We’ve seen the photos this month – a frail Dame Elizabeth Taylor in a wheelchair, ghastly thin, breathing with the aid of an oxygen tube. It’s a reminder that Dame Elizabeth might not be with us much longer (although if Zsa Zsa is still holding on, Elizabeth could go another 5 years!). Still, it’s a good time to brush up on our Elizabeth Taylor Facts & Figures.
Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born in Hampstead, a district of West London, in 1932. Her parents were American but she was granted dual citizenship because she was born in England. That’s why she got to become a dame.
The Taylors moved to Los Angeles after things started looking rough in Europe prior to the outbreak of World War II.
Elizabeth was born with double rows of eyelashes. It’s a genetic mutation but it sure made her look glamorous on camera!
She appeared in her first film at the age of nine. The film was There’s One Born Every Minute.
Her career took off in 1942, with the film Lassie Come Home. Because of this she was signed to a seven year contract with MGM. Her next big hit was National Velvet, the movie about horses, at the age of 12. She made another Lassie movie, Courage of Lassie, in which a different dog named Bill, an Allied combatant in World War II, regularly outsmarts the Nazis. I think this is an excellent plot for a film.
Animals seemed to have playedÂ a large role in her early acting success.
Her nickname “One Shot Liz” was not reference to something sexual. It meant she was known for being able to get a scene right on one take.
Her first adult role that met with big success was in Father of the Bride.
In 1960, she became the highest paid actress in history when she signed a $1 million contract to play Cleopatra. This was the film set where she met Richard Burton, the man she would marry and divorce twice. He played Mark Antony.
Speaking of husbands, Elizabeth Taylor’s track record of marriage and divorce has often overshadowed her acting career. She was married eight times to seven husbands, putting her into Zsa Zsa League.
Here is the husband rundown:
1. Conrad Hilton Jr. – I hate to keep bringing up Zsa Zsa BUT Zsa Zsa was married to Conrad Hilton Sr. and technicallyÂ stepmother to Conrad Jr. (although he was an adult) when Zsa Zsa and Conrad Jr. slept together. That’s right. You read that right. I guess that’s one way to stick it to the old man. Ick. Anyway, Jr. then married Elizabeth for one year. Word on the street was that he was a mean drunk. He died at age 42 of a heart attack.
2. Michael Wilding – A British actor who was married to Elizabeth from 1952 to 1957; they had two sons together. He died in 1979 after falling down stairs during an epileptic seizure.
3. Mike Todd – A theater and film producer best known for the movie Around The World in 80 Days. He was born Avrom Hirsch Goldbogen in Minneapolis. He and Elizabeth got married in 1957, when she was about 5 or 6 months pregnant with their daughter. In 1958, he died in a plane crash in New Mexico. Mike Todd’s best friend was singer Eddie Fisher, who was there with open arms for Liz when the chips were down…
4. Eddie Fisher – He was married to Debbie Reynolds at the time he and Liz got together and it was a Hollywood scandal about the size of the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie/Jennifer Aniston shake-up in recent times. Eddie lost his show on NBC because of the brouhaha. He and Liz were married from 1959 to 1964 but had no children. He died in 2010 due to complications from hip surgery.
5 & 6 Richard Burton – Burton, the great actor of stage and screen seems to hold the title for the true love of Liz’s life. Their relationship was fraught with drama and intrigue. It started with an affair when both were married to other people, as many dramatic and tumultuous relationships do, on the set of Cleopatra in 1963. Once they had disentangled themselves from their respective spouses they married in 1964. That marriage lasted until 1974 (quite a record for Liz) and they adopted a baby girl together. They gave it another go from 1975 to 1976 (the marriage took place in Botswana!) but it didn’t take. Burton and Liz were both alcoholics. Burton also, according to some sources, may have been a closeted homosexual or perhaps bisexual. He died of a brain hemorrhage at age 58 but his healthÂ sucked for years prior to his death – he had cirrhosis of the liver and kidneys.
7. John Warner – A US Senator and veteran of World War II, Warner is the first husband on this list who is still alive! Congrats, John! They were married from 1976 to 1982.
8. Larry Fortensky – Liz met Fortensky in rehab (prescription pills, booze) and married him at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in 1991. Fortensky was a construction worker prior to marrying Liz. They divorced in 1996. Perhaps most interesting is that “Larry Fortensky” is also the nickname of a poker hand with four 10s. Get it?
Whew. That took awhile. Who is your favorite husband? Mine has to be Richard Burton.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t include all of Liz’s other paramours, passionate crushes and dangerous liaisons (Frank Sinatra).
Elizabeth has two Academy Awards for Best Actress – one for Butterfield 8 (also starring Eddie Fisher) and the second for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (also starring Richard Burton).
In 1962, Liz tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose of Seconal. Apparently, this was over Richard Burton wanting to end their affair.
Liz battled weight gain most of her adult life.
Dame Elizabeth is well-known for her love of diamonds, jewelry and perfume. Her perfume is called White Diamonds! I’m sad to say that it kind of stinks. She “wrote” a book called, appropriately enough My Love Affair With Jewelry. Despite how it may sound, this is not a childrens book.
She had a long, enduring friendship with Michael Jackson, although no one is sure why.
She has been a staunch supporter of AIDS research, launching her own foundation to help fight the disease.
Her last theatrical film was The Flintstones in 1994.
Current health status: She’s got some issues. In addition to congestive heart failure, she’s broken her back five times, had her hips replaced, had a benign brain tumor, skin cancer and has scoliosis. Oh, and osteoporosis. Basically, all her bones in her body are either twisted up or fragile as kindling. Drink your milk, ladies!
If you want to know more about Liz, you could check out The Elizabeth Taylor Archives, one of the only fan sites I could find. Are there any rapid Liz fans out there with web coding skillz?
In any case, you could always read about her:
- I will be reading Furious Love: Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and the Marriage of the Century.
- Then there’s Elizabeth: The Life of Elizabeth Taylor by Alexander Walker.
- Elizabeth by J. Randy Taraborrelli
- How To Be A Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood by William J. Mann
We may be seeing her now in a wheelchair and a tube up her nose, but don’t let that cloud your memory of the Elizabeth who once was Queen.