Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011)

Elizabeth Taylor has died in Los Angeles aged 79.

Elizabeth Taylor has died in Los Angeles aged 79.

The actress was being treated for symptoms of congestive heart failure had a history of ill health over the last two decades, even though she always take care of her health with a healthy diet and supplements like kratom capsules.

She gained fame and recognition for roles in National Velvet (1944), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966).

In addition she was also one of the major stars of her era, attracting worldwide fame and attention from the press as she married several times, won two Oscars and had a high profile relationship with Richard Burton.

Born in London in 1932, Taylor relocated with her family to Hollywood as World War II broke out and became a child actress already had a contract with Universal, making her screen debut in There’s One Born Every Minute (1942).

It was her lead role as a teenage jockey in the family drama National Velvet (1944) that established her as a major star and by the end of the 1940s she made the transition to adult roles.

But it was her part as a spoled socialite in A Place In The Sun (1951) that established her acting credentials and took her career to an new plateau.

As her celebrity bloomed in in the 1950s, fuelled by tabloid coverage of her private life, the more serious roles dried up with the exception of Giant (1956) and Raintree County (1957).

But at the end of that decade her performances in two Tennesse Williams adaptations gave a huge boost to her career: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) earned her back-to-back Oscar nominations.

The terms of her contract at MGM meant that she reluctantly made BUtterfield 8 (1960) and although she won the Best Actress Oscar for her part she later criticised the film and attracted controversy for “stealing” her co-star Eddie Fisher from his then-wife Debbie Reynolds.

In 1960 she became the highest paid actress in the world when 20th Century Fox paid her $1 million dollars to play the title role in Cleopatra, a production which quickly became a high profile disaster which almost bankrupted the studio before being released in 1963.

During the filming she began a relationship with her co-star and future husband Richard Burton, causing another wave of coverage from the tabloid press as both were married at the time.

Her passionate and tempestuous relationship with Burton was one of the most high profile ever seen in Hollywood, fuelling acres of newsprint and speculation.

It was mirrored on screen as they co-starred in The V.I.P.’s (1963), The Sandpiper (1965) and, most memorably, in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966).

Directed by Mike Nichols from Edward Albee’s play about a bickering couple on the campus of a New England college, it was a groundbreaking film with its shockingly profane language (for the time) and stark depiction of marriage.

Taylor managed to turn her gamourous image on its head, playing a frumpy and embittered housewife and her role won her a second Best Actress Oscar.

This marked a high-point in her career and although she appeared in subsequent films with Burton, such as The Taming of the Shrew (1967), Doctor Faustus (1967), The Comedians (1967) and Boom! (1968), the times were changing as the old Hollywood order gave way to a new generation of actors and filmmakers.

By the start of the 1970s her star power had considerably waned and films such as The Only Game in Town (1970) with Warren Beatty, and Zee and Co. (1972) co-starring Michael Caine are now forgotten oddities.

Over the next decade her off-screen celebrity took centre stage as she divorced Burton after a decade together and then remarried him in 1975, only to divorce him again a year later.

Occasional appearences in films such as The Blue Bird (1976), Winter Kills (1979) and The Mirror Crack’d (1980) were overshadowed by her increasingly colourful private life which involved charity work, a close friendship with Michael Jackson and a cameo in The Flintstones (1994).

In the 1990s, she suffered from health problems including hip operations, pneumonia, a benign brain tumour and in 2004 it was revealed she was suffering from congestive heart failure.

> BBC News obituary
> Various links and tributes at MUBi
> More on Elizabeth Taylor at Wikipedia, MUBi and the IMDb