Elizabeth Taylor dies at 79

elizabeth-taylor

Image Credit: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

Elizabeth Taylor, the Hollywood icon who was as famous for her eight marriages as she was for her 54 movies and two Oscars, died this morning of congestive heart failure at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Hospital, where she was being treated during the last two months for her condition. Taylor, 79, is survived by her four children, 10 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Michael Wilding, Taylor’s son, said in a statement: “My Mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humor, 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 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.”

Taylor had long since transitioned out of acting but had remained famous for being herself, a screen legend since her child star days in the 1940s. Taylor’s violet-eyed beauty had enthralled audiences ever since she was 12, when she starred in 1944’s National Velvet, still the definitive girl-and-her-horse movie. She transitioned into adult roles in 1950’s hit comedy Father of the Bride and the 1951 tragedy¬†A Place in the Sun. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, she was one of Hollywood’s premier screen goddesses, equally at home in glossy epics like Giant (1956) and serious Tennessee Williams adaptations like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958). She won her first Oscar for Best Actress for her role as a promiscuous model in 1960’s Butterfield 8. Her goddess period peaked with 1963’s sprawling Cleopatra, a four-hour-plus saga that remains one of the costliest flops of alltime. (Taylor ultimately earned $7 million for the title role, including $1 million up front, making her the highest paid actress to date.) She came back with her Oscar-winning performance as a professor’s bitter wife in 1966’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a film whose blunt language and sexual subject matter effectively killed off the old Production Code, leading to the movie ratings system Hollywood has used since 1968. Taylor’s acting career petered out during the late 1960s and ’70s (her final big-screen appearance would be a cameo as Fred Flintstone’s mother-in-law in 1994’s The Flintstones), but by then, her reputation as a screen immortal was secured.

Fascination with Taylor persisted in part because of her many marriages, most notably, her tumultuous liaison with Richard Burton, many times her costar and twice her husband. Taylor’s first marriage, to hotel heir Nicky Hilton, lasted from 1950 to 1951. She was married to Michael Wilding from 1952 to 1957. She married movie producer Mike Todd in 1957, but he died in a plane crash a year later. Her next husband was singer Eddie Fisher, causing a scandal when he left wife Debbie Reynolds for her in 1959. Taylor, in turn, left Fisher for Burton, to whom she was married from 1964 to 1974, and again from 1975 to 1976. She was married to Virginia Senator John Warner from 1976 to 1982. She met her final husband, a construction worker named Larry Fortensky who was 20 years her junior, when both were patients at the Betty Ford Clinic; they were married from 1991 to 1996.

Long after she had stopped acting, Taylor remained in the public eye, thanks in no small part to her philanthropy; her Giant costar Rock Hudson’s death from AIDS in 1985 transformed her into one of Hollywood’s earliest and most vocal advocates and fundraisers for AIDS patients. Of course, her marriages and frequent health scares kept her in the news as well. It seemed that no matter what she did, Taylor cultivated around her an atmosphere of glamour, mystery, and drama.

More on Elizabeth Taylor:
All About Elizabeth Taylor
Cover Story: 60 Years of Liz (1992)
Book Review: Donald Spoto’s A Passion for Life: The Biography of Elizabeth Taylor (1995)
Book Review: C. David Heymann’s Liz (1995)
Encore: When Elizabeth Taylor met Richard Burton on the Cleopatra set
Encore: Cleopatra becomesHollywood’s costliest flop
Photo Gallery: Rare, behind-the-scenes photos from Elizabeth Taylor’s 1956 classic Giant
Encore: Remembering Elizabeth Taylor’s First Divorce, from Nicky Hilton

Comments (227 total) Add your comment
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  • Ap

    RIP Liz

    • Bluto

      One of the last true icons from Old Hollywood. Bye Liz.

      • Miss Talk

        Definitely the very end of the golden era of Hollywood.
        I always wanted to have topaz eyes when I was a kid :)

      • L

        Topaz is a yellow-brown color. She had VIOLET eyes.

      • Dr Linus

        Yeah not many left from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

      • Hippster Doofus

        Judy Garland was a better talent than Liz

      • Miss Talk

        @L: So I spent all those years thinking topaz is some kind of violet? LOL thank you very much I feel smarter now
        @Hippster Doofus: Really? Today? Come on.

      • Jilly

        I love her and BlondeMatch was amazing

    • Peter

      Oh No!! I’ll miss you! You had the most beautiful eyes and I adored you in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof! I hope you are with Montgomery Clift somewhere happy

      • G.R.

        ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ and ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ were my favorite films of hers…

        R.I.P. Ms. Taylor. :(

      • JR

        Her 1981 Tony Award presentation is on youtube and it’s priceless. Loved her.

      • Delon

        I’ll add “A Place in the Sun” and “Suddenly, Last Summer” to that list.
        RIP.

      • Rica

        I agree with Suddenly Last Summer. I didn’t take her seriously until I saw that movie. RIP

    • Le HIROSHI

      RIP Ms. Taylor.

  • Joe

    This is sad news.

    • Marie Antoinette

      End of an Era…

      • Rita

        I’m glad the old bat is dead. Now instead of White Diamonds she smells like Black Death. “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”? More like Corpse on a Hot Tin Roof…in Hell. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?:….everyone, she’s DEAD! Burn in Hell Liz

      • lorelei

        @rita, did we miss our nap time?

  • wakeforce

    I knew this was coming, but still in shock! God rest this beautiful soul.

    • Bhowell

      Taylor’s made our wedding cake in November of 2008. My huadsnbs family have frequented the bakery for the last 20 years.It was absolutely delicious and our guests loved it. The handmade cala lilies were gorgeous!!!We were given an entire cake to try before we ordered the wedding cake. We took it to our engagement party for everyone to try; they all enjoyed helping us choose our flavors.My husband and I will use Taylor’s whenever we need a special occassion cake!

  • aroddy

    Devastated!!! She was an icon and always will be; old hollywood glamour at its finest.

    • C Men

      Devastated? Really?

      • Kristen

        Agree – devastated is a bit strong of an emotion to have over a stranger.

      • JoeC

        Hmmmm, how about perturbed????

      • Cynthia

        Why do you get to decide how other people should feel?

      • Marie Antoinette

        Stranger? Where have you been all these years?

      • @Marie Antoinette

        If you don’t think she’s a stranger (implying you “know her” because you watch her movies and follow her news, creepy imho), then you’re into a level of celebrity obsession that only a licensed psychiatrist can deal with.

  • Kate

    What a beautiful statement and sentiment from her son. Elizabeth will truly be missed but will live on in cinematic history forever. Rest in peace, Elizabeth, you deserve it.

    • TVDIVA

      I agree Kate. The statement from her son is more moving and better written than this article.

    • dee dee1

      She was so lovely. A true Hollywood legend. Special lady!

  • yeah

    RIP. But she really didn’t have much of a life anymore. She hadn’t worked in at least 40 years. She’s in a better place now. She was old. It’s not as tragic as when Heath Ledger, Brittany Murphy or Princess Diana died. IMO

    • terri

      Yeah..
      You’ve got to be kidding!?
      She was a great Star for decades. She was an amazing actress. She won 2 Oscars for her incredible performances. Beyond that, she was a great activist on behalf of those suffering from AIDS. When this became an epidemic, Elizabeth Taylor was the first only public figure to step up and fight for research and treatment. She showed tremendous courage, and that is why she deserves the accolades she gets today.

    • ALM

      You mean when Heath Ledger and Brittany Murphy died from self-inflicted overdoses? No matter what her age or health condition, Miss Taylor’s death IS tragic to her family, friends, and legion of fans. Show some sensitivity, dude.

    • Jane

      She was and always will be a Hollywood legend, and we lost one of the greats. That’s what makes it tragic, in addition to it being tragic to her family and friends. They lost someone they loved. We lost someone we loved. It may not have been as shocking as say Heath Ledger and Brittany Murphy, but it’s still tragic.

    • @yeah

      She didn’t have a life because she didn’t let you know what she was up to? Is it that someone could have an interesting life without sending out press releases beyond your understanding? Since 99% of us discussing her this morning were not her friends, all we can do is thank her for amazing career and the wild ride she took us on. She and God get to decide how meaningful it was.

    • Liz

      @Yeah

      You know nothing of my work.

    • People, people…

      “Yeah” is a troll. Don’t feed the trolls.

    • Ap

      Nothing against Brittany Murphy but really?

    • MsDaisy

      I think “yeah” is the one without much of a life.

    • Cindy

      Get real.

  • Sarah

    Now she can marry Jesus and divorce him.

    • Jackson

      I don’t think she’ll be seeing Him any time soon.

      • *

        What, are you “his” personal valet? *eyeroll*

      • Sammie

        Okay that was wicked but I have admit I chuckled a tad. :p

      • Mitch Logan

        Because the one thing we know about Jesus for sure is that he does not forgive.

    • Liz

      This made me chuckle.

    • laurel

      DON’T BE SO IGNORANT,THAT WASN’T FUNNY AT ALL,I WISH YOU WOULD HAVE SOME RESPECT AND DIGNITY,YOU WOULD NEVER BE ABLE TO HAVE THE CLASS THAT SHE HAD IN YOUR WHOLE LIFE TIME AND ANOTHER,AND ANOTHER.

      • Bebe

        Calm down, Laurel. Good Lord! I don’t think even Liz thought she had a chance of getting into heaven this time around!

      • haha

        Heaven…this time around…too many religions competing…

      • Bebe

        Only if you’re narrow-minded.

  • Cari

    Not unexpected but sad nonethless. RIP Liz

  • Amy

    Another Hollywood legend and icon has left us. Thank you for entertaining us, Liz.

    • C Men

      Her announcing of Gladiator as best picture was one of the (unintentionally) funniest things I’ve ever seen.

  • Buffy Freak

    Her personal life overshadowed most everything else but she was a great actress and a tireless AIDS activist at a time when nobody outside the gay community was doing anything….RIP Liz.

  • JLC

    As Hollywood icons go, they don’t get any bigger than Liz Taylor. God speed, Liz.

    • C Men

      Orson Wells outweighed her by at least 50 lbs.

      • L

        Oh, shut up.

      • lorelei

        Funny!

  • cici217

    Took EW long enough to post this. Its been up on TMZ for a long time already

    • Frank

      They probably wanted to do something silly like confirm it.

      • L

        LOL.

  • Stella

    I am so saddened by her passing. She and Paul Newman got me hooked on watching classic movies. March has been such a bleak month ;(

    • Mia

      Ditto Stella. Elizabeth, Paul Newman and Gregory Peck got me hooked on classic movies when I was very young.

  • Joe

    I think you mean ‘congestive’ heart failure. Not ‘Congenital’.

    • Me

      Yep.

  • pickle t1ts

    Finally!… Christ. How long was she gonna live? Oh well, now she can finally rest peacefully.

    • Buffy Freak

      Way to stay classy Pickle…moron.

      • pickle t1ts

        by classy do you mean posting as “buffy freak”? Cause that name exudes class… Nothing low rent or sad about that name. Doesn’t create an image at all of a lonely, barren wombed perma-virgin. Yes, “buffy freak” makes me think of how classy you are :D

      • Buffy Freak

        This coming from someone calling themselves Pickle T1ts? What if this was your mother who died and someone made that crack about it? Though I would imagine the cause of death for someone giving birth to you would most likely be suicide…

      • pickle t1ts

        I love that your rebuttal to a person who posts rude comments under an intentionally rude name, after having the gall to spout some kind of moral sentiment, then being called on posting such garbage with the pathetic name of “buffy freak”the best you could come up with was pointing out the obvious… Good one! Really stung. Keep up the good work champ ! ;)

      • Greta

        Sad troll is sad.

      • Again, people…

        Don’t feed the trolls.

      • haha

        Hilarious…why do people get so uptight when someone dies?

      • pickle t1ts

        I know, right?

    • Alix

      Sheesh, she was only 79! Hanging on too long for you?

      The miracle, of course, is that she managed to live this long, given her lifetime of almost non-stop medical problems. The woman enjoyed barely a good day of health in her life. A tough old bird, as my aunt would say.

      • Tiffany

        I agree with you Alix, I read about her health problems and am amazed at how strong this woman was. I have always appreciated that she was unapologetic with who was and just lived life and dealt the hand given to her. I pray her family and for her to have some peace in the afterlife.

      • pickle t1ts

        That’s what I’m sayin’… Shiht, everybody knew she had a foot in the grave since the late 80’s. Her quality of life wasn’t there. Now she’s dead and the pain is over.

    • LOL

      Liz joins Ronald Reagan in hell. Michael Jackson is the halftime entertainment.

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