Elizabeth Taylor, who became one of the most celebrated actresses in Hollywood for such movies as “National Velvet,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” has died. Her life was as dramatic as many of the roles she played.
Taylor, 79, was last seen at the funeral of Michael Jackson, someone with whom she had an unusual, yet close relationship.
Taylor was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles two months ago for treatment of symptoms of congestive heart failure. ABC News and other news organizations confirmed that Taylor died this morning from the affliction.
Taylor’s son, Michael Wilding, released this statement: “We will always be inspired by her enduring contribution to our world.”
Taylor was born in Hampstead, a wealthy district of North West London, the second child of Francis Lenn Taylor, and art dealer and and Sara Viola Warmbrodt, an actress, who used the stage name Sara Sothern. Both were American.
Her parents moved to Los Angeles with the outbreak of World War II and her dark beauty came to the attention of a friend of the family. Universal Pictures signed Elizabeth to a six-month renewable contract at $100 a week in 1941, when she was nine years old.
Edward Muhl, the studio’s production chief, notoriously cancelled her contract after less than a year after concluding that she couldn’t sing, dance or perform. But Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer immediately signed her to perform in “Lassie Come Home” with Roddy McDowell.
But her breakout role came in MGM’s “National Velvet” when she was 12 years old. The movie roles came fast and furious after that, and Taylor’s salary skyrocketed.
She was Hollywood royalty as a teen. Her first box office success as an adult came in the romantic comedy “Father of the Bride” (1950), alongside Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett.
Her role in “A Place In The Sun” in 1951 with Montgomery Clift cemented her as an adult star.
Taylor worked steadily but a number of her films bombed. Even so, she remained a major box office draw. It wasn’t until the late 1950s that she finally got roles the elevated her acting reputation.
She starred opposite Rock Hudson and James Dean in “Giant” (1956).
Taylor was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in Raintree County (1957) opposite Montgomery Clift and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1958) opposite Paul Newman
She was nominated again in 1959’s “Suddenly, Last Summer,” with Clift, Katharine Hepburn and Mercedes McCambridge.
Taylor won her first Oscar for Best Actress in 1960s BUtterfield 8, which co-starred then husband Eddie Fisher, whom she married after his scandalous break up with Debbie Reynolds.
Her second, also for Best Actress in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” playing opposite then husband Richard Burton.
Taylor suffered from health problems most of her life, including a back problem stemming from an injury while filming National Velvet. In Nov. 2004, Taylor announced that she had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure.