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Elizabeth Taylor, a star on screen and off, dies at 79

March 23, 2011 |  8:48 am

The death of Elizabeth Taylor on Wednesday morning at the age of 79 in Los Angeles was, in addition to being a loss for acting and moviedom, a reminder of how celebrity and talent can merge in the best and most interesting ways.

A British-born child star, Taylor went on to carry dozens of films during Hollywood's Golden Age, including award-winning dramas such as "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (which won her the second of two Oscars) and astounding flops ("Cleopatra," in which she costarred with Richard Burton, who would later become her husband), with her last turn on the big screen coming in "The Flintsones" in 1994.

She played Maggie in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and Catherine in "Suddenly, Last Summer," the man-seducing Gloria Wandrous in "Butterfield 8" and Rock Hudson's wife in "Giant," in roles as diverse as they were memorable (please write in with your favorite).

But her personal life may have been the best drama of all, with numerous marriages, activist causes, addictions and other stuff of off-screen legend. (You can read The Times' obituary here and Kenneth Turan's tribute here.)

PHOTOS: Highlights from Elizabeth Taylor's movie career.

What's most striking, though, is how the personal and professional managed to coexist. We live in an era when great actresses like Meryl Streep lead comparatively staid lives and off-screen personae such as Kim Kardashian are hardly great actresses. But Taylor evoked no contradiction between talent and tabloid. Her off-screen exploits may have overshadowed her onscreen presence, but they never detracted from it.

In fact, just when it seemed she was getting famous for something other than movie roles, she would offer up a surprise -- soon after she divorced Eddie Fisher in the mid-1960s, for instance, she returned with her Oscar-winning performance in "Woolf."

Speaking of those tabloid exploits, when all was said and done, she had been through eight marriages and seven divorces, which seems far better than the inverse. R.I.P., Elizabeth Taylor.

-- Steven Zeitchik



Photo Gallery: Highlights from Elizabeth Taylor's career

Elizabeth Taylor: An appreciation

Elizabeth Taylor obituary: Legendary actress dies at 79

 Photo: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in "Cleopatra." Credit: Fred Prouser/Reuters


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~Born: February 27, 1932~ ~Died: March 23, 2011~
I am so very heartbroken and sad to hear that Elizabeth Taylor has died. Dame Elizabeth was thee most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my life, (next to Princess Diana of Wales). I am celebrating her wonderful career, her life on film and off and her fabulous activist work. She always inspired me in so many ways. From all of Elizabeth's personal problems I too learned how to work things out for what was good for me despite very painful criticism. I am relieved that Dame Elizabeth is out of her lifelong back pain. She did well to live to be 79 years young. Now she is in heaven with family and friends once again. Elizabeth Taylor is the very last true star that came out of the movie factory of MGM. There are no more left. Not as magnicficent, beautiful (inside and out) like our beloved Dame Elizabeth Taylor. So, I drink a toast to you Dame Elizabeth, may you be at peace and rest at last. Lord knows your life was certainly busy enough. Oh and P.S. Which husband are you going to be with for eternity? My bet it will be Mike Todd if not Richard Burton. Bless you forever Elizabeth.


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