Wednesday, April 6, 2011

RIP Liz Taylor

It's hard to find someone who qualifies both as a true Hollywood icon of beauty and a great actress, but Elizabeth Taylor definitely met the bill. She died March 23 at the age of 79.

During the early eighties, she became the butt of jokes for weight battles and her multiple marriages, most famously to the great actor Richard Burton. (To review: Nicky Hilton 1950-51, Michael Wilding 1952-57, Mike Todd 1957-8, Eddie Fisher 1959-64, Richard Burton 1964-74 and 1975-76, Senator John Warner 1976-82 and Larry Fortensky 1991-96.) Her celebrity was never the same, especially due to her lack of films, and she became more tabloid fodder than movie star over the last 30 years. (Her last role was in the live-action Flinstones movie of 1994.)

Despite this, it's impossible to understate her importance to movie history, winning two Oscars for Butterfield 8 (1960) and the groundbreaking Who's Afraid of the Virginia Woolf? (1966). She also played Cleopatra in the 1963 film, a four-hour epic by 20th Century Fox that cost $44 million, or over $300 million in current dollars. Among her other greatest hits: National Velvet (1944), Father of the Bride (1950), A Place in the Sun (1951), Giant (1956) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958). She also was the voice of Maggie in a 1992 episode of The Simpsons.

Perhaps just as important to Ms. Taylor, she became an early advocate for AIDS charities, raising over $100 million in her lifetime. Showing sympathy for AIDS victims may be chic now, but in the Reagan era that preceded political correctness, it showed incredible courage. But it was that kind of guts that epitomized Taylor and her life...

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