National Velvet Catapults Elizabeth to Stardom
National Velvet opened at New York's City Music Hall in 1944 and catapulted Elizabeth into juvenile stardom. Clark Gable, king of MGM, pronounced that she had achieved the best juvenile work in movie history. Her salary was raised to $30,00 per year and she became the role model of millions of girls.
National Velvet Turned Elizabeth Taylor into a Household Word
Having earned the international moniker of "The most beautiful Woman in the world," the fame, infamy and public drama created by Elizabeth Taylor, perhaps the most publicized American celebrity of all time, dominated more magazine covers, inspired a library of press and publications, boasted international acclaim, and accumulated more wealth than any other woman of her time. that she would become, an iconic movie star that would be alternately loved and hated world-wide.
"By the time she was four, Elizabeth was truly lovely, her alabaster complexion offset by dark curls and luminescent blue eyes, that seemed violet." (Taraborrelli, 2006. p. 23)
Daughter of American-born social climbers, Frances and Sara Taylor who was a one-time aspiring actress, and he a wealthy art dealer, Elizabeth was born in London in 1932. When World War II broke out, the family emigrated to California. Elizabeth recount of the budding of her ambition to be an actress is recorded at this: Aboard the ship that would take her family to America, she viewed her first motion picture. Transfixed by Shirley Temple's performance in The Little Princess, she urgently confessed to her mother she wanted to be a movie star. And, as is well-documented, the ambitious duo soon conquered hollywood, where her dominion of the movie industry would stay intact for most of her life thereafter.
"They ( Elizabeth and her brother) were used to attention, and expected it wherever they went. Indeed, both were beautiful and, as such, constantly lavished with compliments. However, they were also well-behaved and polite." (Taraborrelli, 2006. p. 23)
The many biographies of Elizabeth Taylor at times contradict each other, however, whether portraying her as saint or sinner, one thing shines through. This was a woman of great passion that lived for love and her career. The quintessential diva, Elizabeth's famous marriages, excesses, notoriety and numerous movies show us a life drama, filled with passion and determination.
14 Fast Films & A Frightening Marriage To Nicky Hilton
Young Elizabeth Taylor Movies: A Smooth Transition From Child Star To Alluring Ingenue.
Elizabeth's mother was a formidable negotiator and after signing with MGM, L.B. Mayer told columnist, Hedda Hopper, (Amburn, 2000, p. 63), Sara Taylor could talk you into a bank heist over a telephone line. By the time she made National Velvet there was a huge increase in her salary, and above-title billing for Elizabeth in Courage of Lassie. In what took Judy Garland five years to accomplish, the Taylor's managed in about two years.
"Just coming up to sixteen, she is displaying the signs of striking womanhood that would soon enable the studio to transfer her, without a break in her career, from playing adolescent girls to portraying romantic and sexy young women." That was the beginning of the glamour build-up, her mother wrote. (Amburn, 2000, p. 70)
- There's One Born Every Minute (1942), Elizabeth plays supporting role, Gloria Twine.
- Lassie Come Home (1943), Elizabeth plays Priscilla, granddaughter of a rich Duke who has taken possession of an unhappy Lassie, and Priscilla arranges the dog's escape. Elizabeth shines in the supporting role and she receives a seven-year MGM contract. This is also where she met her life-long friend, Roddy McDowall.
- Jane Eyre (1944), Ten -year old Taylor plays Helen Burns and steals the scenes in her uncredited role.
- The White Cliffs of Dover (1944), Taylor plays Betsy Kelly who has a crush on Roddy Mcdowell's character.
- National Velvet (1944), At the age of 12, Elizabeth Taylor establishes herself as a major movie star. "There is nothing dated about the film, one one false note in Elizabeth's performance. Its popularity has endured…" Ep50 In the plot, Velvet's dream comes true, just as Elizabeth's dream was soon to come true.
- Courage of Lassie (1946), starring Elizabeth Taylor as Kathie Merrick.
- Life With Father (1947), in a supporting role, Taylor is a beautiful teenage girl with whom the houehold's oldest son becomes infatuated
- Cynthia (1947)
"Mayer ruled with an iron fist..Metro girls weren't allowed to smoke, drink, swear, or have sex before marriage. There was no bending of those rules, and as far as Taylor's mother, Sara was concerned, nothing wrong with them, either. (Taraborrelli, 2001 p. 45)
- A Date with Judy (1948), showcases 16-year old Elizabeth as she plays sophisticated high school senior, Carol Pringle, in a comedy of errors including a date with a considerably older suiter, and discovering her father is seeing another woman behind her mother's back.
- Julia Misbehaves (1948), "Clowning, kissing, kidding, cavorting" was the studio publicity.
- Little Women (1949), Elizabeth said she enjoyed playing the role of a girl in love.
- Conspirator (1949), the first film to feature the shapely,16 year old Elizabeth as an "adult character" where she plays a 21 year old debutante who marries a Russian spy, played by Robert Taylor, 38 years old.
- The Big Hangover (1950), one of Elizabeth Taylor's first films to feature her in a "adult character."
- Father of the Bride (1950), nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Picture, Best Writing and Best Screenplay, here Taylor plays Kay Banks, the daughter whose marriage announcement and arrangements cause chaos.
When Elizabeth's character Kay was surprised by a diamond ring, Elizabeth herself suddenly sprouted a five-carat square-cut diamond on her finger.
Barely 18, Taylor Weds Nicky Hilton
In the late winter of 1950, whether to escape controlling parents, or to legitimately fullfil her emerging sensuality, at the tender age of 17, early-bloomer Elizabeth became engaged to the young hotel heir, Conrad (Nicky) Hilton Jr. She had already performed in 14 films. The marriage of the rising film star was designed to be a coup for the Taylor family, MGM films, and the Hiltons. "The Taylor-Hilton wedding was the great celebrity event of 1950." Amburn, 200, p. 38)
"That many of her wedding plans were publicity-driven, didn't mean that she didn't love playing the happy bride on either occasion. For her, it was just one more instance where fame and public image splayed over into real life, blurring — perhaps obliterating — the line between them." (Mann, 2009, p. 115) The precocious Elizabeth is quoted as saying, "…the morality I learned at home required marriage. I couldn't just have an affair. I was ready for love, and I was ready for lovemaking." (Taraborrelli, 2006, p. 81)
Despite Elizabeth's romantic idea of her dream marriage, and an over-the-top fairy tale wedding basically produced by MGM, and unfortunately for Elizabeth and all concerned, Nicky Hilton turned out to be an abusive, drug-addicted partner. Per Wikipedia, "Hilton's gambling, drinking, and abusive behavior, however, horrified her and her parents, caused a miscarriage, and ended the marriage in divorce after nine months."
The young Elizabeth perceived the short marriage as her failure and it took its toll. "By the a time she began work for Father's Little Dividend, she had lost 20 pounds, become a chain smoker, and was suffering from high blood pressure--all in just a few months." In her later years, Elizabeth noted, "If I could not be the perfect wife in reality, I could continue to create illusions on the screen… my celluloid counterpart became a mother. I was doing exactly what I wanted to do, only it was in 35-millimeter rather than real life." (Amburn, 2000, p. 88)
A Safe Bet Becomes Burdensome As Her Star Power Ascends
Michael Wilding was, as Marlene Dietrich put it, "A British version of (James) Stewart. He mumbles, is ever so shy, and being English, gets through the film on charisma." Elizabeth met him while filming The Conspirator in London. He was a popular leading man in romantic comedies working at a nearby set. Although nineteen years her senior, and already married at the time they met, he ended up following Elizabeth to California and they were married by February, 1952. A known bi-sexual, as for his motives, he is quoted as saying, "as Elizabeth's husband, he would have a bigger career in Hollywood than here (London)." (Walker, 2001, p. 48-49)
For Elizabeth, Mr. Wilding was an "abundance of tranquility, security and maturity--all of which I desperately need." (Walker, 2001, p. 49) Even though she probably knew he was bi-sexual, Taylor was all in and convinced MGM to help her buy her first house, where she soon became the proud mother of two two sons, Michael Howard (born January 6, 1953) and Christopher Edward (born February 27, 1955; her own 23rd birthday). For four years they embraced their home and hearth image, but eventually found themselves living a charade, and casually straying from their marriage vows amidst the glamourous, free-spirited celebrities of Hollywood in the '50's.
Despite Taylor's successful efforts to have Wilding put under contract by MGM, his career spiraled downward (as did his marriage), and he became an unemployed and unfaithful dependent while hard-working Elizabeth drove her career to super stardom in the 1950's with the production of Giant.
Their marriage lasted from February 21, 1952 to January 26, 1957.
Elizabeth Taylor Movies while Married to Michael Wilding
- Father's Little Dividend (1951), sequel to Father of the Bride, Elizabeth Taylor plays newly married, Kay who announces she's going to have a baby making her father a granddad.
- A Place In the Sun (1951), Elizabeth Taylor plays the rich "society girl" Angela Vickers, whom George Eastman, a poor relative of a rich industrialist, has admired from afar. They fall in love, and being Angela's escort thrusts him into the intoxicating and carefree lifestyle of high society. In this oscar-winning film Elizabeth showed the world she was a gifted actress.
- Callaway Went Thataway (1951) a Western satire popular on TV, had poor box office appeal as a movie.
- Love Is Better Than Ever (1952), where Elizabeth Taylor plays Stacie, a small town-girl who falls in love with a big-city talent agent.
- Ivanhoe (1952) "Everything about it is first-rate -- especially the cast. Taylor and Sanders are particularly fine, and a young Elizabeth Taylor is positively radiant." Barnes & Noble.
- Rhapsody (1954) Is described as a "...high-gloss soap opera in the grand MGM manner" starring Elizabeth Taylor by Barnes & Noble.
- Elephant Walk (1954), originally cast with Vivien Leigh as Ruth Wiley, Taylor steps in for her idolized actress when Leigh withdraws due to mental health issues. Here, the English newlywed Ruth is taken to her husband's plantation where she falls in love with someone else.
- Beau Brummell (1954), filmed in England, in this period piece Taylor plays the aristocrat love interest, Lady Patricia.
- The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954) boasts an all-star cast with Taylor in the lead of this romantic drama about two lovers in post-war Paris.
- Giant (1956), nominated for 13 Academy Awards, the sprawling Texas epic starring Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson was also epic for their careers.
1956 Delivers Giant Returns for Liz Taylor
The fall of 1956 was a triumph for Liz Taylor. The movie, Giant premiered and Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson's box office appeal exploded. Plus, Mike Todd, the great promotor, was now at her side.
Extravagant Love, Tragic Ending
"For Elizabeth, wealth was the ultimate security. If she could be wealthy enough--something neither Michael Wilding nor her own career had yet been able to make her — she could make her own decisions and live the way she wanted and not be a slave to the studio." (Mann, 2009, p. 168)
The next man Elizabeth Taylor married was one who she would describe in later years as one of the two great loves of her life. Described as powerful and bigger-than-life with a scathing, mischievous wit, he came into her life like a whirlwind, proposing the day after MGM announced Elizabeth's separation from Wilding. The broadway producer, 20 years her senior, set up a meeting with her, then grabbed her by the hand, sat her down, and wooed her for an hour, proclaiming his love, and basically told her she was going to marry him.
Elizabeth was amused by Mr. Todd, but before long, was swept up with her own passion for this rich, generous, romantic man. Before she was even divorced he gave her $30,000 pearl friendship ring, then a 29.4 carat diamond ring costing $92,000. Too impatient to wait for the slow-moving process of California divorce laws, they jetted to Acapulco for a faster Mexican divorce on January 31, 1957. They married on February 2, 1957 in beautiful Acapulco where Mike threw an extravagant hacienda party and presented Elizabeth with an $80,000 diamond bracelet wedding gift. On March 26 the MGM publicity department announced that Elizabeth was pregnant.
"Mike Todd saw the world as a place for him to plunder and Elizabeth as someone on whom o display the loot. Spoiling her was only a means of sating himself. A man who sent champagne to his wife whenever she went to the hairdresser's, lest she be thirsty under the drier, could put that extravagance down to an act of love; it was also part of his owo overwhelming ego. his congenital restlessness now became the peripatetic life-style of the both -- a style that Elizabeth was to maintain for the rest of her life." (Walker, 2001, p. 180)
The next few months were a whirlwind of expensive gifts, private planes and extravagant estate living. Mike, a very dominant man, offered Elizabeth a faithful intense intimate relationship. Though their relationship was often turbulent, as well as deeply sensual — all in the public eye — she would later say of him in her Elizabeth Takes Off memoirs, "Every woman should have a Mike Todd in her life. God I loved him. My self-esteem, my image, everything soared under his exuberant, loving care." On August 6th, 1957 they became parents of their daughter, Liza.
Tragically their marriage lasted barely a year. Mike's life ended in a horrific airplane crash that also killed three others on March 22, 1958. Elizabeth was inconsolable.
Elizabeth Taylor Movies while Married to Michael Todd
- Raintree County (1957), the big-budget Civil War epic aspired the success of Gone With the Wind and earned Elizabeth an Oscar nomination as Best Actress.
- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), the highly censored version of Tennessee Williams' play about the hidden homosexuality of Brick, married to Elizabeth's character, earns six Oscar nominations and three BAFTA nominations.
A Scandalous Rebound with the Ghost of Mr. Todd
Shortly thereafter Elizabeth turned to the closest thing to her missing husband, Eddie Fisher, Mike Todd's eager protege who was inseparable from the pair throughout their marriage. In what would create a disturbing backlash of negative publicity, the unhappily married Fisher's consolation turned to a romantic liaison within six months. The public perception was that Elizabeth had stolen the husband of MGM-darling Debbie Reynolds. They wed on May 12, 1959.
Elizabeth, as usual, believed she was in love, but in later years recognized her mistake in trying to replace Mike Todd with a Mike Todd wanna-be. As with Mike WIlding, although publicly a loving couple, and despite their voracious sexual appetites, privately, Elizabeth came to completely dominate the passive Fisher, basically turning him into another of her serving staff.
As a final nail in her 'publicity' coffin, when gossip columnist Hedda Hopper asked her why she didn't wait an more appropriate amount of time after the death of her husband Mike Todd to get involved with Eddie Fisher, she naively replied, "Mike's dead and I'm alive. What do you expect me to do, sleep alone?" Amburn, 2000, p. 113) The comment is eerily similar to a line from her future role as Maggie in Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. When trying to seduce her cold husband, Maggie proclaims, "I'm alive. I'm alive. Maggie the Cat is alive!"
In 1999, Keith Morrison of NBC's Dateline would say that Elizabeth and Fisher were "two of the most hated people in America." Their marriage lasted from May 12, 1959 to March 6, 1964.
Elizabeth had started the procedure to adopt a two-year-old German girl, Maria (born August 1, 1961); it was finalized in 1964 following their divorce. Richard Burton later adopted both Liza and Maria.
Suddenly,Last Summer, 1959
Elizabeth Taylor Movies while Married to Eddie Fisher
- Suddenly, Last Summer 1959, the adaption of Tennesse Williams' controversial play concerning homosexuality, insanity and cannibalism earned Elizabeth the Golden Globe and Golden Plate Awards for Best Actress.
- Scent of Mystery, 1960, a mystery produced produced by Mike Todd Jr. introduced short-lived Smell-O-Vision.
- Butterfield 8, 1960, which Elizabeth was reluctant to do because of she didn't want to play a tawdry character, procured her first Academy Award.
- Cleopatra 1960 was the over-budgeted, over-publicized, over-deadline epic movie that took was filmed in Italy, London and and Malibu, took 2-1/2 years to produce, and brought co-stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton together.
Elizabeth Taylor with Richard Burton
Hollywood's Greatest Romance
"I've always admitted that I'm ruled by my passions," Taylor said. Fitting, for a woman who became intermittently infamous and famous for the grandest love of her life, her romance with Richard Burton. Their whirlwind romance started when they met on the set of the 1963 film Cleopatra and they married a year later, March 15, 1964 after an illicit affair that was condemned by the pope who accused them of 'erotic vagrancy,' They were both married to others and this was her second marital scandal since 'stealing' Eddie Fisher from Debbie Renolds.
Their turbulent relationship was grist for the media, and they were perhaps the most famously followed couple, on and off camera. Embodying an extravagant lifestyle, their love fueled, jewels, yahts, and parties, and so did it fuel epic fights. Richard Burton, a heavy drinker and smoker, was eventually unfaithful. Because, as she put it, her zero tolerance for infidelity, they divorced on June 26, 1974, only to remarry 16 months later.
A recently discovered love letter written by Elizabeth to Richard shortly before their first divorce went up for auction for nearly $35,000. Written on their 10th anniversary, the1974 passionate letter begins, "I wish I could tell my pure animal pleasure of you." The steamiest couple in Hollywood separated three months later. DailyMail.com
Liz & Dick Again
On October 10, 1975, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton remarried via a ceremony in Africa. Richard waxed poetic about her in this public statement:
"She can be arrogant and willful, she is clement and loving, Dulcis Imperatrix, she is Sunday’s child, she can tolerate my impossibilities and my drunkenness, she is an ache in the stomach when I am away from her, and she loves me!”
They divorced again on July 29, 1976.
Taylor founded the National AIDS Research Foundation, and later the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR)
Elizabeth Taylor Movies while Married to Richard Burton
- The V.I.P.s, 1963, was the first film for that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton contracted together, featured a star-studded cast, and won six national awards.
- The Sandpiper, 1965, filmed at Big Sur, the famous duo stars in a trendy screenplay about an illicit romance penned by former blacklisted screenwriters Dalton Trumbo and Michael Wilson, based on Somerset Maugham's Miss Thompson.
- Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf, 1966, a black comedy-drama based on the Edward Albee's successful broadway play earned Elizabeth Taylor an Oscar, and both Elizabeth and Richard Burton won British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards for Best British Actor and Actress.
- Doctor Faustus, 1967. Classical theater was Richard Burton's wheelhouse and he directed and starred in the film version of the Marlowe play with Elizabeth Taylor in a silent cameo role.
- Reflections in a Golden Eye, 1967, was a steamy 50's southern story that paired Elizabeth Taylor with Marlon Brando when dear friend, Montgomery Cliff defaulted despite Taylor's attempt to put up her own salary as collateral.
- The Comedians, 1967. In Graham Greene's historic portrayal of the brutality of Papa Doc in Haiti, the movie version gets an extra infusion of romance via the pairing of co-stars Taylor and Burton.
- Boom!, 1968, a British drama/thriller with Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Noel Coward that was an adaptation of Tennessee Williams' The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore.
- Secret Ceremony, 1968, is a strange and bizarre story based that pairs up a motherly prostitute, Elizabeth Taylor with Mia Farrow's character, a rich, mad orphan. Filmed in London, it was nominated for one BAFTA award.
- The Only Game in Town, 1970, stars Elizabeth Taylor and Warren Beatty in a Las Vegas romance that, despite lavish budget.
- X,Y, and Zee, 1972, pairs stars Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Caine as a loud boozy couple similar to Virginia Wolf in style.
- Uner Milk Wood, 1972, "This is a delightful if peculiar story of a day in the life a a small, Welsh Welsh fishing village called "Llareggub" (read it backwards)," with Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, and other well-known actors.
- Hammersmith Is Out, 1972, was a comedy film based on the Legend of Faust. It featured another star-studded cast, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Peter Ustinov, and Beau Bridges, and opened to good reviews.
- Divorce His, Divorce Hers, 1973 television film. Elizabeth and Richard's characters exhibit the separate emotional turbulence of their divorce, foreshadowing the couple's real-life divorce.
- Ash Wednesday, 1973, Elizabeth plays a woman who, after attempting to save her marriage by submitting to plastic surgery, is seduced by a young playboy. Her performance garnered good reviews and a Goldon Globe nomination.
- Idntikit, 1974, a psychological Italian drama starring Elizabeth's madness driven character, with a Andy Warhol a cameo and filming beginning the day after she filed for divorce from Richard Burton.
(During second marriage to Richard Burton)
- The Blue Bird, 1978. Heavy hitting female cast of Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Fonda, Ava Gardner and Cicely Tyson starred in this fantasy, filmed in Moscow.
- Victory at Entebbe, 1976. Made-for-television film with Elizabeth Taylor, Anthony Hopkins, Burt Lancaster, Richard Dryfuss and Kirk Douglas based on the actual events of freeing of Israeli hostages at Entebbe Ariport.
With John Warner in "... the strangest romance of the century" -unknown gossip columnist
Elizabeth's next marriage was to a gentleman farmer from Virginia with a huge political ambition. They married on his country estate on December 1976, six months after they met. With the Washington set, Elizabeth found a new forum for her celebrity status and worked tirelessly campaigning for her new husband. Despite the fact that her star status won much popularity, Mr. Warner lost the senatorial nomination at the state convention, but later gained it when the opposing candidate lost his life in a plane crash. During the Taylor-Warner marriage, when Elizabeth was not on-tour, campaigning with her husband, she claimed to embrace the farmer's wife life, photo ops would now appear with her in an apron cooking breakfast, and indeed, her roles became fewer and smaller since the marriage. She did not maintain her beauty queen figure.
Elizabeth's outgoing, glamourous personality made her a natural politician. The couple hosted an annual country supper at their Atoka Farm and it grew into a political event of national importance. The estate is also where Elizabeth became friends with hew new neighbors, Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
"At 48 she may have made Washington her last stop. Her demands seem muted, her restlessness subdued. John and Elizabeth seem to make each other happy in some strange way. She's jolly well stuck by what she said she'd do. She's hanging in there," wrote Washington columnist Diana McClellan. Soon thereafter, however, Elizabeth checked herself into the Betty Ford Clinic for depression. Their marriage lasted until November 7, 1982.
Elizabeth Taylor Movies while Married to John Warner
- A Little Night Music, 1877, the film adaptation of the musical, it was shot in Austria. "An elegant looking, period romantic charade." -Variety
- Winter Kills, 1979, Elizabeth Taylor makes an uncredited cameo appearance.
- The Mirror Crack'd, 1980, adapted from an Agatha Christie novel, is a British mystery that was filmed on location in 10 weeks.
Elizabeth Taylor met her eighth and final husband in 1998 during her rehabilitation from prescription addiction at the Betty Ford Clinic. Larry Fortensky, a recovering alcoholic and twenty years her junior, married Elizabeth at the Neverland Ranch on October 6, 1991. They seemed to enjoy their romance, honeymooning in Switzerland in 1992. Their marriage lasting until October 31, 1996. Fortensky admitted having difficulty with Elizabeth's fame, "Those camers were everywhere, I never got used to it." People Celebrity.
Movies while Married to Larry Fortensky
- The Flintstones, 1994, would be Elizabeth's last theatrical film.
- Taraborrelli, Randy J. (2006). Elizabeth. ISBN 9780446532549
- Walker, Alexander (2001). Elizabeth. ISBN 9780802137692
- Amburn, Ellis (2000). The most beautiful woman in the world: the obsessions, passions, and courage of Elizabeth Taylor. ISBN 9780060193768
- Heymann, C. David (1995). Liz: an intimate biography of Elizabeth Taylor. ISBN 9781559722674
- Mann, William J. (2009). How to be a movie star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood. ISBN 9780547134642
- Taraborrelli, Randy J. (2006). Elizabeth. ISBN 9780446532549
- Walker, Alexander (2001). Elizabeth. ISBN 9780802137692
© 2018 Eileen Gamboa
Eileen Gamboa (author) from West Palm Beach on April 14, 2018:
I agree Dianna, and she was the ultimate Hollywood diva! So glamorous.
Dianna Mendez on April 14, 2018:
I don't know if we will ever see a woman as beautiful as this lady. I especially enjoyed her in Black Beauty.