50 Interesting Facts About Elizabeth Taylor – ‘Cleopatra’

Dame Elizabeth Taylor, considered as one of the last stars of classical Hollywood cinema as well as one of the first modern celebrities, was a British-American actress, businesswoman and humanitarian. Having started her career as a child actress, she became famous for portraying film roles, that often mirrored her personal life.

  1. She is the first actress in the American film history to have earned $1,000,000 for a movie role. She was paid $1,000,000 for her role in the 1963 movie “Cleopatra.”
  2. Just in the year 1963, she received at least $2.4 million as her payment for different roles, while President John F. Kennedy's salary was only $150,000 and even the highest paid American business executive earned only $650,000.
  3. She is ranked at #7 in the American Film Institute’s list of 50 'Greatest American Screen Legends' which lists the top 25 actors and top 25 actresses.
  4. She was named as the seventh greatest female screen legend in 1999 by the AFI.
  5. She is chosen as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history at the rank of #16 by Empire magazine.
  6. Entertainment Weekly listed her as the 11th Greatest Movie Star of all time.
  7. She was awarded Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II at the 2000 New Year's Honours List for her services to drama.
  8. She was made a Fellow of the British Film Institute in recognition of her outstanding contribution to film culture.
  9. She has been on the cover of Life magazine for around 14 times starting from the age of just 15. She is the only actor to have graced the magazine’s cover for a record 14 times. She has been featured in over 1000 magazine covers around the world.
  10. She has appeared solo on the cover of People Magazine for nearly 14 times, which is second only to Princess Diana.
  11. She is one of the only two actresses to have won an Oscar for playing prostitutes, with the other being Shirley Jones. She won the Best Actress Award for her performance in “BUtterfield 8,” while Jones won the Best Supporting Actress Award for “Elmer Gantry.”
  12. She is one of the five actors to have received 4 consecutive Academy Award nominations. She won the Oscar Award for Best Actress two times for her performance in 1960 movie “BUtterfield 8,” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
  13. She was ranked #40 on a list of the Greatest Movie Stars of All Time in the Premiere Magazine’s Stars in Our Constellation feature.
  14. Taylor has a street named after her in Iowa City, Iowa.
  15. The 1963 Andy Warhol portrait of Taylor’s, was sold for $ 23.7 million in the year 2007, to an anonymous bidder at a Christie's auction in New York.
  16. A 1962 Andy Warhol's "Men in Her Life” painting which was based on an image of Elizabeth Taylor between husbands, was auctioned on November 8, 2010 at Phillips de Pury & Company's new salesroom on Park Avenue in New York City, and was bought by an unidentified bidder for $63.3 million.
  17. She was awarded the Henrietta Award for World Film Favorite – Female in the year 1974, the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1985, and the Knight of the French Legion of Honour in 1987. She was also honored with Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1993, the Screen Actors' Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997, the GLAAD Vanguard Award in 2000 and the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001.
  18. Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born on February 27, 1932 at Heathwood, London. She received dual citizenship at birth.
  19. Her father Francis Lenn Taylor, an art dealer and her mother retired stage actress Sara Sothern were citizens of the United States, but moved to London in 1929.
  20. Since childhood, Taylor’s mother was frequently told that the beautiful Taylor should audition for film roles, especially crediting her violet eyes and the dark double eyelashes caused by a genetic mutation.
  21. At the age of 9 years, she auditioned for Universal Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios and was offered a contract from both the studios.
  22. She signed a seven-year contract with Universal Pictures and appeared in a small role in the 1942 movie “There's One Born Every Minute.” The contract was terminated the same year. The exact reason remains unknown, though it is allegedly reported that the studio’s casting director disliked her and said "the kid has nothing ... her eyes are too old, she doesn't have the face of a child." Later in January 1943, she signed a seven year contract with MGM and appeared in uncredited minor roles in a couple of movies.
  23. Her first major role was in the movie “National Velvet” which she later claimed to be "the most exciting film" of her career. The filming of the movie was pushed back by several months, as the crew felt her to be too short and gave her time to grow. She spent the extra time practicing riding. In just three months, she grew three inches, and began to gain the natural curves of a woman.
  24. She had to wear braces to correct her teeth for her role as Velvet Brown in the movie “National Velvet,” and even had two of her baby teeth pulled out. The studio proposed to dye her hair and change the shape of her eyebrows as part of the changes to her looks in developing her into a leading actress, but her parents refused.
  25. During the filming of the racing scene, she fell from the horse and broke her back, due to which she suffered greatly later in life. Following the completion of the production, the studio made all the necessary arrangements for Taylor to keep the horse.
  26. James Agee of The Nation wrote about Taylor that she "is rapturously beautiful ... I hardly know or care whether she can act or not."
  27. She signed a new contract with MGM in January 1946, for a weekly salary of $750. The studio controlled every aspect of her life from then on and she had to follow a daily schedule of attending school and filming scenes during the day, while classes for dancing and singing during the evenings. Taylor later in an interview described MGM as a "big extended factory" and said that she had "no real childhood" after becoming a star.
  28. In 1947, Life called her "Hollywood's most accomplished junior actress," for her performance in the Michael Curtiz’s “Life with Father.” She was loaned to Warner Bros, for the movie, who paid her $3500 per week for the role.
  29. From the age of 16, she was surrounded by “marriage, the matrix of the myth” as per the words of Walker. MGM organized her to date football champion Glenn Davis in the year 1948.
  30. She was engaged to William Pawley Jr., son of U.S. ambassador William D. Pawley for a brief time in 1949. Film tycoon Howard Hughes was willing to pay Taylor’s parents a six-figure sum of money as he wanted to marry her, but she declined the offer.
  31. In 1949, she was featured on the cover of Time magazine which named her the leader among Hollywood's next generation of stars, "a jewel of great price, a true sapphire."
  32. Her first mature role was in the 1950 movie “Conspirator,” in which she was cast as Melinda Greyton opposite Robert Taylor. She actually had unhappy memories of shooting this movie, claiming that Robert had made clumsy efforts to seduce her.
  33. She married hotel-chain heir Conrad “Nicky” Hilton, Jr. on May 6, 1950, when she was just 18 years old in a highly publicized ceremony which was organized by MGM. She received a wedding gift of a one-off wedding dress designed by Edith Head from MGM, which was also a move to promote their upcoming movie “Father of the Bride.” Hilton was abusive and a heavy drinker. Around nine months in the wedding, in January 1951, she was granted a divorce
  34. Her next major breakthrough was a 1951 movie “A Place in the Sun,” which she claims to be the first movie in which she was asked to act rather than being herself. She told Us Weekly in one of her last interviews that she “never tried to act until ‘A Place in the Sun’ movie.
  35. Taylor had a dislike for historical films as she was required to wake up earlier for the elaborate costumes and make-up. She once said she gave one of the worst performances of her career in the Regency era period film “Beau Brummell.”
  36. A year later, on February 21, 1952, she married the British actor Michael Wilding, who she first met while filming “The Conspirator.” The couple had two sons - Michael Howard and Christopher Edward. They separated in July 1956 and were divorced in January 1957.
  37. For her role as Leslie Benedict in the movie “Giant,” it was reported that director George Stevens wanted to break her will to make her easier to direct, which in fact led to clashes between them. The start date of the film was delayed a few months so that Taylor could give birth to her son. The Guardian called her as one of the film's strongest assets, and lauded her performance as "an astonishing revelation of unsuspected gifts."
  38. Just within a month after divorcing her second husband, she married theater and film producer Michael Todd, who gifted her, a 29-carat diamond ring during their marriage. The duo had one daughter Elizabeth "Liza" Frances.
  39. She considers her performance in the 1958 movie “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” as a career “high point.” Just two weeks into the filming of the movie, her husband Todd was killed in an airplane crash on March 22, 1958. However, MGM forced her to return to work within only three weeks.
  40. Following the death of Todd, she was involved with singer Eddie Fisher, who divorced his wife actress Debbie Reynolds to marry Taylor. This scandal gave her a public image as a “home wrecker,” and MGM used it in its favor and promoted its movies including the “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “BUtterfield 8” with Taylor’s sex appeal.
  41. Her performance in the title role of the 1963 historical movie “Cleopatra,” earned her great reputation, which film scholar Alexander Doty noted by saying she "emerged from the experience even more famous than she had been going into the project." However, Taylor claims “Cleopatra” to be a "low point" in her career and even stated that the studio cut out the scenes which provided the "core of the characterization". She even said in an interview once that she threw up the first time when she saw the final movie.
  42. Filming of the movie “Cleopatra,” was halted several times due to Taylor's ill health and a new agency even reported her to have died as she developed nearly fatal pneumonia, which necessitated a tracheotomy to be performed. The studio even considered Audrey Hepburn as a replacement, when it seemed Taylor could not recover from her illness.
  43. She was romantically involved with her co-star Richard Burton. She was granted divorce from Fisher on March 6, 1964, after which she married Burton in a period of 10 days. The duo lived a lavish life and Burton bought her one of the world’s largest and most beautiful diamonds - the 69-carat, pear-shaped stone from the jeweler Cartier for $1,069,000. The stone was called “Burton-Cartier Diamond.”
  44. Burton and Taylor adopted a German orphan Maria. The couple starred together in eleven films and led a jet set lifestyle. The super couple earned a total of $88 million combined just in the period of mid-1960s to mid-1970s. They divorced in June 1974, but remarried on October 10, 1975. However, they again divorced in July 1976.
  45. Her next major breakthrough project after “Cleopatra” was also with Burton, the 1966 movie “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” which is said to feature the most critically acclaimed performance of Taylor's career. For her role in the movie, which earned her the second Academy Award for Best Actress and a BAFTA, she gained weight, wore a wig, and used make-up to make herself look old and tired. However, after this movie, in the late 1960s, she found her career decline, and went on to star in stage and television roles till her retirement in the year 2007.
  46. She married her sixth husband John Warner on December 4, 1976 but divorced in November 1982. She was engaged briefly to Mexican lawyer Victor Luna. She married her seventh husband Larry Fortensky on October 6, 1991, at the Neverland Ranch of her longtime friend Michael Jackson, but divorced after a few years into marriage in October 1996. She sold her last wedding pictures to People for $1 million which she used to start her AIDS foundation.
  47. She is one of the first celebrities to devote her time to HIV/AIDS activism and fundraising. She founded the National AIDS Research Foundation with Dr. Michael Gottlieb in August 1985, which was merged with Dr. Mathilde Krim's New York-based AIDS foundation a month later to form American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR). She even founded The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF) in 1991 and arranged to pay for its overhead costs.
  48. She was the first celebrity to create her own collection of fragrances and once said in an interview that she had dreamt of starting her line of perfumes for years. She launched Passion in 1987 and White Diamonds in 1991 in collaboration with Elizabeth Srden, Inc. She founded a jewelry company, House of Taylor, in the year 2005, in collaboration with Kathy Ireland and Jack and Monty Abramov.
  49. She was hospitalized due to complications from heart failure at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and was admitted there till her death on March 23, 2011. Throughout her life, she had struggled a lot with health problems, being born with scoliosis. She suffered from pneumonia in 1990 and 2000 and underwent surgeries for hip replacement, benign brain tumor and was even treated for skin cancer in 2002.
  50. Taylor had been collecting diamonds and precious stone jewelry throughout her life with her collections including the 33.19-carat Krupp Diamond, the 69.42-carat Taylor-Burton Diamond and the 50-carat La Peregrina Pearl. All the three pieces were gifts from her fifth husband Burton. She even wrote a book on diamonds in 2002 - My Love Affair with Jewelry. Her collections of jewelry and fashion were auctioned by Christie's after her death to benefit her AIDS foundation.

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