Elizabeth Taylor

Drawing by Elizabeth Wagele


No actresses matched Taylor's hold on the collective imagination. In the public's mind, she was the dark goddess for whom playing Cleopatra as she did with such notoriety, required no great leap from reality.


Taylor, N. Y. Times critic Vincent Canby once wrote, "has grown up in the full view of a voracious public for whom the triumphs and disasters of her personal life have automatically become extensions of her screen performances. She's different from the rest of us."

Taylor attracted misfortune too. She apparently suffered more than 70 illnesses, injuries and accidents requiring hospitalization, including an appendectomy, an emergency tracheotomy, a punctured esophagus, a hysterectomy, dysentery, an ulcerated eye, smashed spinal discs, phlebitis, skin cancer and hip replacements... She had a benign brain tumor removed. And she nearly died four times.

She was often described as the quintessential Tennessee Williams heroine... Richard Burton described her as "The most astonishingly self-contained, pulchritudinous, remote, removed, inaccessible woman I had ever seen. Beautiful beyond the dreams of pornography."


They began a tumultuous affair in Rome on the set of "Cleopatra," the epic about the Egyptian queen who dies for love. Because both were huge stars married to other people, their adultery caused a worldwide scandal...


They married, later divorced, then retied the knot before an African tribal chief in Botswana. Less than a year later, in 1976, they severed the tie in a Haitian divorce, but their love for each other continued.

,,, About "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof": Paul Newman said of Taylor, who never took an acting lesson, "I was staggered by her ferocity, and how quickly she could tap into her emotions..."


• Shelley Winters, who played Taylor's lower-class rival in the movie, said... that "A Place in the Sun" was "still the best thing she ever did. Elizabeth had a depth and a simpleness which were really remarkable..."

• In 1966 the ritzy couple were cast against type in Edward Albee's drama of marital angst, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Taylor played Martha, the frumpy, foul-mouthed, highly educated wife of Burton's henpecked college professor. She was reportedly terrified by the challenge of playing a role so far removed from her glamorous persona.


Director Mike Nichols put the Burtons and the other two cast members through weeks of private rehearsals... Gradually, Taylor said, she grew so comfortable in her "Martha suit" that it freed her acting. Critics lavished praise on her performance, calling it the best of her career...


• She agreed to chair the first major AIDS benefit... and began calling her A-list friends to solicit their support... aided by the stunning announcement that Hudson, the handsome matinee idol and "Giant" co-star, had the dreaded disease. She stood by Hudson, just as years later she would stand by pop-idol Michael Jackson...

The star-studded AIDS fundraiser netted $1 million and attracted 2,500 guests... Hudson was too ill to attend but [released] a major public statement about his illness.

Randy Shilts, who wrote the pioneering AIDS chronicle "And the Band Played On," said [Taylor's efforts] made the disease something that respectable people could talk about."

Taylor co-founded... the first national organization devoted to backing AIDS research... and formed the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation...

Her AIDS work brought her the Legion of Honor... and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award... Queen Elizabeth made her a Dame... She raised more than $270 million for AIDS prevention and care.

This blog consists mostly of those sections of the Obituary March 23, 2011 by Elaine Woo, L. A. Times, describing Taylor as a Romantic, abbreviated.

About the Author

Photo by Gail Wread

Elizabeth Wagele was the co-author with Ingrid Stabb of The Career Within You: How to Find the Perfect Job for Your Personality.

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