The double Oscar-winning actress had a long history of ill health and was being treated for symptoms of congestive heart failure. The actress’ past health setbacks included a fall from a horse during one of her early film shoots, bouts with pneumonia and skin cancer, a tracheotomy, treatment for alcohol and painkiller addictions, and lung, hip, brain and heart surgeries. She has had anywhere from 30 to 40 surgeries, according to biographers.
Dame Elizabeth’s most famous films included National Velvet, Cleopatra and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
She was equally well-known for her glamour and film partnership with Richard Burton, one of seven husbands.
Her colourful private life, screen success and Aids charity work ensured she was never far from the spotlight since finding fame at the age of 12. The peak of her film career came in the 1950s and 1960s, with four Oscar nominations in a row from 1958 to 1961.
She lost out in her first three attempts – for Raintree County, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly, Last Summer – but triumphed at her fourth attempt with Butterfield 8. Her second Oscar came in 1967 for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, one of 12 films with Burton.
She met the actor while filming 1963’s Cleopatra – which became notorious as one of the most expensive films of all time, but which also sparked one of Hollywood’s greatest romances.
“My Mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humor, and love,” said her son, Michael Wilding, in a statement. “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. 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.”
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.