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Elizabeth Taylor: A Tribute One Year On From Her Death

by Richard Luck
23 March 2012 1 Comment

It was a year ago today that Elizabeth Taylor died, we recall that there was a lot more to the Oscar-winning actress than her fluctuating weight and her friendship with Michael Jackson.

Elizabeth Taylor was a pretty good actress. This fact was often overlooked during her time with us. Her yo-yoing weight, her countless marriages, her willingness to defend Michael Jackson at the drop of a hat – these were the things the media liked to focus on. And while she didn’t always help herself – agreeing to turn up at Neverland when Jacko, dressed as a gay Nazi, was being ‘interrogated by Oprah Winfrey wasn’t Liz’s smartest move – the very real triumphs of her career easily eclipsed Elizabeth Taylor’s eccentricities.

Born in Hampstead in 1932, Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was that rare thing – a child star who grew into adult roles. Her Lassie movies and National Velvet meant she was an international star by the end of the Second World War. And while her teens were as tricky as they are for any actor, by the time she was in her twenties, Taylor was racking up great movies almost as quickly as she’d later rack up husbands. A Place In The Sun with Montgomery Clift, Giant opposite James Dean, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof with Paul Newman; she might have picked up her Oscar for the bland Butterfield 8 but she could – and should – have been awarded it for any of these remarkable films.

And then Elizabeth Taylor met Richard Burton and everything changed, changed utterly.

“The day Elizabeth Taylor came in to record was amazing,” enthuses Simpsons creator Matt Groening. “She made one of the guy’s days by complimenting him on his blue eyes. I know he’ll never forget her.”

Of the films Burton and Taylor made together, only Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe? remains worth watching. Featuring perhaps Taylor’s finest performance, it’s hard not to see the disintegrating real couple behind the constantly bickering characters. If their relationship was fiery – the pair were married twice, once for 10 years then again for one – Taylor loved Burton enough to call him the love of her life. And their union did produce something truly extraordinary, the Taylor-Burton Diamond; a South African gem the actress would auction for $5 million in 1978.

As for Taylor’s other husbands, Michael Wilding – no. 2 – was a huge star of the British screen, Mike Todd – no.3 – was the Oscar-winning producer of Around The World In 80 Days who died in a plane crash, and singer Eddie Fisher – no.4 – was actress Carrie’s father. Liz married for the eighth and final time in 1991. She would divorce construction worker Larry Fortensky five years later.

With her later years blighted by ill health and unwanted press attention, Taylor’s work was restricted to telemovies like Victory At Entebbe and TV shows such as North And South and General Hospital. Amongst all the dross, Taylor did land one plumb job that of speaking Maggie Simpson’s first word.

“The day Elizabeth Taylor came in to record was amazing,” enthuses Simpsons creator Matt Groening. “She made one of the guy’s days by complimenting him on his blue eyes. I know he’ll never forget her.”

And for bad reasons but mainly good, neither will the rest of us.

Elizabeth Taylor proving herself to be wonderfully self-deprecating on the set of General Hospital

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Martin 4:28 pm, 23-Mar-2011

and don't forget she appeared in an early Star Trek episode (it was in black and white)

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