Elizabeth Taylor, one of the most famous movie stars of all time both for her onscreen and offscreen lives, has died of congestive heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. Born in England to American parents, she moved to California at an early age and was signed up as a child actress by the Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She soon became one of America’s biggest child stars, playing the lead role in the hit movie National Velvet. After developing into a beautiful young woman, Taylor appeared in movies like Father of the Bride and became a major adult star when she was loaned out to Paramount for the movie A Place In the Sun, where her role as an irresistibly beautiful, wealthy socialite defined her public image for most of her career. In the late ’50s she started to get new acclaim as an actress in hits like Giant, Suddenly Last Summer, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; in the ’60s she won two Oscars, for Butterfield 8 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Offscreen, she was married multiple times and her private life was a favourite subject of tabloid journalists: the death of her producer husband Mike Todd in a plane crash (and the cold that kept her from getting on that plane with him); her famous breakup of the marriage between America’s-sweetheart couple Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, and the even more famous breakup of her marriage to Fisher when she met Richard Burton on the set of Cleopatra. Her tumultuous relationship with Burton played out in two separate marriages and many screen and stage appearances together. After a string of flop movies in the ’70s, Taylor reduced her film appearances but continued to make news for her marriages (including Virginia Senator John Warner), and her friendships (particularly with Michael Jackson). She was also an early advocate for AIDS research and gay rights, campaigning to raise awareness of AIDS after the disease killed her friend and co-star Rock Hudson. She was also a well-known collector of jewelry, whose husbands frequently presented her with expensive jewels, and launched a best-selling perfume, “White Diamonds.” She was 79.