Elizabeth Taylor | 1943
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Elizabeth Taylor | A life in movies

Elizabeth Taylor | 1943
Elizabeth Taylor was the very definition of a movie star. Though she made more than her fair share of bad movies, Taylor had that undefinable quality that captivated audiences for nearly six decades. Here are some of the highlights from her movie career.
-- Susan King, Los Angeles Times

“Lassie Come Home” The British-born Taylor and her family came to Los Angeles from England in 1941. Shortly thereafter, Taylor’s mother befriended the wife of the chairman of Universal Pictures and her daughter landed a part in the long-forgotten 1942 film “There’s One Born Every Minute.” The following year, her father’s friendship with producer Samuel Marx led to her role as the granddaughter of a rich landowner in MGM’s endearing family film about a collie who braves adversity to reunite with her family. Taylor received $100 a week; the dog made $250. But Elizabeth Taylor was on her way to stardom. (Associated Press)
Elizabeth Taylor | 1944
“National Velvet”
Signed to a long-term contract at MGM, Taylor auditioned for the part of Velvet Brown, the British farm girl who rides her horse “The Pie” in England’s Grand National race. When producer Pandro Berman declared her too petite for the role, she vowed to grow into it in time for production. And she did, growing three inches. Her charming, sweet performance in the 1944 classic had Daily Variety gushing that the 11-year-old “is fated for a great name in pictures.” (MGM/UA)
Elizabeth Taylor | 1950
“Father of the Bride”
This rollicking comedy directed by Vincente Minnelli was nominated for numerous Oscars including best picture and was one of the biggest commercial hits of the year. Though the film didn’t really stretch Taylor as an actress, she is luminous as Kay Banks, the beautiful only daughter of attorney Stanley (Spencer Tracy) and his wife Ellie (Joan Bennett). The film was released to coincide with Taylor’s first marriage, to Nicky Hilton. The following year, the cast and director reunited for “Father’s Little Dividend.” (MGM)
Elizabeth Taylor | 1951
“A Place in the Sun”
Taylor finally was given the opportunity to prove herself as an actress in George Stevens’ remarkable 1951 adaptation of Theodore Dreiser’s novel “An American Tragedy"” She plays Angela Vickers, a beautiful young heiress who falls in love with a handsome, ambitious George Eastman, played by Montgomery Clift, who is also romantically entangled with co-worker Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters). When Alice becomes pregnant, George drowns her so he can marry Angela. The scenes between Taylor and Clift are heartbreakingly romantic, and the strapless gown designed for Taylor by Edith Head became one of Taylor’s signature looks in the early 1950s. (Associated Press)
Elizabeth Taylor | 1956
“Giant”
Taylor and Stevens teamed up again five years later for his expansive adaptation of Edna Ferber’s novel. The sweeping epic is set in Texas and follows some 20 years in the lives of rancher Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson), his feisty wife Leslie (Taylor) and rebellious ranch hand Jett Rink (James Dean). (Warner Bros.)
Elizabeth Taylor | 1957
“Raintree County”
Taylor received her first Academy Award nomination for best actress for this lengthy 1957 melodrama that reunited her with Clift. Set during the Civil War era, the romantic drama finds Liz playing Susanna Drake, a beautiful, indulged Southern belle who ends up losing her mind because she fears she may be half black. Clift, in his first film in several years, plays her love interest. Production on the expensive film was shut down for several weeks after Clift was injured in a car accident. The injury altered Clift’s face and left him in severe pain through the rest of the shoot. (Associated Press)
Elizabeth Taylor | 1958
“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”
Tragedy struck Taylor while filming this watered-down but entertaining 1958 adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ hit play. Three weeks into production, Taylor’s third husband, Oscar-winning showman Mike Todd, died in a plane crash. Taylor returned to the film a month later. She earned her second Oscar nomination as the frustrated Maggie the Cat, opposite Paul Newman. (Associated Press)
Elizabeth Taylor | 1959
“Suddenly, Last Summer”
Taylor returned to Williams’ universe the following year, receiving her third consecutive Oscar nomination for this florid melodrama in which she plays a distraught young woman who witnesses the savage murder of her cousin Sebastian. His mother (Katharine Hepburn) wants a famous surgeon (Clift) to perform a lobotomy on her to keep her quiet about the details of the murder. It was Taylor’s last film with Clift. (Los Angeles County Museum of Art)
Elizabeth Taylor | 1960
“Butterfield 8"
Though the reviews were generally unenthusiastic, Taylor won an Oscar for best actress for this 1960 melodrama based on the John O’Hara novel in which she plays a high-priced call girl who falls for a married man. Several wags said Taylor won the Oscar out of sympathy because she had nearly died in early 1961 from viral pneumonia. Shaky and frail, Taylor appeared at the ceremony to pick up her award. (Associated Press)
Elizabeth Taylor | 1963
“Cleopatra”
Taylor earned a record-setting $1 million to play the Queen of the Nile in this lavish, troubled 1963 film, which nearly sank 20th Century Fox. An overwrought epic, “Cleopatra” is best known as the film in which Taylor began her tempestuous affair with Richard Burton. Both were married to others at the time, but their romance captivated millions around the world for years to come. (Twentieth Century Fox)
Elizabeth Taylor | 1963
“The V.I.P.s”
“Cleopatra” wasn’t yet released when Burton and Taylor, shown at London Airport on March 18, 1963, teamed up for this all-star 1963 melodrama about several passengers on a flight that’s delayed from London to New York. Taylor plays the neglected wife of a rich tycoon (Burton) who is about to leave him for a poor gigolo (Louis Jourdan). During the production, Burton formally left his wife Sybil to marry Taylor. The diamond and emerald brooch she wears in the film was Burton’s engagement gift. (Associated Press)
Elizabeth Taylor | 1966
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
Taylor packed on the pounds and peeled off the glamour to play Martha, the blustery, overbearingly vulgar wife of a college professor (Burton) in this 1966 adaptation of Edward Albee’s landmark play, which was Mike Nichols’ film-directing debut. In contrast to the whispers about Taylor’s first Oscar, for “Butterfield 8,” there were few quibbles about her picking up a second Academy Award for her venomous, ferocious performance. (Warner Bros. / Associated Press)
Elizabeth Taylor | 1967
“The Taming of the Shrew”
Most post-"Virginia Woolf” Taylor-Burton vehicles seemed intended to support their lavish lifestyle rather than make a memorable film, but the two shine in Franco Zeffirelli’s exhilarating 1967 version of the Shakespeare comedy. (Associated Press)
Elizabeth Taylor | 2000
“These Old Broads”
Taylor made the most out of her last major acting appearance, in this 2001 ABC TV movie. She plays the manager of three aging movie stars — Debbie Reynolds, Shirley MacLaine and Joan Collins — who reunite for a show after the re-release of their 1960s film hit. Carrie Fisher, Reynolds’ daughter, wrote the film. And there was a juicy back story to the movie, of course. In the 1950s, Taylor had “stolen” Reynolds’ husband, Eddie Fisher (Carrie’s father), and married him herself. As had been so often the case, Taylor’s personal life overlapped with her screen persona. (Ron Tom / ABC)
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