Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor
I recently discovered, quite by accident, that I am related to Silver Screen Legend Elizabeth Taylor. Both Elizabeth and I share a common set of Great Grandparents, John Stiles Jr. and Dorcas Burt. This made Elizabeth and I 10th cousins, 2x removed through her father's family.
Elizabeth was born on February 22, 1932 in Hampstead Garden, London, England. Elizabeth's parents, Francis Lenn Taylor and Sara Viola Warmbrodt, were wealthy Americans. Elizabeth's father was an art dealer who had set up a business in London.
In 1939, fearing the political tensions in Europe, the Taylor family moved back to the United States, settling in Los Angeles, California in Beverley Hills. The US Ambassador to England, Joseph P. Kennedy (father of John F. Kennedy), had also encourage the Taylor family to return to the US.
Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles, Elizabeth's mother, encouraged by people who constantly told her that Elizabeth was beautiful and should be in film, had her daughter audition for Universal Films as well as with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (a school friend of Elizabeth arranged this as her father was a studio producer).
Elizabeth was signed to Universal Films in April, 1941. Although Elizabeth received offers from both Universal and MGM, Elizabeth's mother preferred Universal.
Universal gave Elizabeth a small part in the 1942 movie There's One Born Every Minute after which she was given no further acting jobs by Universal. In March, 1942, Universal terminated Elizabeth's contract.
Later in 1942, Elizabeth's father arranged for her to audition for a role in Lassie Come Home (1943) which lead to a test contract which then turned into a 7 year contract for Elizabeth with MGM.
In 1944, Elizabeth landed a starring role in National Velvet (1944) alongside Mickey Rooney (Angela Lansbury also starred).
National Velvet was Elizabeth's breakout role and between 1944 and 1955, Elizabeth was to appear in 20 movies including Little Women (1949), A Place In The Sun (1951) and The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954). In 1956, Elizabeth was to star alongside Rock Hudson and James Dean in Giant, Dean's 3rd and final movie (released after his death.
Giant would go on to win an Academy Award for best director, and was nominated for 9 other Academy Awards. Elizabeth won her first Golden Globe Award for Special Achievement for her part in Giant.
In 1958, Elizabeth starred in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. She followed up in 1959 with a second Best Actress nomination for her part in Suddenly, Last Summer.
In 1960, Elizabeth would win her first of 2 Academy Awards for Best Actress for her role in Butterfield 8; her 2nd Best Actress award came in 1966 for Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff?
In 1963, Elizabeth starred in the blockbuster historic movie Cleopatra. Elizabeth set a record for her salary in this movie, which originally started at $1 million but ended up earning her a world record $7 million for her portrayal as the Egyptian Queen of the same name.
As the 1960's came to an end, Elizabeth's career as a movie actress began to fall off. Elizabeth continued to act on stage, in movies and on TV until her retirement in 2007.
As famous as Elizabeth Taylor was for being an actress, she is perhaps equally well known for her many marriages.
Elizabeth was to marry 8 times and would have 3 children.
Elizabeth's 1st marriage was to Conrad "Nicky" Hilton on May 6, 1950, in a spectacular event staged by MGM Studios. The marriage did not last long as Elizabeth realized she had made a mistake - Hilton was a heavy drinker and abusive - Elizabeth and Conrad were divorced 8 months after they married.
Elizabeth's 2nd marriage was to Michael Wilding, a British actor 20 years older than Elizabeth. Together they had 2 sons, Michael Howard born January 6, 1953 and Christopher Edward born February 27, 1955.
While Elizabeth was away in the US filming Giant, Michael was the subject of a scandal released by gossip magazine Confidential which claimed Michael had been entertaining strippers while Elizabeth was away working. The two separated shortly after and divorced in January, 1957.
Husband #3 for Elizabeth was Mike Todd, a theatre and film producer. Taylor and Todd married in Acapulco, Mexico on February 2, 1957. This union resulted in Elizabeth's third child, a daughter, Elizabeth "Liza" Francis born on August 6, 1957.
On March 22, 1958, Mike Todd was killed in a plane accident. The death left Elizabeth devastated and she turned to her friends for comfort. Two of those close friends were married couple Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. Taylor and Reynolds had been friends for years, and the two couples had been friends when Mike Todd was still alive. What resulted from Fisher's comforting of Taylor was to cause one of the largest scandals in Hollywood history - Todd left Reynolds and took up with Taylor, resulting in a rift between Taylor and Reynold's that would last for decades.
Taylor and Fisher married in Las Vegas on May 12, 1959. The marriage would not last however, and Fisher and Taylor divorced on March 6, 1964 as Elizabeth had been having an affair with co-star Richard Burton dating back to 1962 when they were filming Cleopatra.
Richard Burton was to be Elizabeth's 5th and 6th husband, the two marrying in 1964 after Elizabeth's divorce from Fisher, then marrying again in 1975 after she and Burton divorced in 1974.
The exploits of Richard and Elizabeth are legendary. The two had a great love for one another, yet their relationship was destructive. Together they spent a fortune - Burton lavishing Taylor with expensive jewellery and other gifts - and they would both admit that their drinking and fighting was destructive. The two would divorce for a second and last time in 1976.
Elizabeth would marry twice more, but none of her marriages would draw as much attention as her marriages to Eddie Fisher and Richard Burton. Elizabeth was labelled a home-wrecker for marrying Fisher and the exploits of Taylor and Burton are legendary even by Hollywood standards.
Aside from her many marriages, Elizabeth was a tireless supporter of AIDS victims. One of Elizabeth's closest friends, Rock Hudson, was one of the first Hollywood celebrities to die from the disease. Elizabeth was a tireless supporter and fundraiser for AIDS victims and research, raising over $270 million in her lifetime for the cause.
Elizabeth was also a shrewd business woman, launching her own line of perfume (White Diamonds and Passion) which, to this day, remains a best seller; as well as jewellery.
Elizabeth Taylor was the epitome of Hollywood glamour - beautiful, elegant and mysterious. When Elizabeth died on March 23rd, 2011, a large piece of Hollywood history died with her.
Elizabeth's legacy will live on in her humanitarian efforts for AIDS research, her perfume and jewellery lines, her film and her TV movies. Elizabeth will forever be known as a glamorous, elegant, controversial figure, one who fought personal demons and illness and who brought AIDS research into mainstream society in search of a cure.
Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, a part of my family history, and although I never knew her personally, she was a lady who I am proud to say is my cousin.