Once in a very great while, someone rare and extraordinary comes along. That person becomes your touchstone – somebody you admire intensely for so many different reasons that their influence is always with you.
ELIZABETH TAYLOR has been my idol since childhood. I wanted to be just like her.
Her elemental gorgeousness was unparalleled. She was the most beautiful woman who ever walked the earth – a breathtaking bewitching violet eyed goddess who made every man that crossed her path weak from yearning.
However, it was much much more than that. I loved the fact that she lived her life full out – gloriously and with no regrets – and she made damn sure that no one was ever going to interfere with that. She was a compelling screen presence with glamour and talent to burn.
But this passionate ultrafeminine woman was not content to rest on her laurels. She was devoted to her partners, children and friends. She lived a privileged existence but she had enormous compassion for others, going to the wall for the causes and issues that she most fervently believed in.
Ms. Taylor was an endlessly fascinating human being who made a significant mark on the world.
It devastates me to report her passing. I hope that, wherever she is, she’s aware of how many people adored her.
There was only one ELIZABETH TAYLOR. That’s all there could ever be.
The fabulous LISA SCHWARZBAUM of EW has a moving remembrance here.
And, at the end of this post, you can savour a clip from A PLACE IN THE SUN, one of the classic motion pictures that Ms. Taylor appeared in.
It’s one of my all time favourite film moments.
ELIZABETH TAYLOR, the Hollywood superstar whose achievements as an actor were often overshadowed by her rapturous looks and real life dramas, has died.
She was 79.
A spokesperson at Cedars Sinai Medical Center announced that Ms. Taylor died Wednesday at 1:28 a.m. Pacific time. Her publicist SALLY MORRISON said the cause was complications from congestive heart failure. Ms. Taylor had had a series of medical setbacks over the years and was hospitalized six weeks ago with heart problems. Her four children were at her side at the time of her passing.
During a career that spanned six decades, the legendary beauty with lavender eyes won two OSCARS and made more than 50 films, performing alongside such fabled leading men as MICHAEL CAINE, WARREN BEATTY, PAUL NEWMAN, ROBERT MITCHUM and RICHARD BURTON, whom she married twice.
Long after she faded from the screen, she remained a mesmerizing figure, blessed and cursed by the extraordinary celebrity that molded her life through its many phases: She was a child star who bloomed gracefully into an ingenue; a femme fatale on the screen and in life; a canny peddler of high priced perfume; a pioneering activist in the fight against AIDS.
No other famous female presence matched Ms. Taylor’s hold on the collective imagination. In the public’s mind, she was the dark goddess for whom playing CLEOPATRA required no great leap from reality.
ELIZABETH TAYLOR, NEW YORK TIMES critic VINCENT CANBY once wrote, “has grown up in the full view of a voracious public for whom the triumphs and disasters of her personal life have automatically become extensions of her screen performances. She’s different from the rest of us.”
When Ms. Taylor was honoured in 1986 by THE FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER, Mr. Canby wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES, “More than anyone else I can think of, Elizabeth Taylor represents the complete movie phenomenon — what movies are as an art and an industry and what they have meant to those of us who have grown up watching them in the dark.”
Ms. Taylor’s popularity endured throughout her life, but critics were sometimes reserved in their praise of her acting. In that sense she may have been upstaged by her own striking beauty. Could anyone as lovely as ELIZABETH TAYLOR also be exquisitely talented?
The answer, of course, was an emphatic yes.
JOSEPH L. MANKIEWICZ, who directed her in SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER and CLEOPATRA, saw her for the first time in Cannes when she was just 18.
“She was the most incredible vision of loveliness I have ever seen in my life,” he said.
Mr. Mankiewicz admired her professionalism. “Whatever the script called for, she played it. The thread that goes through the whole is that of a woman who is an honest performer. Therein lies her identity.”
MARILYN MONROE was the quintessential sex goddess, GRACE KELLY the ice queen, AUDREY HEPBURN the eternal gamine. Ms. Taylor was beauty incarnate. As the director GEORGE STEVENS said when he chose her for A PLACE IN THE SUN, the role called for the “beautiful girl in the yellow Cadillac convertible that every American boy, some time or other, thinks he can marry.”
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 colouration 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.”
Sometimes her film roles seemed to be a mirror image of her life. More than most movie stars, she seemed to exist in the public domain. She was pursued by paparazzi and denounced by the Vatican. But behind the seemingly scandalous behaviour was a woman with a clear sense of morality: she habitually married her lovers. People watched and counted, with vicarious pleasure, as she wed again and again — enough marriages to certify her career as a serial spouse.
Asked why she married so often, she said in an assumed drawl: “I don’t know, honey. It sure beats the hell out of me.”
In a lifetime of emotional and physical setbacks, serious illnesses and accidents and several near death experiences, Ms. Taylor was a survivor.
“I’ve been lucky all my life,” she stated just before turning 60.
“Everything was handed to me: looks, fame, wealth, honours, love. I rarely had to fight for anything. But I’ve paid for that luck with disasters.”
At 65, she said on the ABC program 20/20: “I’m like a living example of what people can go through and survive. I’m not like anyone. I’m me.”
Her life was played out in print: miles of newspaper and magazine articles, a galaxy of photographs and a shelf of biographies, each one painting a different portrait.
“Planes, trains, everything stops for Elizabeth Taylor. But the public has no conception of who she is,” remarked RODDY McDOWELL, who was one of her earliest costars and a friend for life.
“People who damn her wish to hell they could do what they think she does.”
There was one point of general agreement: her astonishing intoxicating beauty. As cinematographers noted, her face was flawlessly symmetrical; she had no bad angles and her eyes were of the deepest violet.
Her passions were legend. She loved to eat. She loved men, dating many of the world’s richest and most famous – marrying eight times, including the two visits to the altar with RICHARD BURTON. She loved jewels, amassing huge and expensive baubles the way children collect toys.
“It would be very glamorous to be reincarnated as a big ring on Elizabeth Taylor’s finger,” ANDY WARHOL once mused about the woman who owned the 33 carat KRUPP diamond — a gift from RICHARD BURTON that she wore daily. It broadcast to the world that she was a lady with an enormous lust for life.
But Ms. Taylor attracted misfortune as well. According to one chronicler, she suffered more than 70 illnesses, injuries and accidents requiring hospitalization, including an appendectomy, an emergency tracheotomy, a punctured esophagus, a hysterectomy, an ulcerated eye, smashed spinal discs, skin cancer and hip replacements. In 1997, she had a benign brain tumour removed. By her own count, she nearly died four times.
In 2004 she disclosed that she had congestive heart failure and crippling spinal problems that left her in constant pain. For much of her life she struggled with alcohol and prescription painkillers.
She was often described as the quintessential TENNESSEE WILLIAMS hero, a characterization Ms. Taylor did not dispute.
It meant, she once told THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, “steamy, full of drama. I’m sure they didn’t mean it kindly. Tennessee’s heroes are all fraught. They’re all on the brink of disaster.”
On the evening of October 6, 1991, two dozen helicopters carrying paparazzi and reporters whirred in the skies above singer MICHAEL JACKSON’S ranch in Santa Barbara County. Despite an armada of hot air balloons launched as a shield against prying eyes, a parachutist wearing a camera on his helmet managed to land mere yards from the 59 year old bride and her 39 year old groom.
Thus were ELIZABETH TAYLOR and construction worker LARRY FORTENSKY wed — amid Hollywood hoopla and conjecture about whether the movie star’s eighth walk down the aisle would be her last.
Who could know? The only sure thing was that ELIZABETH TAYLOR adored men.
“I’m more of a man’s woman,” she once admitted.
“With men, there’s a kind of twinkle that comes out. I sashay up to a man. I walk up to a woman.”
She was 17 when Husband Number 1 laid eyes on her. That was CONRAD NICHOLSON HILTON JR., the handsome scion of the Hilton hotel clan. Their 1950 marriage, burdened by Ms. Taylor’s celebrity and Mr. Hilton’s gambling, drinking and abusive behaviour, lasted eight months.
Number 2 was MICHAEL WILDING, a British actor 20 years her senior, whose gentleness offered Ms. Taylor a safe haven. They had two children: MICHAEL, born in 1953, and CHRISTOPHER, born in 1955. They were divorced in 1957 after five years.
Number 3 was MIKE TODD, a flamboyant producer who would be one of the two great loves of her life.
“He had a joy, a relish about being alive, a vitality that was so contagious,” Ms. Taylor wrote about Mr. Todd.
“He was a fabulous con artist – could con the gold out of your teeth – but was terribly, gregariously generous.”
After he delivered an hour long monologue about why they should marry and a 30 carat diamond to seal the deal, they exchanged vows in 1957. They had been married slightly more than a year when, on March 22, 1958, he was killed in a plane crash in New Mexico, leaving Ms. Taylor a widow at 26.
In the days following her husband’s death, EDDIE FISHER — the singing idol who was MIKE TODD’S best friend and actor DEBBIE REYNOLDS’ husband — spent long hours by Ms. Taylor’s side, crying with her as they read through thousands of sympathy letters and telegrams. When mutual consolation turned into romance, Mr. Fisher broke up with Ms. Reynolds and married Ms. Taylor in 1959.
After the wedding, Ms. Taylor’s career reached new peaks, but Mr. Fisher’s flagged, creating an opening for the second great love of her life.
The future Number 5 met Ms. Taylor at a Sunday afternoon swim party.
“She was, I decided, the most astonishingly self contained, pulchritudinous, remote, removed, inaccessible woman I had ever seen,” RICHARD BURTON wrote in a diary passage quoted in MELVYN BRAGG’S 1988 biography of the Welsh actor. She was, Mr. Burton said, “beautiful beyond the dreams of pornography.”
“Has anybody ever told you that you’re a very pretty girl?” said the amorous 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!”
He and Ms. Taylor began a tempestuous affair in Rome on the set of CLEOPATRA, the epic about the Egyptian queen who dies for love. Because both were huge stars married to other people, their adultery caused a worldwide scandal. A member of Congress introduced a motion to ban them from the U.S. and the Vatican condemned their “erotic vagrancy.”
Such bad press, Hollywood columnist LOUELLA PARSONS wrote, “ought to have killed them.” Others joked that it only encouraged the besotted stars. After a two year separation, Ms. Taylor divorced Mr. Fisher in early 1964 and married RICHARD BURTON.
Theirs was a marriage on a grand scale. She gave him a VAN GOGH. He lavished her with priceless gems, including the behemoth KRUPP diamond and a 25 carat heart shaped pendant of diamonds, rubies and emeralds originally made for the bride of the man who built the Taj Mahal.
Mr. Burton also outbid shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis for a $1.1 million, 69 carat diamond ring from CARTIER in New York that became known as the TAYLOR BURTON DIAMOND.
America’s most famous pair not only spent extravagantly, but also fought and drank to excess. When their union finally unravelled, RICHARD BURTON told THE LONDON DAILY MAIL: “You can’t keep clapping a couple of sticks [of dynamite] together without expecting them to blow up.”
They were divorced by a Swiss court on June 26, 1974.
The next year they retied the knot before an African tribal chief in Botswana. Less than a year later, in 1976, they severed the tie in a Haitian divorce. But their love for each other continued.
Ms. Taylor said that if Mr. Burton had not had a fatal brain hemorrhage in Geneva in 1984 she probably would have wound up with him a third time. “I was still madly in love with him until the day he died.” Long after his death, she kept a copy of his last letter — penned three days before his death — in her bedside drawer. She allowed many of the letters to be published in the book FURIOUS LOVE by SAM KUSHNER and NANCY SCHOENBERGER.
Husband No. 6 appeared when the screen goddess needed an escort for a dinner honouring Queen Elizabeth and then President Ford. The British Embassy paired her with JOHN WARNER, a ruggedly handsome former secretary of the Navy and gentleman farmer from Virginia. They were married in 1976 and in 1978 he was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Although Ms. Taylor had been a devoted campaigner, she found she was ill suited for the role of political wife. Seeking relief in acting, she starred in a Broadway production of LILLIAN HELLMAN’S THE LITTLE FOXES and spent a year on the road. In 1982 she officially canceled her run as the senator’s wife and moved to a mansion in Bel Air.
By the end of 1983, she was burned out – abusing alcohol and pills. Confronted by her family and close friend RODDY McDOWALL, she checked into The Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, where she slept in a dormitory, went on clean up detail and, as she later told writer DOMINICK DUNNE, was “peeled down to the absolute core” in group therapy sessions. Her public announcement that she was being treated for substance abuse encouraged other celebrities to disclose their own struggles.
Newly clean and sober, Ms. Taylor held on to her health for a few years, until pain from a crushed vertebrae sent her back to pills and booze.
During her second visit to The Betty Ford Center in 1988, she met Mr. Fortensky, a twice married construction worker who was seeking treatment for a drinking problem. After leaving the clinic, Ms. Taylor invited him to Bel Air for weekend barbecues and attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with him. Later she would tell gossip columnist LIZ SMITH that she was attracted to the new man in her life because “he wasn’t a wimp…and I’m not a wimp.”
After the wedding in 1991, Mr. Fortensky tried to resume his working man’s routine, rising before dawn to head to his construction job. At the end of the day, he would park his boots outside the mansion door, shower and sit down to dinner with his wife by 6 p.m.
The regimen seemed exotic to Ms. Taylor, who told LIFE Magazine in 1992: “I used to go to bed at 1 or 2 in the morning. Now we’re in bed by 10 o’clock and I have to admit I like it.”
But the charm wore off after Mr. Fortensky stopped working. Citing irreconcilable differences, she filed for divorce in 1996 and swore off marriage.
“I don’t want to be a sex symbol,” she once said.
“I would rather be a symbol of a woman who makes mistakes, but a woman who loves.”
ELIZABETH ROSEMOND TAYLOR was born in London to American parents on FEBRUARY 27, 1932. Her mother, a former stage actor named SARA SOTHERN and her father art dealer FRANCIS TAYLOR, gave her and brother HOWARD seaside holidays, servants and plenty of toys. Adults doted on little ELIZABETH, who had luminous eyes and alabaster skin framed by raven black tresses.
When she was 7, her family moved to Beverly Hills, where FRANCIS managed an art gallery in THE BEVERLY HILLS HOTEL. With her incredible looks along with a mother who aggressively pushed her into auditions, ELIZABETH was noticed by talent scouts and soon had a contract at UNIVERSAL PICTURES. In 1942 at age 10 she made her film debut in the little noticed comedy THERE’S ONE BORN EVERY MINUTE.
She changed studios in 1943 when MGM was looking for a dog loving English girl to play a small role in LASSIE COME HOME. Ms. Taylor landed the part and became a contract player.
Critics did not really take notice of her until she was cast in NATIONAL VELVET as VELVET BROWN, a girl who dreams of riding in England’s GRAND NATIONAL steeplechase.
“I wouldn’t say she is particularly gifted as an actress,” JAMES AGEE wrote in THE NATION in 1944.
“She strikes me, however, if I may resort to conservative statement, as being rapturously beautiful. I think that she and the picture are wonderful and I hardly know or care whether she can act or not.”
Since childhood Ms. Taylor had been surrounded by pets. At the height of her fame, when she was not allowed to take her dogs to London because of a quarantine rule, she leased a yacht for them at a reported cost of $20,000 and moored it on the Thames.
After the success of NATIONAL VELVET, it was difficult for Ms. Taylor to call her life her own. Her contract, she said later, “made me an MGM chattel” for the next 18 years. The studio chose her roles, controlled her public appearances, picked her dates and stage managed her first wedding. After a string of ingenue roles, she won her first romantic lead opposite ROBERT TAYLOR in the forgettable melodrama CONSPIRATOR (1950).
In 1951, she made the skeptics – who considered her nothing more than a gorgeous teenage flavour of the month – sit up and take notice with her work in A PLACE IN THE SUN, directed by GEORGE STEVENS. Playing ANGELA VICKERS, a restless, sexually eager society girl drawn to a
man from a lower class background, Ms. Taylor won her first critical praise as a young adult.
GEORGE STEVENS later hired her for another demanding role in GIANT (1956), an epic about two generations of Texans. Critics hailed her artistry, her “astonishing revelation of unsuspected gifts,” as THE TIMES OF LONDON put it.
Her next three films would bring her consecutive OSCAR nominations.
The first was for RAINTREE COUNTY, a 1957 release. Ms. Taylor played a passionate Southern belle descending into madness.
The next nomination was for her portrayal of MAGGIE in TENNESSE WILLIAMS’ classic CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958). Ms. Taylor portrayed the beautiful sexually seething wife of PAUL NEWMAN, the alcoholic, latently homosexual son of a Mississippi plantation owner. Although she was widowed in the midst of filming when MIKE TODD’S plane crashed, she managed to turn in a performance widely considered one of the best of her career.
“She was an intuitive actress,” PAUL NEWMAN said years later of the woman who never took an acting lesson.
“I was always staggered by her ferocity and how quickly she could tap into her emotions. It was a privilege to watch her.”
Her third nomination recognized her work in SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER, another TENNESSEE WILLIAMS story, which explored insanity, homosexuality and cannibalism.
A commercial success like CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, it boosted Ms. Taylor into the box office top 10 for the first time. She remained in the top 10 almost every year for the next decade.
In 1961 she won her first OSCAR for her portrayal of a fast living model involved in a tortured affair with a married man in BUTTERFIELD 8. Although she hated the part and the script, she agreed to the role because it ended her contractual obligations to MGM.
Her next project was CLEOPATRA for TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX. Ms. Taylor was loath to take the title role and set her asking price at $1 million. According to EDDIE FISHER, she eventually earned $7 million from the film after her percentages and other fees were paid.
With a record breaking final price tag of $62 million, the film ushered in a new era of excess in Hollywood. It nearly bankrupted FOX, which was forced to sell its back lot bordering Beverly Hills to a developer, who turned those 200 acres into Century City.
The production also launched the most turbulent period of Ms. Taylor’s life. She contracted pneumonia during filming in Rome and underwent an emergency tracheotomy. She was reported to be near death for days.
After she recovered and returned to the CLEOPATRA set, headlines around the world began to scream details of her affair with RICHARD BURTON. When the movie was finally released in 1963, the reviews were brutal. But audiences flocked to see its romantically inflamed stars.
In 1966 Ms. Taylor and Mr. Burton were cast against type in EDWARD ALBEE’S drama of marital angst WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF.
Ms. Taylor gained 25 pounds and donned a gray wig and extra padding to play MARTHA, the frumpy, foul mouthed, highly educated wife of Mr. Burton’s easily dominated college professor. She was reportedly terrified by the challenge of playing a role so far removed from her usual persona.
Director MIKE NICHOLS put them and the other two cast members — GEORGE SEGAL and SANDY DENNIS — through weeks of private rehearsals and closed the set during filming. Mr. Nichols said that he considered her “one of the greatest cinema actresses.”
Critics lavished praise on her performance, calling it her best work ever. The film won five OSCARS, including Ms. Taylor’s second for BEST ACTRESS. She also won awards from THE NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW, THE NEW YORK FILM CRITICS CIRCLE, THE GOLDEN GLOBES as well as the forerunner of the BAFTA.
From that point on, she played a surprisingly broad range of roles, including a rollicking performance as a bitchy wife in the 1972 movie X Y & ZEE. Critic PAULINE KAEL, writing in THE NEW YORKER, said that Ms. Taylor knocked “two fine performers [Michael Caine and Susannah York] right off the screen.”
She also dabbled in television movies and returned to the stage, earning mixed reviews on Broadway in 1981 in THE LITTLE FOXES. In 1983, she reunited professionally with RICHARD BURTON in the NOEL COWARD farce PRIVATE LIVES, a play about two divorced people whose romance is rekindled by a chance meeting.
Ms. Taylor eventually turned to business. In 1987 she introduced ELIZABETH TAYLOR’S PASSION, a perfume sold in a purple heart shaped flask for $165 an ounce. It would become the fourth best selling women’s fragrance in America, grossing $70 million a year. In the 1990s she created WHITE DIAMONDS, another successful fragrance.
Ms. Taylor said she would have relished more character roles but the market was limited for glamour queens of a certain age. Neither could she slowly fade away: Her every move was still fodder for the tabloid press.
“So I thought, ‘If you’re going to screw me over, I’ll use you,”’ she told VANITY FAIR in 1992.
“I could take the fame I’d resented so long and use it to do some good.”
Ms. Taylor had many gay friends and, as the AIDS epidemic mushroomed, some of them were dying. In 1985, she became the most prominent celebrity to back what was then a most unfashionable cause. She agreed to chair the first major AIDS benefit, a fundraising dinner for the nonprofit AIDS Project Los Angeles.
She began calling her A list friends to solicit their support. Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars turned her down. Ms. Taylor redoubled her efforts, aided along the way by the stunning announcement that ROCK HUDSON, the handsome matinee idol and GIANT costar, had the dreaded disease. She stood by Mr. Hudson, just as years later she would stand by pop idol MICHAEL JACKSON during the latter’s struggle to defend himself against child abuse allegations.
Thanks to Ms. Taylor’s high profile and public sympathy for ROCK HUDSON, the star studded AIDS fundraiser netted $1 million and attracted 2,500 guests, including former First Lady Betty Ford. Mr. Hudson was too ill to attend but used the occasion to release a major public statement about his illness.
RANDY SHILTS, who wrote the pioneering AIDS chronicle AND THE BAND PLAYED ON, said that Ms. Taylor made a profound difference.
“Elizabeth Taylor got AIDS on Entertainment Tonight and you can’t underestimate the value of that kind of exposure. It made the disease something that respectable people could talk about.”
Ms. Taylor went on to cofound – with Dr. MATHILDE KRIM – the first national organization devoted to backing AIDS research, THE AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR AIDS RESEARCH, or AmFAR. In 1991 she formed THE ELIZABETH TAYLOR AIDS FOUNDATION, which directly supports AIDS education and patient care. She called for AIDS testing and emphasized personal responsibility in prevention of the disease.
“People shouldn’t stop having sex — I’d be the last person in the world to advocate that — but safe sex is important.”
Her AIDS work brought her THE LEGION OF HONOR, France’s highest civilian award in 1987 and the ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS & SCIENCES’ JEAN HERSHOLT HUMANITARIAN AWARD in 1993. In 2000, Queen Elizabeth made her a DAME COMMANDER OF THE ORDER OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE, an honour on the level of knighthood.
Through her various efforts she would eventually raise more than $270 million for AIDS prevention and care.
In a statement, MICHAEL WILDING talked about his mother’s incredible impact on the world: “My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humour and love. 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 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.”
CARRIE FISHER has fond memories of her stepmother: “If my father had to divorce my mother for anyone, I’m so grateful that it was Elizabeth. This was a remarkable woman who led her life to the fullest rather than complacently following one around. She found time to become one of the earliest champions for those living with HIV. She will be missed but never forgotten.”
BARBRA STREISAND paid tribute: “It’s the end of an era. It wasn’t just her beauty or her stardom. It was her humanitarianism. She put a face on HIV/AIDS. She was funny. She was generous. She made her life count.”
MADONNA expressed her condolences: “I am so sorry to hear that this great legend has passed. I admired and respected her not only as an actress but for her amazing and inspiring work as an AIDS activist. She was one of a kind.”
Former President BILL CLINTON and Secretary of State HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON said: “Elizabeth’s legacy will live on in many people around the world whose lives will be longer and better because of her work and the ongoing efforts of those she inspired.”
SHIRLEY MacLAINE discussed her long time friendship: “I don’t know what was more impressive – her magnitude as a star or her magnitude as a friend. Her talent for friendship was unmatched. I will miss her for the rest of my life and beyond.”
MIKE NICHOLS remarked: “The shock of Elizabeth was not only her beauty. It was her generosity, her giant laugh, her vitality, whether tackling a complex scene on film or where we would all have dinner until dawn. She is singular and indelible on film and in our hearts.”
LIZA MINNELLI stated: “She was a true star, because she not only had beauty and notoriety; Elizabeth Taylor had talent. As a friend she was always, always there for me. I’ll miss her for the rest of my life, but I was so lucky to have known her.”
JOAN COLLINS remembers her: “She was the last of the true Hollywood icons, a great beauty, a great actress and continually fascinating to the world throughout her tumultuous life and career.”
JULIE ANDREWS stated: “Elizabeth was a dear friend. She was a great legendary lady of Hollywood and she will be mourned worldwide.”
STEVE MARTIN recalled: “She was witty and self deprecating, which I found surprising and delightful. She loved to laugh.”
JOHN TRAVOLTA said: “Elizabeth was the definition of greatness on all fronts. I loved her. She will be incredibly missed.”
EVA MARIE SAINT stated: “She was an incredible talent, and yes, she had those unforgettable eyes. I greatly admire her humanitarian efforts which have touched so many lives. Elizabeth was a very dear, generous and loving lady.”
ELTON JOHN said: “She earned our adoration for her stunning beauty and for being the very essence of glamorous movie stardom. And she earned our enduring love and respect for her compassion and her courage in standing up and speaking out about AIDS when others preferred to bury their heads in the sand.”
ANGELA LANSBURY remembers her friend: “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.”
WHOOPI GOLDBERG reminisced: “She was just a magnificent woman. She was a great broad and a good friend.”
In late 2007 she made a rare return to the stage to raise another million in a benefit performance of A.R. Gurney’s bittersweet play LOVE LETTERS at PARAMOUNT STUDIOS. Striking Writers Guild members temporarily laid down their picket signs to allow Ms. Taylor and guests to support the event without guilt or rancour. After her moving reading brought the audience to its feet, the star stood up from her wheelchair to acknowledge the ovation.
She was still regal — and covered with diamonds.
Married or single, sick or healthy, on screen or off, Ms. Taylor never lost her appetite for experience. Late in life, when she had one of many offers to write her memoirs, she refused, saying with characteristic panache, “Hell no. I’m still living my memoirs.”
In addition to her sons MICHAEL WILDING and CHRISTOPHER WILDING, ELIZABETH TAYLOR is survived by daughters LIZA TODD and MARIA BURTON; her brother HOWARD TAYLOR; 10 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.
Her family plans a private funeral this week. A memorial service will be announced later.