My favourite Elizabeth Taylor picture by Richard Avedon, 1964
"My Mother says I didn't open my eyes for eight days when I was born but when I did, the first thing I saw was an engagement ring. I was hooked."
I've just heard the very sad news that Elizabeth Taylor died today aged 79 from heart failure. This is a re-post of a piece I did in January 2010.
Born in Hampstead, London in 1932, Dame Elizabeth Taylor was a child starlet and one of the greatest Hollywood's beauties. In the fifties she was voted The Most Beautiful Woman in the World.
"Everything was handed to me -
looks, fame, wealth, honour, love.
I rarely had to fight for anything"
Elizabeth Taylor, one of our most famous and glamorous stars is one of the most photographed women in history. She holds the record for the most appearances on the cover of Life magazine which she has graced eleven times, and fourteen People covers, second to Princess Diana. A magnet for publicity throughout her life Elizabeth is legendary for her eight marriages to seven husbands, most famously to actor Richard Burton, the love of her life who she married twice.
In Suddenly Last Summer, 1959
Her fame and notoriety have overshadowed some of her accomplishments, she has received five nominations for Best Actress and won two Oscars during her amazing six decade career. Her scents and have been in the top ten best seller in America since their launch, making her hundreds of millions and she pioneered the campaign against HIV and AIDS awareness in Hollywood after her good friend Rock Hudson died and The Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation has raised millions of dollars for the cause.
Shot for the cover of her book - My Love Affair with Jewellery
Many excellent biographies have been written about Elizabeth's glittering life, her very public relationships, her battle with alcohol, drugs and her weight - between 1947 and 1994 she had no fewer than seventy three illnesses, injuries and accidents that required hospitalisation. Her constantly changing looks and immense style have provided a wealth of amazing photographs. I had to trawl through thousands and it was still hard to decide which ones to use... Apologies this post is so long! I've used mostly photographs, quotes and trivia to illustrate her fabulous life.
Diamonds advertising campaign picture
Her favourite couturier was Marc Bohan of Christian Dior who she remained loyal to for four decades. Over the years she purchased a hundred separate couture outfits from Dior. Whenever she bought anything she always expected an accompanying gift, a belt, scarf or chapeau.
All of Hollywood was aware that Elizabeth's father Francis, who was gay was having an affair with MGM fashion designer, Adrian who was married to actress Janet Gaynor.
Marlene Dietrich once referred to Elizabeth as "that English tart with big tits."
Richard Burton and Elizabeth rented a 279 ton, 165 foot Edwardian motor yacht which they later bought for $192,000 and renamed Kalizma, after their daughters Kate Burton, Liza Todd and Maria Burton. Updated by the designer Barbosa, the yacht finished in Edwardian mahogany and chrome had seven cabins and two staterooms which could house a total of fourteen guests, including five main crew. Inside the yacht was brimming with objet d'art, including paintings by Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh and Vlaminck; a bust of Churchill in the salon, Burton's book collection and fine Chippendale furniture and tapestries. They spent a great deal of time on the yacht and nearly every week it docked somewhere fabulous in the Mediterranean. Guests included Rex Harrison, Rachel Roberts and Tennessee Williams. Elizabeth later sold Kalizma for $6 million.
While staying at her suite in the Dorchester during the making of Cleopatra Elizabeth ordered chilli to be flown over from Chasen's in LA, stone crabs from the coast of Florida, smoked salmon from Barney Greengrass in New York, steaks from Chicago, shrimp creole from New Orleans, spare ribs from St Louis, white asparagus from the French countryside and fresh linguini from Genoa, Italy. I hate to think what the bill was like!
By 1963 Elizabeth, after many long battles with the studios, finally won unprecedented control of her image in the movies. She had the right to approve her own costumes, hairstyles, make up designs and no publicity stills were released without her approval. It was the first time any actress was granted this.
By 1983, Elizabeth was drinking so much she would have a few Bloody Mary's for breakfast, wine for lunch, Jack Daniels at cocktail hour and more wine and spirits with dinner. She became the first celebrity to make her stay in the Betty Ford Clinic public.
Mike Todd's plane was called "The Lucky Liz" tragically it didn't bring him luck, it crashed over a mountain range in New Mexico, killing him.
Throughout her marriage to Eddie Fisher, Elizabeth continued to wear Mike Todd's wedding band - Eddie's on her left hand and Mike's on her right. The twisted, charred band had been recovered from the wreckage after his plane crash.
The man she fought to keep was Richard Burton who her biographer says she would have tried to get him back a third time had he lived.
3) Mike Todd, Producer
(m. 2nd February 1957 (died) 22nd March 1958)
5) Richard Burton, Actor
(m. 15th March 1964 divorced 26th June 1974)
6) Richard Burton, Actor
(m. 10th October 1975 divorced 1st August 1976)
7) John Warner, Senator
(m. 4th December 1976 divorced 7th November 1982)
8) Larry Fortensky, Construction worker
(m. 6th October 1991 divorced 31st October 1996)
"Nobody tells me who to love, or not to love, who to be seen with and who not to be seen with"
A Gallery of Elizabeth Taylor pictures
MGM publicity still
As Velvet Brown in National Velvet, 1944
With the original Lassie
"Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses"
With Peter Lawford
With Montgomery Clift
"More than anything else in the world I wanted a man who could control me"
On location filming Giant, Texas, 1955
With James Dean
Relaxing with James Dean during the filming of Giant
With James Dean
With Paul Newman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1958
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 1958
With Mike Todd and Eddie Fisher 1958
With Mike Todd and children Christopher and Michael Wilding Jr.
"I could drink anyone under the table and not get drunk, my capacity was terrifying"
Academy Awards 1960
With Eddie Fisher
With Robert Wagner and Eddie Fisher, 1961
"I really don't remember much about Cleopatra, there were other things going on..."
"If someone's dumb enough to offer me a million dollars to make a movie, I'm certainly not dumb enough to turn it down"
Burton and Taylor after the filming of Cleopatra
Taming of the Shrew, 1967
Fabulous! Dr Faustus, 1967
Filming Reflections of a Golden Eye with Marlon Brando, 1967
"Big girls need big diamonds"
"Elizabeth's breasts are apocalyptic,
they would topple empires before they withered"
One of Elizabeth Taylor's great passions is jewellery. Over the years she has amassed one of the World's foremost collections. Owning an outstanding set of Burmese rubies and diamonds from Cartier, a fantastic emerald and diamond set from Bulgari and the 33.11 carat Krupp diamond, a gift from Richard Burton.
In 1969 he purchased the La Peregrina Pearl, originally discovered in the Gulf of Panama in the early 1500's, an heirloom passed through Spanish and English royal families.
At the Academy Awards with Burton and George Cukor, 1971
"I know I'm vulgar,
but would you have me any other way?"
With Lucille Ball and Burton, 1971
With Gene Kelly at the premiere of That's Entertainment, 1974
With Liza Minelli and Rock Hudson
Winning the Humanitarian Oscar 1997
Elizabeth gave Michael Jackson a present of a four ton elephant, named Gypsy for his zoo at Neverland
"I'm a survivor.
I'm a living example of what people can go through and survive"
We've lost one of the last true Hollywood stars
RIP, Elizabeth xxx