Archive for the Elizabeth Taylor Category


Posted in Elizabeth Taylor on June 30, 2011 by Miranda Wilding


ELIZABETH TAYLOR’S prized collection of jewelry, art, designer clothing and other memorabilia will go on an international three month tour before it is sold in New York in December, CHRISTIE’S auction house announced Wednesday.

The tour will begin in September and includes stops in Moscow, London, Dubai, Geneva, Paris and Los Angeles.

It will end in New York, where CHRISTIE’S plans a museum quality exhibition of the late actor’s collection that will fill its entire gallery space DECEMBER 3 – 10.

The auction will be held DECEMBER 13 – 16.

Ms. Taylor, who was infamously married eight times to seven husbands and remembered for her roles in A PLACE IN THE SUN, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, CLEOPATRA and WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, was also known for her passion for opulent diamonds.

She passed away in March at age 79.

She published a book in 2003 entitled ELIZABETH TAYLOR: MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH JEWELRY. Her collection has included some of the world’s most expensive stones.

A portion of the proceeds from the exhibition admissions and publications related to the sales will be donated to THE ELIZABETH TAYLOR AIDS FOUNDATION.

The screen icon’s impressionist and modern art collection will be sold in February at CHRISTIE’S in London and will include a group of works she inherited from her father, art dealer FRANCIS TAYLOR, CHRISTIE’S said.

The auction house said details of the sales, exhibitions and tour dates would be announced in the fall. But it stated that Ms. Taylor’s magnificent jewelry by some of the world’s top design houses will range from white diamonds to elaborate custom designed jewels. They will be sold in three sessions DECEMBER 13 and 14.

Some of the biggest names in fashion, including VALENTINO, GIANNI VERSACE and GIANFRANCO FERRE, designed the star’s haute couture and ready to wear fashion.

Classic ELIZABETH TAYLOR looks will be offered in an evening sale on DECEMBER 14, followed by three sessions of fashion, handbags, shoes, accessories and fine luggage the following day.

Film memorabilia from Ms. Taylor’s Bel Air home, furniture and 20th century decorative arts will be offered on DECEMBER 16.

CHRISTIE’S first announced it was selling the actor’s collection in April after an agreement with her family. At the time, it didn’t release any details.

Ms. Taylor won three ACADEMY AWARDS, including a special OSCAR for her advocacy for AIDS research and other humanitarian causes.

She also won an OSCAR for her performance in VIRGINIA WOOLF, in which she played an alcoholic shrew in an emotionally sadomasochistic marriage opposite RICHARD BURTON, whom she married twice in real life.


Posted in Elizabeth Taylor on March 31, 2011 by Miranda Wilding

Special thanks to the awesome eminently cool people at RS for this great gift. You’re the best. It made my morning.

In 1987, ROLLING STONE CONTRIBUTING EDITOR JONATHAN COTT sat down with ELIZABETH TAYLOR in her suite at New York’s HOTEL PLAZA ATHENEE, when the actor was 55.

This is an expanded version of an article that appears in the APRIL 14, 2011 issue of ROLLING STONE. The issue is available now on newsstands and will appear in the on line archive APRIL 1.

“There was no standing on ceremony, no pretense, no pulling punches,” he recalled. “She was so forthright, witty and fearless.”

The previously unpublished interview is presented here for the first time.

JONATHAN COTT: You started making films in Hollywood during the 1940s. How has the movie business changed since then?

ELIZABETH TAYLOR: It used to be a sin to be considered a Hollywood actor. Even worse to be a star — God forbid a superstar. Stage actors would accuse people of selling out when they’d go to Hollywood. Actually, I think the whole thing is a bunch of bullshit and I always have. An actor is an actor whether it’s in Hollywood, whether it’s in Africa, whether it’s on stage, television or in film. Acting has to be generated from within.

JC: How does that happen for you?

ET: I have never had an acting lesson in my life. But I’ve learned, I hope, from watching people like SPENCER TRACY, MARLON BRANDO, MONTGOMERY CLIFT — all people who were finely tuned and educated in the art of acting. They were my education. I found quite early on that I couldn’t act as a puppet — there would be something pulling my strings too hard — and that I did my best work by being guided, not by being forced.

And I suppose that really is just the child in me — wanting to be allowed to grow and develop at my instinctual sort of pace. If you describe me as an actress, you’d have to say that I wasn’t a distinctive actress as actresses go because I’m certainly not a polished technician.

JC: Many of your fans would disagree. But just as Hollywood was once used as a dismissive epithet, so today some stage actor types often demean television stars. I gather you wouldn’t agree with that.

ET: I’ve seen some splendid work on television. And I think it was your definitive stage actor LARRY OLIVIER who said that he thought that one of the finest ways a person could learn was through the medium of television — especially the soaps, where the actors have to be so creative day in and day out. My son is currently doing a play and a soap at the same time and it’s like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time.

Now, when I first watched soaps, it was always a real giggle for me…and then I became enthralled. I thought, this is my show — GENERAL HOSPITAL. I mean, this is karma. This has got to be my first soap. [laughter] So I watched GENERAL HOSPITAL and really liked it so much that one day I was a surprise visitor on the show. And my God, I have such admiration for that form of art in acting. It’s bloody hard work.

JC: Someone once said that the old Hollywood studio was a kind of extended family.

ET: It was like a big extended factory, I’m sorry to say. But if you like being smothered, I guess it was a very productive family. I was nine when I made my first films in Hollywood. I was used from the day I was a child and utilized by the studio. I was promoted for their pockets. I never felt that they were a haven. I’ve always been very much my own person. I had my own mother and father — they were my family, not the bloody studio.

JC: Was there a particular incident that stands out?

ET: When I was 15 and Louis B. Mayer started screaming at my mother and using swear words that I’d never heard before (“I took you and your fucking daughter out of the gutter”), I uttered my first swear word and told him that he didn’t dare speak to my mother that way – and he and the studio could both go to hell and that I was never going to go back to his office. And I left my mother there with her eyes shut…and I think she was sort of praying.

JC: What happened after that?

ET: I walked out of there in such a fury and in tears and went to see my old friend and vice president BENNY and he said, “You have to go back.”

And another vice president came and found me. Now those guys were my buddies and they said, “Sweetheart, you have got to go back and apologize.”

And I said, What for? He should apologize to my mother. I’m not going back in his office. I meant what I said and I don’t care if you fire me now.”

I don’t know where I found the independence. I totally winged it on my own and just took my career – with total knowledge and decision – and threw it out the window. Now I had not a clue how L.B. Mayer — one of the great icons of Hollywood history and slightly mad…and who was frothing at the mouth in a temper — would take this from a pipsqueak.

But I didn’t care.

I knew that he had done something very wrong. As it turns out they must have wanted or needed me. Otherwise they wouldn’t have kept me. But that only has occurred to me in hindsight.

JC: Did the studio try to change you in other ways?

ET: My God. I had black hair — it was photographed blue black it was so dark — and thick bushy eyebrows. And my mother and father had to stop them from dying my hair and plucking out my eyebrows. The studio even wanted to change my name to Virginia. They tried to get me to create a JOAN CRAWFORD mouth when I first began using lipstick at 15. They wanted, you know, JOAN CRAWFORD – the 40s and everything.

Every movie star, LANA TURNER, all of them, painted over their lips: and I’m sure that some of them had perfectly fine, full lips — but thin eyebrows were the fad…and God forbid you do anything individual or go against the fad.

But I did.

I figured this looks absurd. And I agreed with my dad: God must have had some reason for giving me bushy eyebrows and black hair. I guess I must have been pretty sure of my sense of identity. It was me. I accepted it all my life and I can’t explain it. Because I’ve always been very aware of the inner me that has nothing to do with the physical me.

JC: But there is a connection between the two…

ET: Eventually the inner you shapes the outer you, especially when you reach a certain age and you have been given the same features as everybody else. God has arranged them in a certain way. But around 40 the inner you actually chisels your features. You know how some people have a kind of downward pull and some people have sort of an upward pull and look stress free, while the others look as if they’re just trying to carry the world on their shoulders.

You just want to say, shake your head, shake your body like a dog and just get rid of all that. It doesn’t need to bow you down. Life is to be embraced and enveloped. Surgeons and knives have nothing to do with it. It has to do with a connection with nature, God, your inner being — whatever you want to call it — it’s being in contact with yourself and allowing yourself, allowing God, to mold you.

JC: Were you always so free spirited even as a kid?

ET: When I was a child in England they always used to say to my mother — and it used to bother me — that I was an old soul. I had no idea what that meant, but apparently I used to frighten grown ups, because I was totally direct.

I saw my daughter as a baby, before she was a year old, look at people steadily with those eyes of hers and see people start to fidget and drop things out of their pockets and finally, unable to stand the heat, get out of the room. She was totally tapping into something that she was seeing that they didn’t want touched.

JC: It sounds almost feral…

ET: As they say, “Don’t look into a lion’s eyes.”

I had that happen once when I was in a jeep in the bush of Africa, in Chobe — this was during my second marriage to RICHARD BURTON. It was on an earth path at 6 in the morning. And I came upon this black maned lion just in the middle of the forest, at this footpath crossroads. We were in this totally open jeep that belonged to the white hunter guard named Brian and myself. It was just him and myself, no tour guide. No protection of any sort.

And I said, “Go very slowly. Just make as little sound as you can.” And we got a little bit closer — so close, in fact, that I could see the hairs on this animal’s body.

Now, I’m fascinated by cats. I used to have an Abyssinian cat — if you are a cat lover you’ll know exactly what I mean. When I say that the tips have a little dark marking on them and it gets lighter and lighter the closer it gets to the pelt.

But the mane itself, around that lion’s face — those huge amber eyes — was black. I’d never seen anything resembling this lion. I wanted to get really close. And the animal by this time was looking at me and Brian, who would not look at him, said, “Elizabeth, stop staring into the cat’s eyes.”

And I said, “Why?” and he said that that was the one thing that will make them pounce. It makes them very nervous. And I said, “I’m sorry, Brian. But I can’t take my eyes away from this.”

And this cat and I are staring into each other’s eyes. And there was no power in this world that could make me take my eyes out of that cat’s eyes. I was into them. And I was looking into that cat. Finally the cat stood up — my eyes and his eyes were still locked — and he kind of stretched. Brian’s hands were starting to shake on the wheel.

And the lion opened his mouth and I saw these teeth and he let out a roar that didn’t make me jump — because it’s as if I knew what he was going to do — and I still kept staring at him and he sort of moved his eyes away from me, started very gently padding away from me, turned and looked at me again over his shoulder and then just went into a very relaxed trot and disappeared into the bushes. I can’t tell you what a trip that was.

JC: Do you have a special affection for animals?

ET: I’ve always preferred animals to little girls or boys. I had my first horse — actually it was a Newfoundland pony — when I was three and I loved riding, without anyone shackling me — riding bareback as fast as I could.

In Africa, I also had a troupe of green monkeys in my living room. Every morning and every evening, for a period of two months, I would go to the lip of the forest, which was right near RICHARD’S and my bungalow and it was where the monkeys would go down and drink at the river. Now, I’m not foolhardy and I don’t even think that encounter with the lion was foolhardy, because I knew nothing was going to happen. I was very respectful of the monkeys. It took me about two or three weeks, but I would start making them unafraid of me with food.

And I got them so they’d go up this two story wall and around the swimming pool and into my living room…and just have them accept my presence and realize that I was not threatening. They were just gorgeous little innocent creatures whom I sat and chatted with. There were about 20 of them in my small living room, with RICHARD in the bedroom — just the monkeys, who would reach out and touch my knee. So it wasn’t just the MGM lion!

And I became known amongst the local tribes as this strange Caucasian lady who spoke to animals. And so can my daughter, by the way…But, of course, you’re an animal and we’re communicating. [laughing]

JC: You’ve obviously never liked to conform or be shackled.

ET: I hated school, so I was kind of an oddball. As far back as my consciousness can remember — and unfortunately it’s associated with pain but also with curiosity.

JC: An unauthorized biography of you by Kitty Kelley has just been published. Its thesis is, so to speak, that you were nurtured by the studio, that you didn’t have a life of your own aside from it and that you lived the parts that you played and played the parts that you lived.

ET: That’s absolute bullshit!

I had my own world, my parents were sensitive enough to me and I had something going for myself that I was tapping into quite naturally and quite instinctively. And they encouraged my relationship with animals.

In England, where I lived until I was 8 years old — you’d have a certain formal time for mommy and daddy: but otherwise the nannies would structure your life. I didn’t dig that kind of existence at all. My family, being American in this sort of formal society, were much more liberal with their time than most English parents. But as far as nannies were concerned, I did live the so called upper middle class childhood. I rebelled against it and found nature was the one place where I could do my own thing and where I could trip out – literally – as a kid.

JC: You weren’t lonely?

ET: There were all these fantastic natural highs. Why would I be lonely?

JC: You seem to rebel against any kind of authority figures — L.B. Mayer, your nanny…

ET: That type, yeah. My nanny, for instance, was horrible! Her name was Frieda Edith Gill — it’s so onomatopoeic: Frieda Edith Gill, Frieda, Edith Gill. I think she was probably very sweet and I was rude in my rebellion.

But I had my own identity and I probably was the biggest manipulator of all time. I got my own way so cunningly, because I can see that in my daughter, I can see it in myself. Yeah, I was probably the biggest manipulator ever born! I hadn’t thought about this for ages, but I can see that little girl getting onto that horse and going on that trip that she wanted to go on and accomplishing it, though sometimes it would take hours to start the trip.

My pony would run away and I’d have to wait for her to come back or track her down. And sometimes I would be gone all day long. I knew that if it were into the evening I’d be up shit’s creek without a paddle, so I’d, you know, get myself back one way or another. But it’s strange. This is really turning into an interview about animals!

JC: You’re currently putting together a self help book based on the tough times you went through. What was that period like for you?

ET: Everything is just totally out of wack. It’s just more than fatness and obesity. It’s more than just not caring how I looked. It’s in every line of my face. It’s even in the texture of my hair. The main reason I was doing this book was that I hoped that I could reach somebody out there, even if it was just one human being.

Weight loss, weight gain all have something to do with yourself. It’s deep loneliness, depression, lack of self esteem that is the cause for overeating, drinking, taking pills, whatever — the necessary crutch. One makes up excuses.

I used to think that drinking would help my shyness, but all it did was exaggerate all the negative qualities. The drinking and the pills just sort of dulled my natural enthusiasm. All you have to do is look a picture of me from that time to know. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good photographic record of myself from that period.

I don’t have anybody around me with cameras because to me it’s like war.

JC: I imagine the paparazzi all around the world could put together a few volumes on you.

ET: They’re not photographers! They’re not people! [laughing]

JC: What species are they?

ET: These are cockroaches. But actually they do take some very revealing photographs.

JC: I gather you don’t feel the same way about supposedly revealing unauthorized biographies of you — in particular, Kitty Kelley’s book.

ET: I don’t read them and I’ve never read Kitty Kelley’s because I know there is nothing I can do about it. Why aggravate myself?

I’ve been told that it’s full of a bunch of lies. Fabrications. And real dirty malicious stuff.

But why go through the irritation when I know that legally in the sweet buggerall there is nothing I can do about it? I heard she has said something like, “Well, Elizabeth Taylor hasn’t sued me so you know I was telling the truth.”

I went through the ceiling of my house. I touched the roof of the sky. I called my lawyer. And he told me I had to read the book and sue her for every single untruth. That would mean not only spending money, it would mean bringing it up. It would mean the aggravation of reading it.

So I have to let that bitch say, “Well, Elizabeth Taylor read that and didn’t sue me. So it must be true.”

JC: What do you think allowed you to pull yourself away from the brink?

ET: You can always avert throwing yourself in front of an oncoming train. There is something that just pulls you away — and it has pulled me away, because I’m not dead yet — just at the brink of impact. Sometimes I have been really grazed by that train.

The world and the press and people have always enjoyed doing that. That’s the nature of things. You create an idea, a star. They’re yours. You have created this monster. So what do you do?

It becomes boring unless you tear it down. I’ve been on that yo yo trip all my life. Except like the times when I almost lose myself.

But I didn’t lose myself, did I?

Something always made me save myself. Either The Betty Ford Center or going on stage to perform in the theatre when many people didn’t think I could do it. Or doing this, doing that. Whatever.

I mean I was pronounced dead, for God’s sake, about 20 years ago. I was in the hospital on a respirator and they were pulling this sort of rubbery, bloody substance out of my lungs. I stopped breathing for five minutes.

And I had a kind of near death experience that you didn’t talk about then because people would have thought you were crazy. It’s amazing that I didn’t have any permanent brain damage. (Don’t you dare make any cracks!) I even had a chance to read my obits and they were the best reviews I ever had! [laughing]

JC: Why couldn’t MARILYN MONROE save herself?

ET: I don’t think MARILYN committed suicide. I don’t think MARILYN was murdered. I think it was an accident. But she was playing with fire. I don’t think she was as acutely aware of it as some of my other self destructive friends.

JC: I was thinking about some of the leading men you’ve played opposite in your films, such as MONTGOMERY CLIFT, MARLON BRANDO, ROCK HUDSON, RICHARD BURTON, ORSON WELLES, HENRY FONDA and PAUL NEWMAN. That’s quite a group.

ET: They don’t make leading men like that any more. And, you see, they were my teachers. Then, add the women in there and the directors and the cameramen and you have some hell of a school. Thank God, I hope I picked up something!

JC: In Paris not long ago, I happened to see two of your best films — REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE and A PLACE IN THE SUN — the first of which also starred MARLON BRANDO, the second MONTGOMERY CLIFT.

ET: For some reason the French think I’m a good actress and I think that’s really nice.

JC: I’ve come across some excellent reviews of your work recently in this country.

ET: Oh, that’s bullshit! That’s probably in due deference to my age or something like that. Come on! I don’t keep clippings of any kind, but if I had them I would. Some reviews I consider to be bitchy for the sake of being bitchy.

JC: Well, I wanted to know what you thought of the notion, once expressed by a European director, that MARLON BRANDO and MONTGOMERY CLIFT are the two antithetical sides of great American acting.

ET: To me, they tap and come from the same source of energy. (Oh God. MARLON will kill me!) They both have this acute animal sensitivity and the other more animalistic. But it’s the same thing. Because, if you think about it, they both have the vulnerability. God, you don’t even have to think about it — you can feel it, especially when you’re working with them.

I always felt it in their work. I think MONTY was at a more refined state early on. But MARLON developed it and wasn’t as self destructive. MARLON is still a great actor. You know, we can’t speculate what would have happened to MONTY’S career. He’s safe now. But then he wasn’t safe.

He was one of the best actors, innovators that the acting world has ever known. His death came at an untimely, unheroic, unpoetic moment in his life. So instead of being revered, he’s kind of shuffled aside. But, good God, all you have to do is look at some of his old films. Just look at him. Open a little door of your consciousness and you can be on his wavelength so easily. He just takes you along. That’s a great art.

Actually the Big Daddy of them all, for me, was SPENCER TRACY, with his simplicity and honesty and directness. They were all spawned by SPENCE, who did it instinctively and naturally. He was a highly polished actor and he had that kind of quietness that is part of the acting of a Method actor. They call it being introspective. But I call it a kind of quietness.

JC: Do you miss the golden age of the movie star?

ET: Today a name no longer carries a film. People used to go to the cinema to see a JOHN WAYNE film. And you don’t have that thing happening now except in the rock world, which has taken the event out of movies. The event is where the star is and that’s in concert. I think that this has to do with the pace of things and with pushing buttons instead of getting dressed, getting behind the wheel and making an event of going to the cinema. The superstars are in concert. And I think that’s why very few of them have made a successful transformation to film.

Very few. I happen to love DAVID BOWIE and think he’s a brilliant actor on stage and I love his movies. But I don’t think he has been given artistic control in his films. But I think he’s got great good taste.

JC: What about MADONNA?

ET: I haven’t seen her films so I can’t make a comment. But I think her adoring public may love her so much that they may not be special enough events for them. She’s highly gifted, highly talented. She’s beautiful. She’s sexy. She’s charismatic. I love to listen to her music. She is a star of her craft.

But I don’t think the public really wants her as a movie star — unlike with BETTE MIDLER who’s a great comedian and dramatic actress. But BETTE is no longer a concert star, come to think of it. She’s switched to acting. Name me one that does both, a star in both circuses? It has nothing to do with talent. It has to do with the public’s desire concerning where they want them.

JC: Are you a rock & roll fan?

ET: I love going to rock concerts, by the way. I love to lose myself in that vast wave of rhythm and body heat and get on the same vibe. And kids will say, “Hi, Liz.” And I’ll say hi back. I get an outrageous kick out of the concerts.

JC: You’re not thinking of forming a band, are you?

ET: Don’t worry. I promise. I tried it and I’ve listened to my singing voice and I’ve promised myself that I’m really too generous a human being to do that to the populace. [laughing] Nobody can make it sound like me. Believe me.

JC: Why did you name your new perfume ELIZABETH TAYLOR’S PASSION?

ET: It’s called PASSION because an interviewer asked me what quality it was in me that made me the survivor that I was. And I had never thought about it before. I think it’s my passion.

My passion for life, for people, for caring…my passion for everything.

I’m not fascinated by things. I dive into them. One is fascinated by fire. But when I was a toddler and crawling, I was so fascinated by it that I reached out and touched it. That’s the difference between fascination and passion for me. I get totally — as you can probably tell by my rambling — involved. You cannot have passion of any kind unless you have compassion.

That’s one of the reasons why I get so furious about AIDS. How dare people consider themselves fully rounded human beings without compassion. If they don’t have passion, it means they are incapable of love. That passion has just always been there and I’ve taken it for granted. I still have that childlike ability to get diverted by my own thoughts.

Because I’m not afraid. Life is just such an adventure to me.


Posted in Elizabeth Taylor, Glamour on March 29, 2011 by Miranda Wilding

As the world continues to mourn the passing of ELIZABETH TAYLOR, there is one question that comes to mind: What’s going to happen to those fabulous jewels?

According to sources, the legendary star’s brilliant baubles — estimated in the past at $150 million collectively — are expected to be auctioned by CHRISTIE’S some time in the future.

Part of what makes her collection so special is its quality, according to LUXURY JEWELS OF BEVERLY HILLS President/CEO PETER SEDGHI, who worked with the actor on her HOUSE OF TAYLOR jewelry line.

“She had the most amazing eye,” he told PEOPLE.

“To be honest, she knew more than I did [about jewelry]. When you would show her stones, she would tell you the origin, if it’s good quality, bad quality, where it came from.”

And though Ms. Taylor loved it all — coloured stones, pearls — she had a special place in her heart for diamonds.

“She had a collection like I’ve never seen before and she knew exactly what every one was — what the diamonds were, the quality. But it was more than that for her; it was the history behind it. A lot of them had sentimental value.”

Friend and celebrity jeweller LORRAINE SCHWARTZ said such sparklers were a natural part of Ms. Taylor’s history.

“The studios, in order to make her happy, they’d always give her jewelry. So she grew up collecting it. People always gave her gifts…It was something that she learned to love.”

And she took great care of them, too. “She [had] collections and collections…and rooms. She [knew] where every single piece was. [It was] amazing.”

Of all her baubles — which included the 69 carat TAYLOR BURTON DIAMOND — it was the 33 carat KRUPP diamond, gifted to her by fifth husband RICHARD BURTON, that she treasured most.

But regardless of which jewels she preferred, she was always wearing at least one.


Posted in Elizabeth Taylor on March 25, 2011 by Miranda Wilding


After a lifetime in the public eye, ELIZABETH TAYLOR gave a last interview that, as it turned out, was – appropriately enough – pure ELIZABETH TAYLOR.

When the Hollywood icon talked with KIM KARDASHIAN for a HARPER’S BAZAAR feature that ran in February, it was stunningly obvious that the Hollywood legend still had a mind for all things fabulous.

“I never planned to acquire a lot of jewels or a lot of husbands,” she said in the interview.

“For me, life happened, just as it does for anyone else. I have been supremely lucky in my life in that I have known great love and of course…some incredible and beautiful things.”

Ms. Taylor also showed that she was keeping up with contemporary times. She joined Twitter – and even honoured KIM with a follow.

“I like the connection with fans and people who have been supportive of me,” Ms. Taylor remarked.

“And I love the idea of real feedback and a two way street, which is very very modern.”

Ms. Taylor’s last Tweet was a link to the interview and a compliment for KIM concerning her CLEOPATRA themed photo spread in the same issue.

After Ms. Taylor passed away on Wednesday at age 79, KIM took to her blog to describe the interview as “one of the greatest highlights of my entire life.”

“Not only did I get to wear Dame Elizabeth’s original clothing from the movie, but I got to interview her for this piece! I never felt so lucky and fortunate; it was truly the greatest honour and dream of mine to be the iconic Elizabeth Taylor for one day.”


Posted in Elizabeth Taylor, Theatre on March 25, 2011 by Miranda Wilding


Broadway will honour ELIZABETH TAYLOR by dimming its lights this evening.

THE BROADWAY LEAGUE, the national trade association, said Thursday that theatre marquees will go dark at 8 PM for one minute in memory of the legendary superstar.

The actor died in Los Angeles on Wednesday at age 79.

ELIZABETH TAYLOR made her first appearance on Broadway in the 1981 revival of LILLIAN HELLMAN’S THE LITTLE FOXES and was nominated for a BEST ACTRESS TONY AWARD.

Ms. Taylor returned to Broadway in 1983 as producer and star of NOEL COWARD’S PRIVATE LIVES opposite her former husband RICHARD BURTON. She also produced THE CORN IS GREEN that year.

Known primarily as a film performer, Ms. Taylor did appear in movie adaptations of stage plays, such as TENNESSEE WILLIAMS’ 1950s classic CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF.


Posted in Elizabeth Taylor, Glamour on March 24, 2011 by Miranda Wilding


ELIZABETH TAYLOR was the antithesis of today’s Hollywood fashion icon, who is eager to be seen as an everywoman. She was always dressed like a movie star: hair done, perfect makeup and plenty of jewelry.

And while she was famous for her ACADEMY AWARDS, iconic roles and many husbands, she was most renowned for her beauty — the incandescent violet eyes, alabaster skin, pouty lips and glossy raven hair. She died Wednesday at 79 from congestive heart failure.

The public saw her mature from a young girl in NATIONAL VELVET to the sultry CLEOPATRA. Yet no matter the time, place or role, her glamour was consistent…and that was inspiring to women.

“Every quality that we consider classically beautiful, she had,” said AMY KELLER LAIRD, beauty director at ALLURE.

“She was sexy and girlish. She had both those qualities all through her life.”

In 1951, Ms. Taylor showed off her legendary 19 inch waist in a strapless dress with a bodice top, full tulle skirt and delicate flowers at the neckline designed by EDITH HEAD. She had the same influence on lingerie styles after she wore a lace trimmed slip in BUTTERFIELD 8. And black kohl eyeliner was all the rage after CLEOPATRA.

HAL RUBINSTEIN of IN STYLE said he had the pleasure of meeting the legendary star several times.

“As a child, she was eerily beautiful — she never had a child’s face, and as a woman, she was unmatchably beautiful,” he said.

In person, the most striking thing about her was her impeccable features. But her broader appeal, the one the world saw in photographs, was her overall glamour.

“When she walked into a room, she just had the most amazing presence about her,” added designer ELIZABETH EMANUEL, who is best known as PRINCESS DIANA’S wedding dress designer but who also made several looks for Ms. Taylor.

“She was just incredible.”

The big studios trained her to always step out the door as glamourpuss ELIZABETH TAYLOR: She wore the role of movie star all the time and she didn’t apologize for it.

“She was an incredible beauty and she had an awareness of her own beauty. Even those we think are great beauties today play it down and speak modestly — there’s always something they don’t like and they apologize for it. But she never did,” HAL RUBINSTEIN remarked.

“She was aware of her gifts and truly appreciated them.”

He also noted that Ms. Taylor made sure any and all of her suitors, from boyfriends and husbands to reporters, knew that she liked presents and that she expected them. After all, one of the most important diamonds of all time, a 69 carat stone, was a gift from husband Number 5 and 6, RICHARD BURTON. It is now known as the TAYLOR BURTON DIAMOND.

Ms. Taylor not only owned many pieces of statement jewelry — unlike today’s stars, who often borrow them — but she’d wear them often instead of storing them. That goes back to the movie star thing.

At the OSCARS in 1970, she asked EDITH HEAD to create a gown that would show off her necklace, ending up in a blue gown with a very low V neckline.

“Elizabeth Taylor was a style icon who always followed her own unique and daring fashion vision,” said Jamie Cadwell, director of the Diamond Information Center, a trade organization.

“Her love of jewelry was unsurpassed and women everywhere continue to be inspired by her incredible collection.”

In her clothes, Ms. Taylor had a preference for draping, said ELIZABETH EMANUEL. Her longevity as a style influencer is proven by the long time success of her fragrance collections launched with ELIZABETH ARDEN. WHITE DIAMONDS, which followed 1980s era PASSION and was one of the original celebrity perfumes, has been a beauty counter bestseller for 20 years.

The fragrances will continue, according to a company statement.

“Our best tribute to Elizabeth Taylor will be to continue the legacy of the brands she created and loved so much,” said chair and CEO E. SCOTT BEATTIE.

“White Diamonds is still one of our readers’ favourite fragrances. The fact that hers has stood the test of time, even though every hot celebrity has a fragrance, says a lot about her as a beauty icon,” stated ALLURE’S AMY KELLER LAIRD.


Posted in Elizabeth Taylor on March 24, 2011 by Miranda Wilding

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.

Me especially.

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.