- Feb 27, 1932
- Hampstead, London, England, UK
Elizabeth Taylor was the ultimate movie star: violet-eyed, luminously beautiful, and bigger than life; although never the most gifted actress, she was the most magnetic, commanding the spotlight with unparalleled power. Whether good (two Oscars, one of the first million-dollar paychecks, and charity work), bad (health and weight problems, drug battles,… More Bio:
Elizabeth Taylor was the ultimate movie star: violet-eyed, luminously beautiful, and bigger than life; although never the most gifted actress, she was the most magnetic, commanding the spotlight with unparalleled power. Whether good (two Oscars, one of the first million-dollar paychecks, and charity work), bad (health and weight problems, drug battles, and other tragedies), or ugly (eight failed marriages, movie disasters, and countless scandals), no triumph or setback was too personal for media consumption.
Born February 27, 1932, in London, Taylor literally grew up in public. At the beginning of World War II, her family relocated to Hollywood, and by the age of ten she was already under contract at Universal. She made her screen debut in 1942's There's One Born Every Minute, followed a year later by a prominent role in Lassie Come Home. For MGM, she co-starred in the 1944 adaptation of Jane Eyre, then appeared in The White Cliffs of Dover. With her first lead role as a teen equestrian in the 1944 family classic National Velvet, Taylor became a star. To their credit, MGM did not exploit her, despite her incredible beauty; she did not even reappear onscreen for two more years, returning with Courage of Lassie. Taylor next starred as Cynthia in 1947, followed by Life With Father. In Julia Misbehaves, she enjoyed her first grown-up role, and then portrayed Amy in the 1947 adaptation of Little Women.
Taylor's first romantic lead came opposite Robert Taylor in 1949's Conspirator. Her love life was already blossoming offscreen as well; that same year she began dating millionaire Howard Hughes, but broke off the relationship to marry hotel heir Nicky Hilton when she was just 17 years old. The marriage made international headlines, and in 1950 Taylor scored a major hit as Spencer Tracy's daughter in Vincente Minnelli's Father of the Bride; a sequel, Father's Little Dividend, premiered a year later. Renowned as one of the world's most beautiful women, Taylor was nevertheless largely dismissed as an actress prior to an excellent performance in the George Stevens drama A Place in the Sun.
In 1956, however, the actress reunited with Stevens to star in his epic adaptation of the Edna Ferber novel Giant. It was a blockbuster, as was her 1957 follow-up Raintree County, for which she earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination.
Taylor's sexy image was further elevated by an impossibly sensual performance in 1958's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; another Tennessee Williams adaptation, Suddenly Last Summer, followed a year later, and both were highly successful. To complete the terms of her MGM contract, she grudgingly agreed to star in 1960's Butterfield 8; upon completing the film Taylor traveled to Britain to begin work on the much-heralded Cleopatra, for which she received an unprecedented one-million-dollar fee. In London she became dangerously ill, and underwent a life-saving emergency tracheotomy. Hollywood sympathy proved sufficient for her to win a Best Actress Oscar for Butterfield 8, although much of the good will extended toward her again dissipated in the wake of the mounting difficulties facing Cleopatra. With five million dollars already spent, producers pulled the plug and relocated the shoot to Italy, replacing co-star Stephen Boyd with Richard Burton. The final tally placed the film at a cost of 37 million dollars, making it the most costly project in film history; scheduled for a 16-week shoot, the production actually took years, and despite mountains of pre-publicity, it was a huge disaster at the box office upon its 1963 premiere.
Still, the notice paid to Cleopatra paled in comparison to the scrutiny which greeted Taylor's latest romance, with Burton, and perhaps no Hollywood relationship was ever the subject of such intense media coverage. Theirs was a passionate, stormy relationship, played out in the press and onscreen in films including 1963's The V.I.P.'s and
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