Intimate Portrait

Season 8 Episode 26

Elizabeth Taylor

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Aired Monday 7:00 PM Dec 02, 2002 on Lifetime
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Elizabeth Taylor
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Elizabeth Taylor: Grand Dame of Hollywood Elizabeth Taylor was born in London, but her family relocated to Los Angeles when she was young. Taylor's mother, a sometime stage actress, realized that her daughter's luminous face and smoldering violet eyes were just right for Hollywood and began taking the girl to auditions. At the age of nine, Taylor was cast in the film "There's One Born Every Minute." Three years later, she appeared in the 1944 movie "National Velvet" and became an international star overnight. Barely an adolescent and already a screen icon, the radiant Taylor had the world's most eligible bachelors at her feet. She married her first husband, hotel heir Nicky Hilton, in 1950, but within a year his violent drinking put an end to the marriage. In 1951, Taylor married actor Michael Wilding, with whom she had two sons. Five years later, she divorced Wilding and married producer Mike Todd, a man twice her age. The couple welcomed the birth of daughter Liza, but their happiness would be short-lived; a year later, Todd was killed in a plane crash. Taylor lost herself in her work, turning in an Oscar-winning performance in "Butterfield 8." Now widowed with three children, Taylor found comfort with crooner Eddie Fisher, whom she married in 1959. Her career weathered the scandal of breaking up the marriage between Fisher and starlet Debbie Reynolds — the parts still poured in. The biggest coup was nabbing the title role in "Cleopatra," opposite Richard Burton. The co-stars experienced instant chemistry, despite the leading man's reputation for being a womanizer and a boozer. Taylor divorced Fisher in 1964 and tied the knot with Burton that same year. The tempestuous couple tied the knot and spent most of the '60s working and traveling, with the press hounding their every move. In 1966, Taylor and Burton teamed up again on-screen, in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?" The script, about a disturbed couple and their addictions, mirrored the real-life duo's own travails, and Taylor won another Oscar® for her powerful performance. She and Burton divorced in 1974, but the couple remarried a short time later. However, their second stab at marriage lasted less than a year. By 1976, Taylor had fallen for rising Virginia politician John Warner, who would become her next husband. But in the lonely role of a senator's wife, Taylor turned to food and alcohol for consolation. In 1981, Taylor decided it was time for a change. The resilient star sobered up, lost weight and headed for Broadway. At 49, she made her stage debut, in "Little Foxes," to rave reviews. In 1982, Taylor left Warner behind, but not the campaigning life. After learning that her good friend Rock Hudson had AIDS, Taylor became a committed crusader against the deadly disease. While back in rehab in 1988, Taylor met her next husband, construction worker Larry Fortensky; they were wed in 1991 and stayed together for five years. Taylor was making headway as a successful perfume entrepreneur, but in 1997, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and took time out to attend to her health. In 2000, the other famous Elizabeth, the queen of England, anointed Taylor as a Dame of the British Empire. Today, the feisty Dame Taylor continues her mission of AIDS advocacy.moreless

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