Multiple news websites have reported that two-time Oscar winner Elizabeth Taylor, one of the last of the classic Hollywood icons, is dead at the age of 79. According to reports, Taylor passed away early this morning in Los Angeles, after being recently treated for congestive heart failure.
Born in England to American parents, and signed to MGM as a child, the raven-haired, long-lashed, lavender-eyed Taylor first caught attention in Lassie Come Home and became a full-fledged star at 12 in the horse-race drama, National Velvet. But Taylor had no trouble leading men herself. Longtime best friend Montgomery Clift, though thoroughly gay, called her “the only woman I have ever met who turned me on.” Her own Hollywood love life grew to include eight husbands – two of them Richard Burton, the great love of her life, who later said, admiringly, that she was “inscrutable… a poem.”
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton met on the set of Cleopatra, when they were both still married to other people. A hungover Burton tried to pick her up, asking if anybody had ever told her she “was a very pretty girl.” Taylor thought he was joking – until she saw how nervous he was, which touched her.
As much as they tried — and they tried twice — they couldn’t make the union last. But they did make at least one great picture together, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which won Taylor her second Oscar.
Taylor had won her first Oscar for Butterfield 8, and before her career began to taper off in the `70s, she had racked up many formidable performances, including: the desirable, unattainable heiress in A Place in the Sun; and the fiery Maggie the Cat in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
She also had a second – and just as important — career as a charity fundraiser, getting deeply involved with AIDS research when her friend Rock Hudson, who co-starred with Taylor in the film Giant, was diagnosed with the disease. She began her own foundation, and raised millions.
America has lost one of its last great stars.