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Taylor, Elizabeth (1932-2011)


Main image of Taylor, Elizabeth (1932-2011)

One of the most celebrated stars in film history, not just for - or even primarily for - her talents, though these are not negligible, but for her astonishing beauty when young and her equally astonishing capacity to stay in the headlines for several decades.

Few private lives have been lived so publicly: her career as an actress, begun enchantingly as a child, scarcely rivalled those as serial bride (eight times at last count, including twice to Richard Burton, involving a decade-long media circus), diamond collectress, and survivor of life-threatening illnesses.

Most of her film career, embracing National Velvet (US, d. Clarence Brown, 1944) and Cleopatra (US, d. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1963), belongs to Hollywood. Her family moved there when she was ten, and her ravishing looks, which lasted well into the early 1960s, along with her steadily improving histrionic capacities, ensured a run of films which took her from childhood to adult stardom, picking up Oscars on the way for Butterfield 8 (US, d. Daniel Mann, 1960) and, deservedly, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (US, d. Mike Nichols, 1966).

Her British film roles include Rebecca in Ivanhoe (d. Richard Thorpe, 1952), the lobotomised Catherine in Suddenly Last Summer (d. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1959), the leads in two of Losey's least successful films, Boom and Secret Ceremony (1968), and a film star - what else? - in the Agatha Christie mystery, The Mirror Crack'd (d. Guy Hamilton, 1980).

Other husbands included (2) Michael Wilding, (3) producer Mike Todd, (4) actor/singer Eddie Fisher (5). She was made a Dame (the title seemed apt) in 2000, but, above all, a survivor.

Biographies: Elizabeth Taylor: The Last Star by Kitty Kelley (1981); Elizabeth by Alexander Walker (1991).

Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Cinema

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