Screen icon Elizabeth Taylor died today at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Hospital, she was 79. Taylor’s publicist, Sally Morrison, said in a statement, “She was surrounded by her children: Michael Wilding, Christopher Wilding, Liza Todd, and Maria Burton.”
Taylor “dazzled generations of moviegoers with her stunning beauty” and her “name was synonymous with Hollywood glamour.” She first appeared on the screen when she was 9. Her first film with Universal Studios was There’s One Born Every Minute. Universal dropped Taylor and MGM picked her up, making her a young star in “National Velvet”.
Over the years to follow, Taylor spent her youth and then the rest of her life on the screen as America watched her become “indelibly transformed from a vulnerable child actress into a voluptuous film queen.”
In a career spanning over 70 years and with more than 50 films, Taylor “won two Academy Awards as best actress, for her performances as a call girl in “Butterfield 8” (in 1960) and as the acid-tongued Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (in 1966).”
Mike Nichols, who directed her in “Virginia Woolf,” said he considered her “one of the greatest cinema actresses.”
When Ms. Taylor was honored in 1986 by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times, “More than anyone else I can think of, Elizabeth Taylor represents the complete movie phenomenon — what movies are as an art and an industry, and what they have meant to those of us who have grown up watching them in the dark.”
Taylor had little professional training, the NY Times reports, but “the range of her acting was surprisingly wide.”
She played predatory vixens and wounded victims. She was Cleopatra of the burnished barge; Tennessee Williams’s Maggie the cat; Catherine Holly, who confronted terror suddenly last summer; and Shakespeare’s Kate. Her melodramatic heroines would have been at home on soap operas.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who directed her in “Suddenly, Last Summer” and “Cleopatra,” remembered seeing her for the first time, in Cannes, when she was 18. “She was the most incredible vision of loveliness I have ever seen in my life,” he said. “And she was sheer innocence.”