In January 2021, we completed the first decade without Elizabeth Taylor, who passed away on March 23, 2011, after long battles with cancer, alcoholism, chemical dependencies, and other illnesses. She was 79 years old.
Elizabeth Taylor was one of the biggest divas in Hollywood history, being for many years the highest-earning star in the movie industry. Her entire life was dedicated to cinema, having debuted as a child as an actress and achieving the rare feat of making the transition to adult life without losing the public or admiration.
Everything about Elizabeth Taylor was superlative: her beauty, her talent, her personal life, her career, her dedication to friends, drink, food, medicine, jewelry, and, above all, love. In the seven decades we lived with her, she was married eight times, starred in scandals, courageous fights, and against death. She worked in more than 50 films, some of them the greatest treasures of cinema. She worked with legends and proved that more than a woman with incomparable violet eyes, she was a great actress. Always a pioneer, it is worth remembering a little about her life.
A unique career and many loves
Elizabeth Taylor first came to public attention aged 10 when she debuted in the National Velvet franchise, but she had appeared in a few films before, including Lassie. From 1944 onwards, the world would follow every step of this actress.
The transition to adult roles was strangely easy for her, but she didn’t gain more respect as an actress until she made A Place in the Sun in 1951. Several period films held out until she was featured in Giant, opposite Rock Hudson and James Dean.
In 1957, with the film Tree of Life, she was nominated for an Oscar for the first time. It received a total of five nominations and won two, for Butterfield Dial 8 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff. He also received an honorary Oscar for his dedication to humanitarian causes.
A million dollars for the Queen of the Nile
Cleopatra will forever be one of the main images and references in the life and career of Elizabeth Taylor.
When the project came up, Elizabeth wasn’t thrilled. She asked for changes and a salary, at the time, of a stratospheric million dollars. According to biographers, she did not expect them to accept. But it ended up paving the way for new paths in Hollywood.
The screen result was a critical failure and ineffective at the box office. Today there is another view, more respectful of the actress’s performance. What really entered the story was the parallel of the passion of Mark Antony and the queen of Egypt with the actors, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
The fact that they were both married when they fell in love made little difference to her. After all, “destroying” marriages was, according to the media, one of Elizabeth’s greatest talents…
The passions and sincerity driving your heart
Everything in Elizabeth Taylor‘s life was intense. What would be trivial today, however, was shocking in the 1950s and 1960s, but nothing mattered to her but honesty.
She married for the first time in 1950, with Conrad Hilton Jr, but the union was short-lived just nine months. Almost immediately after, the actress married Michael Wilding, father of her two children and 20 years her senior. The two met while working on a film together. So the first one was inexperienced and the second one was lukewarm. But when she met Mike Todd, Elizabeth Taylor became herself.
At the time he was the biggest and most influential producer in Hollywood. The two-two love was scandalous because she was a “happily married” woman and mother of two children. But nothing could stand in the way of their happiness. The two took the criticism unapologetically and the happiness was so full and obvious that it quickly dominated the narrative. It was he who “started” Elizabeth’s passion for jewels and rare diamonds, they were almost corny in their exaggerations and, when the tragic death of Mike Todd, little more than a year after their marriage, made Elizabeth a widow at 30 years, the world wept with her.
Then came the “new” Elizabeth Taylor, the “wrecker” of homes, a pre-Angelina Jolie. Months after Mike’s death, she married his best friend, Eddie Fisher. Eddie, however, was married to Debbie Reynolds, America’s sweetheart, and the fact that he left his wife for Elizabeth, his friend, forever marked the history of scandals in Hollywood. Worse, it lasted little more than two years until Richard Burton entered the actress’s life.
A passion like few
For Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor faced the fury of the Vatican and public opinion. She left her husband and was openly the mistress of a married man until he finally ended their union and made their love official.
The chemistry was undeniable, but so was the destructive effect. Passionate about alcohol, food, travel, jewelry, and excesses, the fights were public, full of profanity and mutual physical aggression. He was considered the best actor, even though she was the biggest star and the one with an Oscar, but Richard Burton respected Elizabeth Taylor as an actress of equal talent and – indeed – she gained the respect she so craved in the years she was with him. , including a second Academy Award for Best Actress. They played Shakespeare, and read poems, and she stayed backstage just accompanying her husband, almost retired. It was the phase in which she herself said she was the happiest and they were the most famous couple on the planet.
The jewelry collection grew with various gifts. But the intensity of their love is short-circuited and divorced, although also an attempt at reconciliation, remarriage, and yet another divorce. The names of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor are synonymous with passion and remain linked in the eternity of canvases, books, and, above all, imagination. They both died admitting that they couldn’t be together, but that they never stopped loving each other.
In the last stage of her life, Elizabeth, the humanitarian and businesswoman
Elizabeth has always been a gay icon and friend of gay people. Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson, Roddy McDowell, and James Dean were just a few of the intimates who could be openly honest with just her. It is therefore not surprising that she dedicated her body and soul to the cause of AIDS long before the disease was treated without prejudice. It managed to raise millions.
She was Michael Jackson‘s best friend, one of his confidants and supporters, even when the first allegations of pedophilia arose. But in addition to being the epitome of fidelity (when it came to the friendship), Elizabeth was a shrewd businesswoman. She launched a perfume with her name (one of the first to do so) and it was a great sales success, she wrote books and continued to do cameos in films and series. She remarried and divorced, her last husband in the 1990s, after meeting him on one of her drugs and drink rehab stints.
By the way, Elizabeth Taylor was one of the first stars not to hide her health problems, whether physical or mental. She almost died more than once, she survived a brain tumor, and a hip operation, but her heart finally failed after so many demands. She was hospitalized for six weeks before dying around one and a half hours in the morning of the 23rd, in Los Angeles, surrounded by her children and grandchildren.
The 10-year anniversary of her death, in times of a pandemic, went unnoticed. But I couldn’t get to the end of the year without remembering this legend, inimitable and irreplaceable. A woman who was ahead of her time and ours and who cinema made eternal for all generations, thank God!