By Faraz Shauketaly
Dame Elizabeth Taylor, easily one of the most rated actresses and acclaimed at one time as the World’s Most Beautiful Woman, left centre stage and passed away in Los Angeles last Wednesday, aged 79. Miss Taylor’s on-screen successes was rivaled only by her off-screen theatrics especially in her private life, which proved to be an abiding interest for the world’s paparazzi and followers of Hollywood life. Her work for AIDS related charities was hailed as her most important piece of work – Elizabeth Taylor’s involvement beginning with the death of her co-star and lifelong friend, the actor Rock Hudson, who died of an AIDS related illness in 1985.
In keeping with her off-screen theatrics, she offered friendship and support to the King of Pop Michael Jackson during his trial for sexual abuse in 2005. Her on-screen appeal and her sensational private life meant that she was never too far from the headlines.
Elizabeth Taylor married a total of seven times – twice to the Welsh actor Richard Burton. Burton gave her a diamond wedding ring which for a very long time held the record for being the most expensive diamond at the time – only to be eclipsed in 1980 by a record price of GBP 2.1 Million paid at Christies in Geneva for the 42-carat “Polar Star” diamond which was owned by a member of the Napoleon Bonaparte family and is now in Saudi Arabian ownership.
Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born in North London, England, on February 27, 1932 to American parents – her father an art dealer and her mother an actress. She held dual American and British nationality and the new millennium saw Ms. Taylor honoured by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth who conferred upon Ms. Taylor the title Dame of the British Empire.
Her cinematic career beginning when she was just nine years old, was a spectacular success, starring in box-office hits such as Lassie Come Home, National Velvet, Conspirator, A Place In The Sun, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly Last Summer, Raintree County, Butterfield 8, Taming Of The Shrew, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf and of course Cleopatra. Elizabeth Taylor won Oscars twice – for Butterfield 8 and Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf.
Elizabeth Taylor’s private life could not be rivaled by any storyline: throughout no less than half a century, Ms. Taylor proved to be the centrepoint of super copy, eagerly read and digested by an adoring fan club which stretched from Hollywood to Bollywood, from Kathmandu to Helsinki, Sydney to Paris and Milan to Gaberone. From Beirut to Havana her fans were truly global. They all knew as indeed Elizabeth Taylor herself understood, that life had delivered a gilded platter of fortune. She was not only famous for her stark beauty and her cinematic work but also for her seven marriages, including most famously twice to Richard Burton. Her divorce from the builder Larry Fortensky – whom she married on Michael Jackson’s ranch Neverland – cost her a cool GBP 1 Million.
Later in life when she was afflicted by a series of illnesses and she was confined to a wheel chair, Elizabeth Taylor, in the style that the world had got accustomed to, promptly ordered a jewellery-encrusted, gold plated, custom-built version.
As the world raises a glass of the finest champagne money can buy, to bid Dame Elizabeth Taylor, actress extraodinaire, au-revoir, with memories of her films, marriages, addictions and AIDS work and the aroma of her perfume “Passion” in the air, her fans will no doubt recall Elizabeth Taylor’s own words of her life: “I have had enough to fill four lifetimes – I feel damn lucky, I’ve had a ball.”