Monday, 18 January 2010

Hollywood Icons - Elizabeth Taylor

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."

Elizabeth Taylor

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

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.

"What do you expect me to do? Sleep alone?"

Elizabeth Taylor's Husbands

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.

1) "Nicky" Conrad Hilton Jr, Hotelier
(m. 6th May 1950 divorced 1st February 1951)

2) Michael Wilding, Actor
(m. 21st February 1952 divorced 30th January 1957)

3) Mike Todd, Producer
(m. 2nd February 1957 (died) 22nd March 1958)

4) Eddie Fisher, Singer
(m. 12th May 1959 divorced 6th March 1964)

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"
Elizabeth Taylor

A Gallery of Elizabeth Taylor pictures

Aged 6

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"
Elizabeth Taylor

With Peter Lawford

With Montgomery Clift

"More than anything else in the world I wanted a man who could control me"
Elizabeth Taylor

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"
Elizabeth Taylor

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..."
Elizabeth Taylor

"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"
Elizabeth Taylor

Burton and Taylor after the filming of Cleopatra

Another amazing headress

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, 1967

Taming of the Shrew, 1967

Fabulous! Dr Faustus, 1967

Filming Reflections of a Golden Eye with Marlon Brando, 1967

by Andy Warhol

"Big girls need big diamonds"
Elizabeth Taylor

"Elizabeth's breasts are apocalyptic,
they would topple empires before they withered"

Richard Burton

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.

He later bought her a staggering 69.42 carat pear shaped diamond. It was newly named the Taylor-Burton Diamond which he bought for $1,100,000 from Cartier. For her 40th Birthday Richard presented her with the Taj Mahal Diamond that dates back to 1627.

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?"

Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth's diamond engagement ring

With Lucille Ball and Burton, 1971

With Gene Kelly at the premiere of That's Entertainment, 1974

With David Bowie

With Liza Minelli and Rock Hudson

Winning the Humanitarian Oscar 1997

With her good friend Michael Jackson

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"

Elizabeth Taylor

"She was unquestionably gorgeous.
I can think of no other word to describe a combination of plentitude, frugality, abundance, tightness.  She was lavish.
She was a dark unyielding largesse.
She was, in short, too bloody much"

Richard Burton

We've lost one of the last true Hollywood stars
RIP, Elizabeth xxx


Wildernesschic said...

Oh Liz Taylor .. My mother had a look of her .. so was her biggest fan. You forget just how beautiful she was/is I would like the number of her surgeon, just for future planning, she looks amazing in the last photo...

ThatGirl39 said...

Wow... she really is a stunning woman. I love the picture of her from International Velvet, so fresh faced. And as for the 69.42 caret diamond? Words fail me when faced with its fabulousness!

Christina Lindsay said...

It's just jaw-dropping isn't it! xx

NickLaurence said...

Thank you so much for this - it made the start to an otherwise hideous day bearable.

I can't stop thinking about Kalizma!!!

Sildenafil said...

I agree with the article because Elizabeth is the most important Hollywood Icon not only at that time but also she continues doing the first icon.

Brad Fallon said...

How did Elizabeth Taylor become a fashion and glamour icon of the 1950s?

aj said...

What an Amazing woman she was!! Deeply missed!!

Gislaine said...

RIP Elizabeth, the world as we know it has changed forever.


I found this today. Wonderful!

Ashley said...

Amazing woman and actress! Always told it like it was! Will be sadly missed. R.I.P Elizabeth x

Anonymous said...

thanks to photo technology, what might have been lost beauty can be seen for many decades to come, Liz Taylor natures beauty at its best

klover said...

Thanks for this homage. An icon of our time. Sad to see her go.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the beautiful images. My mother was one of her biggest fans...and I, too. (When I heard she passed today, I immediately thought of my mother up in heaven running up to her with open arms.) A true survivor! God bless and rest her soul.

Patoush/ Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Anonymous said...

the most beautiful woman in the whole world

Ruhi Shah said...

such a pitty she passed away. ..:(

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I stumbled upon this blog and really enjoyed your tribute. Again, Thank You!

Anonymous said...

You are indeed a survivor Liz, and an example of what people can go through and survive, not after seventy three illnesses, injuries and accidents that required hospitalisation...though you are late now, but your fame lives on...Rest in Peace Liz.


ram said...

one of the most beautiful woman of hollywood..the world miss. u luz

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Mariam said...

really amazing post! love all the pictures you've posted!

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