Loss of an icon: Elizabeth Taylor dies at 79

Posted on March 24, 2011

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By: Aarti Jitender

Elizabeth Taylor, said to be one of the last stars of Hollywood’s golden era, died of congestive heart failure at 79. Taylor’s on-screen achievements, which included 2 Oscars, was sometimes overshadowed by her real-life dramas and eight marriages.

Taylor, whose career started at the young age of 10 and spanned nearly six decades, worked with world renowned directors and actors like Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Mike Nichols and George Cukor. She won critical acclaim for her work in movies such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Place in the Sun and Cleopatra and won two Academy Awards for her performances in Butterfield 8 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

She was also known for her passion and excesses when it came to men, food, alcohol and beautiful expensive things. Taylor had some well-publicized battles with alcohol, drugs and weight-related issues for years and even checked into the Betty Ford Clinic a few times in an effort to fight them. But more than these, it was her love life that grasped the unyielding attention of the public for decades. Her dating-black book read like the Who’s Who list of the world’s rich and famous – including names like Frank Sinatra and Henry Kissinger.

Taylor was married and divorced eight times and apparently joked with fellow actress Joan Collins about it: sending her a note saying “I’m still ahead by three!” when Collin’s had her forth divorce. Taylor was only 17 when she married hotel heir Conrad Nicholson Hilton Jr. in 1950 but that lasted only eight months. She then married British actor Michael Wilding, who was 20 years her senior. They divorced in 1957 after five years of marriage. Husband No. 3 was Mike Todd, an American producer, who Taylor is said to have called one of the two great loves of her life. Their marriage in 1957, however, was short-lived when, in March 1958, Todd was killed in a plane crash in New Mexico. She then found Husband No. 4 in Eddie Fisher, an American singer who was also Todd’s best friend. Taylor was still married to Fisher when she met Richard Burton, the second love of her life who took up the title/post of Husband No 5 and 6.

Both the Burton-Taylor marriages were said to have been consumed/mirrored/engulfed in drama, alcohol and extravagance. Burton lavished her with the famed 33.19-carat Assayer-cut Krupp Diamond in 1968, the 25-carat Taj Mahal diamond pendant for her 40th birthday in 1972 and then most notably the 69.42-carat pear-shaped diamond ring which later came to be known as the Taylor-Burton diamond. While the couple divorced for a second time in 1976, Taylor is believed to have said that she was “still madly in love with him until the day he died.”

After Burton, Taylor married soon-to-be American Senator John Warner in 1976 and then construction worker Larry Fortensky, whom she met during her stint at the Betty Ford Clinic, in 1991. After Fortensky, Taylor swore off marriages.

Besides her many dalliances with love/marriages, Taylor was also known for her pioneering work in the fight against AIDS and even won an Oscar for her humanitarianism efforts.

Taylor, who was hospitalized about six weeks ago at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, is believed to have died surrounded by her four children, Michael and Christopher Wilding, Liza Todd and Maria Burton.

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Posted in: Film