She was a grand dame who lived a grand life.
One of the most prominent actresses of the century, Elisabeth Tailor dies at 79. She was hospitalized for heart problems in Los Angeles clinic on February 8. For the last period of time she suffered from pneumonia., the News.com informs.
Beauty, glamour, love, men, food, alcohol, friends, causes - everything was done in a big, theatrical, first-class-or-bust kind of way.
That was Elizabeth Taylor.
Her motto, she once told TV Guide: "The more, the better."
Larger-than-life to the end, Taylor died today of congestive heart failure. She was 79.
Taylor had been hospitalized for the last two months at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. She first disclosed her diagnosis of congestive heart failure in November 2004. The condition was compounded by other ailments including spinal fractures and the effects of scoliosis.
On Oct. 6, 2009, Taylor - using her DameElizabeth Twitter feed told fans that she was having a "very new" procedure done to repair her "leaky valve." It involved "using a clip device, without open heart surgery, so that my heart will function better."
She added: "Any prayers you happen to have lying around I would dearly appreciate. I'll let you know when it's all over. Love you, Elizabeth." Immediately, well-wishes poured in for her from fans and stars including Kelly Osbourne and Sandra Bernhard.
The legendary star was also suffering from scoliosis, a congenital disease that had twisted her spine so badly that in recent months she had been in constant pain and used a wheelchair for appearances. In October, 2004 she underwent spinal surgery to repair seven compression fractures in her spine.
"My body's a real mess," she told W in 2004.
Feisty as ever, however, Taylor said, "People must think, 'My God, she's still alive?' But there's some resilience in me that makes me keep fighting. It's the damnedest thing - I just keep coming back."
In fact, after reports surfaced in the summer of 2008 that she had been put on life support, her camp issued a statement, saying, "Ms. Taylor is fine. The rumors which began in England about her health are dramatic, overstated and untrue. Her hospital visit was precautionary. She will be returning home shortly. At present, she is surrounded by family, friends and fabulous jewels."
It was that fighting spirit that made Taylor one of Hollywood's favorite stars.
When she turned 70, she said, "I had a party last night. I'm having one tomorrow. And I think I'll have one over the weekend."
She added, "I feel like 45."
She may have felt young, but Taylor's life was full enough to have occupied several lives - eight marriages and seven divorces, four children and a slew of grandchildren, more than 100 roles in movies, at least 70 hospitalizations/operations, several life-threatening illnesses including the removal of a brain tumor, and two trips to the Betty Ford Center.
"One problem with people who have no vices is that they're pretty sure to have some annoying virtues," she once said.
Whether shrieking "Gladiator!" in a crazy old-lady way as she announced the winning film at the 2000 Golden Globes, or peddling her perfume at a shopping mall, or being the ultimate Cleopatra in the role of her life opposite Richard Burton, Taylor was simply different from other mortals.
"I've always admitted that I'm ruled by my passions," she once said.
She was passionate and voluptuous. Her striking fair skin and violet eyes putting her in a class by herself, Taylor's mystique was legendary. And it started early, meaning that a Hollywood life was all she ever really knew.
She was born an English subject in 1932, but her parents were Americans, art dealers from St. Louis. Her father had gone to London to set up a gallery. Before getting married, her mother worked as a stage actress.
Spending the first seven years of her life in London, Taylor took ballet lessons and at 3, danced before the Royal family at the Hippodrome. She went to private schools and was given her own pony. The family left in 1939, relocating to Los Angeles. A young Elizabeth was taken to a screen test at the suggestion of a family friend.
She was signed to a contract with Universal Studios, and her first film, There's One Born Every Minute, was released in 1942, when she was 10. Universal let her contract drop; MGM picked it up. Two years and three films later, she starred in MGM's National Velvet, which became a huge hit, grossing more than $4 million.
But the life of a child star is often not glamorous.
"After age 10 I didn't have a childhood. I didn't date. I had no friends my age except for other child actors at MGM. I rode horses and acted," she said in a 1992 interview.
Then came the 1950s and a line-up of films that cemented her place as a top leading lady.
For her role as a southern belle in 1957's Raintree County, she was nominated for an Academy Award. The next year, she starred in Cat On a Hot Tin Roof and was nominated again. She again was nominated, for 1959's Suddenly, Last Summer.
She finally won an Oscar for her role in 1960's Butterfield 8. Even though critics were not generally enamored with the film, the power of Taylor's performance as a call-girl who is involved with a married man and who later dies in an auto accident, was undeniable.
Although she made no movies for the next couple of years, in 1963, she made history for earning $1 million to star in Cleopatra. This was also the film where she met her fifth husband, Richard Burton.
After Cleopatra, she earned raves for her role as Martha in 1966's Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? The role as an unkempt loudmouth was considered by many to be her finest performance. It won her another Oscar.
But for all her professional achievement, it was her personal life's plot twists that captivated her fans.
Each of her weddings - eight marriages to seven husbands - generated as much interest as if she were a first-time bride. Her husbands:
•Conrad (Nicky) Hilton Jr., heir to the hotel fortune in 1950.
•British actor Michael Wilding in 1952.
•Actor Michael Todd in 1957.
•Actor Eddie Fisher in 1959.
•Actor Richard Burton, twice, the first time in 1964. She divorced him ten years later and remarried him in 1975.
•Senator John Warner (R-Va.) in 1976.
•Larry Fortensky in 1991. She met the man who would be her last husband while both were undergoing addiction treatment at the Betty Ford Center. She and Fortensky, a construction worker, married in a lavish ceremony at Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. He was 39, she was 59.
But it was Burton who captured her twice.
"She is a wildly exciting lover-mistress, she is shy and witty, she is nobody's fool, she is a brilliant actress, beautiful beyond the dreams of pornography and she loves me!" Burton wrote in his 1968 diary, part of which was published in a 1988 biography.
Taylor explained her repeated walks down the aisle in a Life magazine interview: "I always chose to think I was in love and that love was synonymous with marriage. I couldn't just have a romance; it had to be marriage."
Even if they weren't all happy.
When she was wed to Warner, life as a politician's wife brought out the worst in her and she began a battle with her weight. The 5'4" actress went from her usual 121 lbs. to 180-plus.
"I had been a very unhappy, self-destructive person the whole time I lived in Washington," she once said. "It's a difficult city for women anyway, and so ego-oriented it makes Hollywood look like chopped chicken liver. For five years in Washington, D.C., I was the loneliest person in the world. I didn't have a friend. I rarely saw my husband. My children were grown and had their own lives."
During this time, Taylor said, "I began drinking out of loneliness. It got out of hand and for a while I lost my identity. I had nothing to do. I was in a vacuum. It was a death sentence. There aren't many things in life I've missed, including despair, so black I hit bottom."
As always though, she would rebound, even if it meant into the arms of Fortensky, whom she divorced in 1996. That year, she told reporters: "I'm single for the first time in quite a few years. I'm managing to get along fine. It's strange, but I'm fine." He was her last husband.
Her later years were mostly devoted to health issues, charity events and award show appearances.
She had a benign brain tumor removed in 1997. Posing bald on the cover of Life magazine caused quite a stir, serving as further proof of her gutsy nature. After that, she briefly allowed her hair to go startlingly white. In August 2000, she was found to have an enlarged heart, but reports said that when doctors wanted to keep an eye on her in the hospital, her reply was, "Just let me out." In June 2002, she received radiation treatment for skin cancer but by September, her doctor said she appeared to be free of basal cell carcinoma. "There's no evidence of any residual disease," physician Ronald Thompson said.
Her despair and her recovery were, like the rest of her life, played out publicly.
"The ups and downs, the problems and stress, along with all the happiness, have given me optimism and hope because I am living proof of survival," she once said. "I've come through things that would have felled an ox."
Taylor used her strengths, energy and name to help others struggling to survive, working with AmFar and founding The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1991, to assist patient care. "For the first time in my life I am making my fame work for me in a positive way," she said. "This work means more to me than anything I've ever done as an actress."
She had lost friends Malcolm Forbes, Rock Hudson and Halston to the disease, and her ex-daughter-in-law Aileen Getty was diagnosed with AIDS in 1985, but it was a charity she undertook against the advice of others. "A lot of people told me I'd be badly burned by it, that it was very undignified," she once told People magazine. "And I didn't give hoot about what people thought about it then, and I don't now. ... I just want to do all I can because I have to live with me."
As the years went on, she still was offered an occasional film role. Her last theatrical release was playing Fred's mother-in-law, Pearl Slaghoople, in the 1994 movie, The Flintstones. These Old Broads, a TV movie that aired in 2001, was her last small screen work.
In May 2000, along with Julie Andrews, she was made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II.
As she got older, Taylor was more likely to be found at big showbiz events, including the Michael Jackson tribute show in 2001, and Liza Minnelli's wedding to David Gest in 2002. Her best company in her later years, she said, was her Maltese pup, Sugar, who died in 2005.
It was, in the end, a life that pleased her, above all else.
As she told Good Housekeeping in 1992: "So far, I've lived a tremendously full life. I don't know how I could have crammed more into it." And that was in 1992.