Elizabeth Taylor, beloved Hollywood actress and icon, died Wednesday at age 79 of congestive heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.
Taylor was a blue-blooded Hollywood star, a darling of the silver screen since her breakout role in “National Velvet” (1944) at age 14. More than 70 years later, Taylor had appeared in 50 films and won two Academy Awards as Best Actress for her roles in “Butterfield 8” (1960) and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966) as well as being nominated for three others. Other films such as “A Place in the Sun,” (1951) “Giant,” (1956) and “Cleopatra” (1963) cemented Taylor’s fame. Upon her death, she hadn’t acted in several years.
Taylor was also heavily involved with various philanthropic efforts, raising support and awareness for AIDS since 1985, after the death of her close friend and fellow actor Rock Hudson. Her campaign to combat AIDS was monumental in the 1980s, as up until her involvement it was an issue largely ignored by the press and national government. Using her celebrity status, Taylor played a large role in bringing the AIDS epidemic to the forefront of America’s attention. She helped found the American Foundation for AIDS Research and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.
The dynamic celebrity was also known for her larger-than-life personality and tumultuous personal life, with her illnesses, addictions and string of failed marriages (two alone to Richard Burton, the Anthony to her Cleopatra) a constant source of media attention. It often became difficult to tell where her public life ended and her personal life began.
Taylor had three children: two sons with actor Michael Wilding and one daughter with producer Michael Todd, who died after one year of their marriage in 1958.
Her seventh and final marriage to John W. Warner, a Republican senator from Virginia, also ended in divorce. During the six years of their marriage, Taylor brought Hollywood glamour to politics, standing by Warner through his first U.S. Senate race in 1978.
In a statement released by Sally Morrison, Taylor’s publicist, Michael Howard Wilding, 58, remembered his mother:
“My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humor, and love,” he said. “We know, quite simply, that the world is a better place for Mom having lived in it. Her legacy will never fade, her spirit will always be with us, and her love will live forever in our hearts.”