The Life And Legacy Of Elizabeth Taylor

By: Mia Williams | Last updated: Jun 03, 2022

Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was a beloved actress from the Golden Age of Hollywood through the more modern era. She graced the silver screen for six decades, starring in classics such as Giant (1956), Cleopatra (1963), and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966).

For her legendary work, she was honored with five different lifetime achievement awards include the AFI Life Achievement Award and the Cecil B. DeMille Award. Let’s take a glimpse at the life and legacy of this Hollywood icon.

British Born

Unlike many child stars of then and now, Elizabeth Taylor wasn’t put into the limelight of Hollywood as an infant. In fact, she wasn’t even born in the US.

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The future world-renowned actress came into the world as a British citizen in 1932 in the town of Hampstead, England. It wasn’t until their homeland was becoming a WWII battleground that the family dug out their roots and set sail to replant them in America around 1939.

Naturally Stunning Eyes

Long before Elizabeth was brought to California, her mother was routinely given compliments about her daughter’s appearance. It was for an unexpected reason, though.

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The young girl was born with a genetic mutation that some would attribute her unique looks to. It’s called lymphedema-distichiasis syndrome and it’s essentially an extra set of eyelashes. This wasn’t the only thing that made that part of her face stand out. She also had naturally violet eyes.

Backbreaking Work

The image of a glamorous movie star did not come easily to Elizabeth Taylor. A working actress from a young age, she put a lot of work into her career. Sometimes to her own detriment.

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In 1944, she was filming National Velvet, a movie about a young English girl who trains a rather energetic horse. During a horseback riding scene, the then 12-year-old was thrown forcefully from the horse. The incident resulted in a serious back injury. It was rumored that this stunt gone wrong was the cause of chronic pain that the actress endured for the rest of her life. However, it was actually due to scoliosis.

Her First Wedding Was Put Together By MGM

One of the most well-known aspects of Elizabeth Taylor’s private life was the fact that she was married eight times. Her first trip down the aisle happened at the tender age of 18.

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She married Conrad Hilton Jr, heir to the luxury hotel chain. While the pair seemed picture-perfect, it was a little too late when Elizabeth discovered what type of person she had agreed to spend her life with. During their lengthy European honeymoon, she saw a new side to him. He was an alcoholic and physically abusive to his new bride. That’s all she needed to dissolve the marriage when she got back to the states.

The Show Must Go On

In 1955, Elizabeth was shooting a movie called Giant with other larger-than-life actors of the day, including James Dean and Rock Hudson.

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One day in September, she showed up on set to start filming only to be informed of devastating news. Her dear friend and costar, James Dean, had been involved in a fatal accident. The director wasn’t willing to take the day off for mourning. He then forced Elizabeth to shoot some scenes, despite her tears. That slight was one she was never able to forgive.

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An Airplane Crash Changes Elizabeth's Life

After an unsuccessful coupling with her second husband, Michael Wilding, Elizabeth was able to find love again. Husband number three was movie producer, Mike Todd.

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They say when a couple spends an exorbitant amount on their wedding, they are statistically less likely to stay together. Despite inviting 18,000 guests to the party in 1957, Elizabeth and Mike seemed to be a perfect match. Within the first year of marriage, they had a daughter. Unfortunately, that was really all the time they had. Mike passed away in a plane crash less than 14 months after they said, “I do.”

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Highest-Paid Actress

While her private life was often fodder for the gossip columns, it was her starring roles that kept her busy. As her popularity grew around the world, so did her paycheck. By the time Cleopatra was released, the international star was able to command $1,000,000 for the role. That was the most amount of money any actor had ever been paid for a movie.

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Unfortunately, the big-budget film was hit with all sorts of setbacks, including Elizabeth getting deathly ill and having to shut production down on location for a short time. Even though the film was the biggest grossing movie in the 1963 box office, it still took a few years to make up its wild budget. The film almost caused Fox to go bankrupt.

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Award Winning Star

When you have a career spanning an entire lifetime, it’s likely that you’re going to be recognized. Elizabeth Taylor won a slew of awards, including two Oscars for Best Actress.

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It was 1967 when she won the second for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? worked side by side with real-life love interest, Richard Burton. The movie is listed in the top 100 movies of all time by the American Film Institute. Depressed and confused might be a more accurate movie title, which is how the audience might be feeling after watching it. However, viewers are actually given a glimpse into the private lives of the two stars. That’s where they got their character inspiration from.

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Elizabeth Raised Money For AIDS

In the mid-80s, the acclaimed actress lost her other costar from Giant, Rock Hudson, to the AIDS epidemic. Elizabeth was so moved by what he was going through that she wanted to do something about it.

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She helped create the American Foundation for AIDS research. A large amount of her time from that point on was spent spreading awareness and raising millions to go towards the life-threatening condition.

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Unexpected White Hair

In 1997, it was discovered that the beloved actress had a brain tumor. It was the third week of February when she had surgery to take it out from the left side.

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In order to have the meningioma removed, Elizabeth’s head was shaved. Having been known her whole life with the signature black, her hair did something unusual after the successful surgery. She shared in an interview that when her hair started growing back in, it was an unexpected white.

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