Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor dies

Taylor, considered one of the greatest actresses of Hollywood's golden age, dies aged 79 in a Los Angeles hospital.

    Taylor was one of the most alluring actresses of the 20th century [Reuters]

    Elizabeth Taylor, an English-American actress and former child star, has died at the age of 79.

    She died at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles on Wednesday, after having been hospitalised six weeks ago with congestive heart failure, a condition with which she had struggled for some years, and had recently suffered complications, a statement from her publicist Sally Morrison said.

    "She was surrounded by her children - Michael Wilding, Christopher Wilding, Liza Todd, and Maria Burton," it said, noting that she was also survived by 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

    "My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humour, and love. Though her loss is devastating to those of us who held her so close and so dear, we will always be inspired by her enduring contribution to our world," her son Michael said in a statement.

    "Her remarkable body of work in film, her ongoing success as a businesswoman, and her brave and relentless advocacy in the fight against HIV/AIDS, all make us all incredibly proud of what she accomplished.

    "We know, quite simply, that the world is a better place for Mom having lived in it. Her legacy will never fade, her spirit will always be with us, and her love will live forever in our hearts," he said.

    Hollywood movie queen

    The Hollywood movie queen was known equally for her stormy romances and eight marriages as her Oscar-winning performances.

    Born in London February 27, 1932, she was evacuated to California with her American parents in 1939, where she was soon discovered at her father's art gallery by the fiancee of the chairman of Universal Studios.

    She debuted in 1942 in There's One Born Every Minute, and in 1944 became a child star with National Velvet the story of a girl who rides her horse to victory at the Grand National disguised as a boy.

    She married for the first time in 1950, aged 18, to hotel chain heir Nicky Hilton. The marriage lasted 203 days, collapsing amid verbal and physical abuse after a lavish Hollywood wedding and a three-month European

    By 1952 Taylor had tied the knot with British matinee idol Michael Wilding, 19 years her senior. They had two children, Michael Jr. and Christopher.

    Though Taylor said Wilding gave her stability, it wasn't enough. She filed for divorce in 1956, and within days of the separation producer Michael Todd, 49, proposed.

    They had a daughter, Elizabeth Frances, in August 1957, but seven months later Todd was killed in a plane crash in New Mexico.

    Taylor was accompanied at Todd's funeral by his best friend, singer Eddie Fisher, whose wife actress Debbie Reynolds stayed home in California to take care of Taylor's children.

    Taylor later had an affair with Fisher, which scandalised puritanical America. They married in 1959, but the public outrage nearly killed Taylor's flourishing acting career.

    She had just finished filming the Tennessee Williams classic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) with Paul Newman, and had already earned critical raves with Giant (1956), the Texas oil patch epic with Rock Hudson and James Dean.

    But her flame only burned brighter. She made Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer in 1959 with Katharine Hepburn and Montgomery Clift.

    The following year, she won her first Oscar for best actress for her portrayal of a high-class call girl in Butterfield 8. Then came Cleopatra (1962) - at the time the most expensive in Hollywood history. Taylor was paid a record million dollars.

    Sizzling love affair

    The movie flopped, but the Roman set was the backdrop for a sizzling love affair that made headlines around the world: Taylor and her leading man, Burton, who was married.

    Taylor and Burton married in March 1964 in Montreal. By the time they were filming Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, the harrowing portrayal of a marriage torn by booze, bitterness and failure mirrored their own.

    They divorced in June, 1974 and remarried in October of the following year in Botswana, only to divorce again in August, 1976. Before he died, Burton commented: "We never really split up - and we never will."

    The marriage left Taylor an alcoholic, and her career in decline. A seventh marriage to Virginia Senator John Warner, from 1976 to 1982, failed to cure the blues.

    In and out of California's Betty Ford Clinic in the 1980s, she overcame her alcoholism and a dependence on painkillers and emerged as a champion in the cause of AIDS victims.

    In 1991, she stunned the world by marrying husband No. 8: Larry Fortensky, a 40-year-old construction worker she met in rehab. They parted amicably three years later.

    In later years as her health failed she retired from the public gaze, although she notably attended the 2009 funeral of her long-time friend Michael Jackson, while she remained active in raising funds to battle AIDS/HIV.

    Taylor's health continued to deteriorate. In 1997, she underwent surgery to have a brain tumor removed and in 2006 she appeared on US television to deny rumours she had Alzheimer's disease.

    In July 2008, she was hospitalised but her spokesman denied reports that she was close to death, while in 2009, she underwent heart surgery to repair a "leaky valve".

    Taylor is considered one of the great actresses of Hollywood's golden age. The American Film Institute named Taylor seventh on its Female Legends list.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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