The violet-eyed siren, who lit up numerous cinema masterpieces, with a lifetime steeped in drama and passion, marked by eight marriages, was also one of the first personalities to engage in the fight against AIDS.
Greatly affected by the disappearance of actor Rock Hudson in 1985, who died almost in secrecy from the disease, then viewed as shameful and poorly understood, the star created the American Foundation for AIDS Research, amfAR.
In life as in film, Elizabeth Taylor started quickly and strongly. A child prodigy, the pretty brunette was born in London in 1932 to an art dealer and an actress, and had her debut at the age of 10 with Lassie Come Home. America quickly fell in love with Liz, who succeeded in moving from the image of a child star to that of an adult actress. She later confided, however, that she had a rough childhood, “stolen” by the studios.
In 1956, at age 24, she co-starred Rock Hudson and James Dean – who died just before the film’s release in cinemas – in Giant and began a glorious decade that saw a chain of masterpieces. She played the unforgettable Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), alongside Paul Newman, and a year later entered the world of Tennessee Williams in Suddenly, Last Summer. She became one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood.
But it was also in this period that she fell into depression after the accidental death of Mike Todd, her third husband, in 1958. The actress, then mother of three children, adopted Maria, a German orphan, shortly after the tragedy. Later she fell into the arms of singer and entertainer Eddie Fisher.
In 1963, Cleopatra marked a new milestone in her career. Mankiewicz’s film, for which she received the staggering sum of $ 1 million, thus becoming the best paid actress in Hollywood, was a critical failure. But it was during the filming that she fell in love with Richard Burton, whom she married twice (1964, 1975). Their romance attracted a lot of media attention as both were married at the time.
Richard offered Elizabeth some of the finest diamonds in the world and their relationship was of extraordinary fertility on screen: the film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) earned the actress a second Oscar (after the one obtained for Butterfield ) and the two lovers co-starred in The Taming of the Shrew by Franco Zeffirelli in 1967. After Richard Burton, she married twice before a final divorce in 1996.
Taylor appeared in John Huston’s Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967) opposite Marlon Brando, but by the end of the decade her box-office popularity had considerably diminished.
Elizabeth cultivated friendships, especially with King of Pop Michael Jackson. At his death, Elizabeth Taylor had said:
“My heart…my mind…are broken. I loved Michael with all my soul and I can’t imagine life without him. We had so much in common and we had such loving fun together. I was packing up my clothes to go to London for his opening when I heard the news. I still can’t believe it. I don’t want to believe it. It can’t be so. He will live in my heart forever but it’s not enough. My life feels so empty. I don’t think anyone knew how much we loved each other. The purest most giving love I’ve ever known. Oh God! I’m going to miss him. I can’t yet imagine life with out him. But I guess with God’s help… I’ll learn. I keep looking at the photo he gave me of himself, which says, ‘To my true love Elizabeth, I love you forever.’ And, I will love HIM forever.”
R.I.P. Elizabeth Taylor