor earned her first Oscar nomination for playing an emotionally unstable Southern belle.
“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” 1958
Playwright Tennessee Williams did not like the movie adaptation of his play but it earned Taylor and Paul Newman Oscar nominations.
“Suddenly Last Summer,” 1959
Another movie based on a Williams play and another Oscar nomination for Taylor. Future husband Eddie Fisher had an uncredited role as a street urchin.
“Butterfield 8,” 1960
Taylor won an Academy Award for playing a prostitute. It co-starred then-husband Eddie Fisher but he and Taylor reportedly hated the movie.
The movie, bedeviled by delays, departing actors, botched filming and illnesses, reportedly cost a record $44 million. Taylor had a record-setting $1 million contract. The film marked the beginning of her relationship with Richard Burton.
“The Sandpiper,” 1965
Another Taylor-Burton pairing directed by Vincent Minnelli.
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” 1966
Based on an Edward Albee play with Mike Nichols making his directing debut. Taylor won her second Oscar and Burton earned a nomination for their roles as an embittered married couple.
“The Taming of the Shrew,” 1967
Taylor and Burton, directed by Franco Zeffirelli in an adaptation of the Shakespeare play.
“Reflections in a Golden Eye,” 1967
Taylor and Marlon Brando star in a John Huston-directed film about repressed homosexuality. Taylor’s long-time friend Montgomery Clift was to have had the Brando role but died before filming began.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.