Before there was Liz and Dick, there was Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, born in a London suburb. Relive the extraordinary life of the film icon, whose passion for life was matched by her many travels.
Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born to American parents in this northwest London suburb in February 1932. The youngest of 2 children, Taylor’s beauty was apparent early on. A mutation gave Taylor double eyelashes, and people would stop to behold her deep blue eyes, which appeared violet.
Shortly before the start of World War II, Taylor’s parents returned to the US to avoid hostilities. Settling in Los Angeles, Taylor’s father established an art gallery, which soon attracted numerous Hollywood celebrities. This A-list crowd couldn’t help but notice the young Taylor’s beauty, and a star would soon be born.
One of Taylor’s earliest films, <i>Lassie Come Home</i> was filmed partly on location around the San Joaquin River. The largest river in central California, the 366-mile-long tributary was the setting for the 1943 film’s dramatic rapids scene.
A year later, Taylor became a full-fledged star with the release of <i>National Velvet</i>. Much of the film was shot in this small coastal resort destination in California, which owes much of its picture-perfect scenery to granite rock outcroppings visible along the coast.
At 18, Taylor snagged her first adult role, in <i>Father of the Bride</i>. In the 1950 film, Taylor (as Kay Banks) walks down the aisle of this church at 504 North Camden Drive in Beverly Hills. In real life, Taylor married hotel heir Conrad Hilton the same year -- in what would be the first of her 8 marriages.
A dual citizen of the UK and US (the latter from 1977 on), Taylor visited London many times. She even appeared in a CBS TV special <i>Elizabeth Taylor in London</i> in 1963, taking viewers on a tour of various sites, including Westminster Bridge, Battersea Park and the House of Parliament. Here’s Taylor more than a decade earlier, at the age of 16, with a friend in Trafalgar Square.
This 170-foot-deep glacial lake was the backdrop for 1951’s <i>A Place in the Sun</i>. With luminous closeups of her perfectly symmetrical face, Taylor played American socialite Angela Vickers, the unattainable dream girl to the poor nephew of a rich industrialist.
This dusty town in West Texas was the site of 2 months of filming for the 1956 movie <i>Giant</i>, in which Taylor played socialite Leslie Lynnton. The town is also famous for the Marfa lights, visible on clear nights between Marfa and the Paisano Pass when facing southwest.
Two years later, Taylor had another hit with <i>Cat on a Hat Tin Roof</i>, the film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ play. The film was shot in the town of Oyster Bay on Long Island. During filming, the 26-year-old Taylor suffered the loss of her third husband Mike Todd, who was killed in a plane crash.
Taylor signed on for another film adaption of a Tennessee Williams play. In <i>Suddenly, Last Summer</i>, Taylor played a young woman institutionalized for severe emotional disturbance. The film’s "Cabeza de Lobo" sequence was partly shot in this resort area (pictured), located in the coastal region of northeastern Spain.
Taylor won her first Academy Award for her portrayal of part-model, part-call girl Gloria Wondrous in 1960’s <i>Butterfield 8</i>. Much of the film’s action occurred on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, including Fifth Avenue. By now, Taylor had married her fourth husband, Eddie Fisher, and proclaimed: “We’re house-hunting New Yorkers. Our home is here now, not in Hollywood.”
Liz and Dick -- the world’s most famous couple of the day met on the set of 1963’s <i>Cleopatra</i>. Playing the most beautiful woman of ancient times, Taylor was not to be outdone in real life: During filming in Rome, Taylor and the married actor began a very public affair. Four years later, the headline-grabbing couple returned to Italy to film <i>The Taming of the Shrew</i>.
After quickie divorces in Mexico from their spouses, Liz and Dick tied the knot in Montreal in 1964. The civil ceremony took place at the Ritz-Carlton hotel on 1228 Sherbrooke Street West, in the city’s luxurious Golden Square Mile area. It was Taylor’s fifth marriage, and Burton’s second.
"I'm so happy you can't believe it,” beamed the newly married Taylor. “This marriage will last forever." Maybe not exactly, but it did prove to be Taylor’s greatest love affair. Liz and Dick’s marriage lasted 10 years; 16 months after their divorce, they married again, before finally divorcing a short time later, this time for good.
Elizabeth Taylor wowed the critics with her electrifying portrayal of Martha in 1966’s <i>Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?</i> The film was shot on location at Smith College in Northampton, MA, and earned Taylor her second Academy Award for Best Actress.
In 1985, Taylor lost her longtime friend (and <i>Giant</i> costar) Rock Hudson to AIDS. That same year, Taylor cofounded the American Foundation for AIDS Research, and in 1986 went to Capitol Hill to testify before the Senate about the need for greater funding and public awareness of the disease.
Taylor converted to Judaism at the age of 27, taking the name "Elisheba Rachel.” She went on to become a lifelong supporter of Israel, and visited the Western Wall in August 1975 with Richard Burton. Taylor returned to the country in 1982, meeting with Israeli leader Menachem Begin.
Paying homage to Taylor’s British roots, Buckingham Palace bestowed its highest honor on the star in 2000. That year, Taylor was named a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
At 74, Taylor proved she hadn’t lost her passion for life. Having survived a brain tumor nearly a decade earlier, Taylor enjoyed a shark-diving trip in Hawaii. "There were 12 sharks cruising the cage!" Taylor later told <i>People</i>. "The water was very warm. It was beautiful. I had a T-shirt on that said 'Shark Bait.'"
In her final years, Taylor was a once-a-week regular at The Abbey, a gay bar in West Hollywood, CA. She’d enjoy tequila shots, watermelon and apple martinis, and wave to fans from her wheelchair. After her death, the bar staff left a remembrance to Taylor on an empty table: a Blue Velvet martini, made with vodka and blueberry schnapps, in a nod to Taylor’s 1944 film <i>National Velvet</i>.