Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor - Grand Dame Of British Cinema

Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, (February 27, 1932 – March 23, 2011) will always be remembered as the grand dame of British cinema.

The former child star who passed away after a long illness recently, was known for both her acting talent and beauty.

She was also frequently in the spotlight because of her Hollywood lifestyle, and many marriages.

Taylor is considered one of the greatest actresses of Hollywood's golden age.

She was born in Hampstead, a wealthy district of North West London, the second child of Francis Lenn Taylor (1897–1968) and Sara Viola Warmbrodt (1895–1994), who were Americans residing in the United Kingdom.

She was of British, Jewish (Israeli), Spanish, Portuguese, Iranian and Native American heritage.

Taylor's family came from Arkansas City, Kansas.

Her father was an art dealer and her mother a former actress.

She was a dual citizen of the UK and the US for life.

At three, Taylor took ballet lessons. Shortly before World War II, her parents returned to the United States.

The Taylors were family friends of Andrea Berens, a wealthy British socialite and the fiancee of Cheever Cowden, chairman of Universal Pictures in Hollywood.

Berens introduced Sara and Elizabeth to Cowden, and he had her signed to Universal as an actress.

Taylor appeared in her first film at nine, There's One Born Every Minute.

Not long after, she joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and starred in Lassie Come Home.
This 1943 film featured her lifelong pal Roddy McDowall.

In 1944, she starred in Jane Eyre.

At 12, she played Velvet Brown in National Velvet. Velvet was a young girl who trains her horse to win the Grand National.

The film also rocketed Mickey Rooney and Angela Lansbury to fame.

In 1946, she starred in The Courage Of Lassie.

Other notable films in the 1940s were Life With Father (1947), Cynthia (1947), A Date With Judy (1948) and Julia Misbehaves (1948).

In 1949, she starred in Conspirator which bombed at the box office.

But her portrayal of 21-year-old debutante Melinda Grayton was praised by critics.

Her first major box office success in an adult role was Kay Banks in the romantic comedy Father Of The Bride (1950).

In late 1949, Taylor starred in A Place In The Sun as a spoiled socialite.

The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954) saw her reunited with her Big Hangover co-star Van Johnson.

Following a substantial role opposite Rock Hudson and James Dean in Giant (1956), Taylor was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. She was also nominated for her roles in Raintree County (1957), Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958) and Suddenly Last Summer (1959).

In 1960, she starred in Cleopatra as the title character. Her future husband, British actor Richard Burton played Mark Antony.

Taylor won her first Academy Award for Best Actress for Butterfield 8 (1960), which co-starred then husband Eddie Fisher.

Her second Best Actress award was in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1966), which co-starred Burton.

Burton and Taylor starred in six films during the decade – The VIPs (1963), The Sandpiper (1965), The Taming Of The Shrew (1967), Doctor Faustus (1967), The Comedians {1967} and Boom! (1968).

Taylor appeared in Reflections In A Golden Eye (1967) opposite Marlon Brando and Secret Ceremony (1968) opposite Mia Farrow.

Taylor continued to star in numerous theatrical films throughout the 1970s, such as Zee And Co (1972) with Michael Caine, Ash Wednesday (1973), The Blue Bird (1976) with Jane Fonda and Ava Gardner and A Little Night Music (1977).

With then-husband Burton, she co-starred in the 1972 films Under Milk Wood and Hammersmith Is Out and the 1973 made-for-TV movie Divorce His, Divorce Hers.
Taylor starred in the 1980 mystery film The Mirror Cracked, based on an Agatha Christie novel.

In 1985, she played movie gossip columnist Louella Parsons in the TV film Malice In Wonderland.

Her last theatrical film was 1994's The Flintstones.

In the 2000s she starred in television series such as General Hospital, All My Children and The Simpsons.

Taylor made her Broadway and West End debuts in 1982 in The Little Foxes.

She also starred in Noel Coward's Private Lives (1983) with Burton.

On December 5, 2007, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger inducted Taylor into the California Hall Of Fame, located at The California Museum For History, Women And The Arts.

Taylor devoted much time and energy to AIDS-related charities and fundraising. She helped start the American Foundation for AIDS Research after the death of her former co-star and friend, Rock Hudson.

She also created her own AIDS foundation, the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation (ETAF).

By 1999, she had helped to raise an estimated US$50 million to fight the disease.

She also became a close pal of Michael Jackson, and attended his funeral in 2009.

Taylor was married seven times to Conrad Hilton (1950-51), Michael Wilding (1952-57), Michael Todd (1957-58, he died), Eddie Fisher (1959-64), Richard Burton (1964-74, 1975-76), John Warner (1976-82) and Larry Fortensky (1991-1996).

She is survived by two sons (from Wilding) and two daughters (one each from Todd and Burton).

She has nine grandchildren.