When you think of the classic age of cinema (the 1910s–1960s), very few actors and actresses have stood the test of time as well as Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor DBE. Known better as Elizabeth Taylor, she began acting from a young age. With a career expanding over 60 years, Taylor had appeared in numerous famous films. Many of her films are still considered classics today.
Some of Taylor’s most recognizable roles were in National Velvet (1944), BUtterfield 8 (1950), and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958). She was also famous for her marriages, expensive jeweler collection, unique beauty, and charity work helping those with AIDS.
Elizabeth Taylor was renowned for her beauty. One of the most distinctive features Taylor was her violet eyes. According to Live Science, the reason why her eyes appeared to be violet was due to the melanin in her genes. Melanin is a natural skin pigment that determines a person’s hair, skin, and eye color. This pigment is in your genes. In Elizabeth Taylor’s case, she had a rare amount of melanin (close to the amount found in blue-eyed people). It was a combination of blue and grey tones that made her eye color violet.
However, Elizabeth Taylor was more than her looks. She was one of the most outspoken actresses of her era. Whilst many films would have cast her in a submissive role, she would not make herself submissive. She was not afraid of challenging things through her characters. This can be seen with the Academy Award-winning film Giants (1956). Her character challenges how the Mexican- American staff are treated on the ranch. She also attempted to get a poorer Hispanic family a doctor. Fed up with her husband’s lack of respect, she leaves him.
She was not against playing women who would be looked down upon in society. In her Oscar-winning performance of BUtterfield 8, she plays a call girl who falls for a married man. In The Taming of the Shrew (1967), she plays the role of Katrina but is not submissive to her husband towards the end.
This was huge at the time. During this time, women were still struggling to be respected as equals in the household. Especially in the more rural areas, there were a lot of traditional misogynistic thoughts still lingering.
In a way, Elizabeth Taylor is inspirational because of the non-submissive roles she played. Given the social context, you could say she was pivotal for more strong female characters in films. She was also not afraid of being outspoken offstage as well. Taylor recounted an incident where Louis. B Mayer (co-founder of MGM) disrespected her mother. This prompted the child actress to tell him off, even saying his studio “could go to hell.” Just for context, Louis. B Mayer was known as ‘Monster Mayer’.
She was also an activist for AIDs. Inspired by her friend Rock Hudson’s fatal battle with the disease and the misinformation about the disease, Taylor helped organize and host the first fundraiser for Aids research. Eventually, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDs Foundation was founded in 1991. They help people to this day. She also helped found the National AIDS Research Foundation, along with Doctor Michael S. Gottlieb.
8 Marriages and 7 Husbands
As famous as she was for her activism against AIDs and her numerous films, Elizabeth Taylor was also famous for her marriages. In total, she had 8 marriages and 7 husbands. In Taylor’s words, “I am a very committed wife. And I should be committed too – for being married so many times.” Her husbands were:
- Conrad Hilton Jr – 1950-1951
- Michael Wilding – 1952-1957
- Michael Todd – 1957-1958
- Eddie Fisher – 1959-1964
- Richard Burton – 1964-1974, 1975-1976
- John Warner – 1976-1982
- Larry Fortensky – 1991-1996
Out of all her marriages, two marriages were of particular interest of whether they were the love of her life. The first is Mike Todd, an American theatre producer. He was the father of Taylor’s daughter Elizabeth Frances (Liza) Todd. However, a year into their marriage, Todd died in a private jet crash. This left the actress grief-stricken. Eddie Fisher (Todd’s best friend) and Debbie Reynolds (Fisher’s wife) gladly helped their friend. Reynolds was Taylor’s friend and matron of honor at her wedding to Todd.
It came as a shock to the world when Fisher and Taylor were outed for having an affair. Debbie Reynolds gained the sympathy of the public, whilst Taylor and Fischer were demonized. The Eddie Fischer show was canceled because of this backlash and Taylor was labeled a ‘homewrecker.’ Whilst the actress later stated it was grief that drove her to Fisher, history would soon repeat itself.
On the set of Cleopatra (1963), Taylor met the charismatic Richard Burton. He is typically described as the love of Taylor’s life. Burton was married to Sybil Williams at this time. That did not stop them. When this affair and marriage became public, the paparazzi could not get enough of them. Their reputations and careers soared. Starring together in 11 films, the world saw them as the marriage of the times.
It was also a hostile environment. Both were heavy drinkers, and both were volatile. To put it in Burton’s words, “Elizabeth and I lived on the edge of an exciting volcano … It was marvelous. But it could be murder.” Their arguments would get so loud that the couple would rent multiple suites to spare any neighbors from hearing their arguments. Even after their second divorce, they were close friends. They would write letters to one another, even celebrating her 50th birthday together. Burton would pass away in 1984.
The Burton diamond
Elizabeth Taylor was the classic glamour of old Hollywood. Throughout her life and various marriages, she was the recipient of various pieces of jewellery. By the end of her life, Taylor had a collection worth around $157 million.
Mike Todd frequently gave his wife many staple pieces. One was a statement tiara, known today as the Mike Todd tiara. The tiara was dated to the 19th century. Old mine diamonds were laced upon a gold and platinum band that also featured a lattice pattern. Taylor famously wore this tiara at the Cannes Film Festival in 1957. Another set of jeweler Todd got Taylor was a set of ruby and diamond earrings and necklace. Taylor received more gifts from him. When he passed, it was rumoured she buried Todd with a $100,000 ring. This was later the cause for Mike Todd’s graverobbing in 1977.
However, the most famous piece in Elizabeth Taylor’s collection was the Taylor – Burton diamond. In 1969, a 69.42-carat pear-shaped diamond was going to auction. Burton made a bid for it, but Cartier won with a bid of $1,050,000. This was the highest recorded auction price for a publicly sold jewel. Burton bought it from Cartier for $,100,000. Afterward, the diamond was made into a necklace and earring set. Taylor wore it rarely, only to two occasions. One was Princess Grace of Monaco’s 40th birthday. The second was to the 42nd Academy Award ceremony. After the second divorce, Taylor sold this diamond to Henry Lambert to fund a hospital in Botswana. The Taylor-Burton diamond now is in the hands of Robert Mouawad of Mouawad jewelers.