Elizabeth Taylor

March 25, 2011

Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born in London, England, on February 27, 1932, to American parents Francis and Sara Taylor. Her father was a successful art dealer who had his own gallery in London. Her mother was an actress who had been successful before marriage under the stage name Sara Sothern. Taylor has an older brother, Howard, who was born two years earlier. In 1939 the family moved to Los Angeles, California, where Taylor was encouraged and coached by her mother to seek work in the motion picture industry. Taylor was signed by Universal in 1941 for $200 a week.

In 1942 Taylor signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the biggest and best studio of the time, and landed a part in Lassie Come Home. In 1943 she was cast in National Velvet, the story of a young woman who wins a horse in the lottery and rides it in England’s Grand National Steeplechase. Taylor was so determined to play the role that she exercised and dieted for four months. During filming she was thrown from a horse and suffered a broken back, but she forced herself to finish the project. National Velvet became both a critical and commercial success.

Taylor loved her work, the costumes, the makeup, and the attention. Columnist Hedda Hopper, a friend of Taylor’s mother, declared that at fifteen Elizabeth was the most beautiful woman in the world. Making films such as Little Women, Father of the Bride, Cynthia, and A Place in the Sun, Taylor began to gain a reputation as a moody actress who demanded special treatment. Between 1952 and 1956 Elizabeth Taylor played in many romantic films.   In 1956 she played opposite James Dean in Giant, followed by the powerful Raintree County in 1957, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for the first time. In Suddenly Last Summer (1959) she received five hundred thousand dollars the most ever earned by an actress for eight weeks of work and another Academy Award nomination.  Her performance in the film Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) won her an Academy Award nomination and led to a relationship with singer Eddie Fisher.

In 1960 Taylor turned in one of her best performances in Butterfield 8, for which she won an Oscar as Best Actress. A few months later, in 1961, she signed with 20th Century-Fox for $1 million for the film Cleopatra, also starring Richard Burton (1925–1984).

Taylor won another Oscar for her performance alongside Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). Over a dozen films followed. Taylor then moved to Broadway for the first time in a well-received staging of The Little Foxes.

In May 2000 Taylor was dubbed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, the female version of a knight. Queen Elizabeth presented her with the award for services to the entertainment industry and to charity. That same year she was given the Marian Anderson Award for her efforts on behalf of the AIDS community.  Taylor devoted consistent and generous humanitarian time, advocacy efforts, and funding to HIV and AIDS-related projects and charities. She also was one of the first celebrities and public personalities to do so at a time when few acknowledged the disease, organizing and hosting the first AIDS fundraiser in 1984, to benefit AIDS Project Los Angeles. With over thirty years of active participation she was involved in raising more than $100 million and expanding public awareness: to fight the pandemic disease; confront its discrimination; and to expand research, treatment access, education, and government funding.

She was cofounder of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) with Dr. Michael Gottlieb and Dr. Mathilde Krim in 1985.  Her longtime friend and former co-star Rock Hudson had disclosed having AIDS and died of it that year.

She also founded the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF) in 1993, created to provide critically-needed support services for people with HIV/AIDS.  For example, in 2006 Taylor commissioned a 37-foot “Care Van” equipped with examination tables and xray equipment, the New Orleans donation made by her Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and Macy’s.  That year, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, she also donated US$40,000 to the NO/AIDS Task Force, a non-profit organization serving the community of those affected by HIV/AIDS in and around New Orleans.  Taylor was honored with a special Academy Award, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, in 1992 for her HIV/AIDS humanitarian work.

Larry Fortensky (6 October 1991 – 31 October 1996) (divorced)
John Warner (4 December 1976 – 7 November 1982) (divorced)
Richard Burton (10 October 1975 – 1 August 1976) (remarried) (divorced)
Richard Burton (15 March 1964 – 26 June 1974) (divorced) 1 child
Eddie Fisher (12 May 1959 – 6 March 1964) (divorced)
Michael Todd (2 February 1957 – 22 March 1958) (his death) 1 child
Michael Wilding (21 February 1952 – 30 January 1957) (divorced) 2 children
Conrad Hilton Jr. (6 May 1950 – 1 February 1951) (divorced)

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