Celebrated actress Elizabeth Taylor was one of the last stars of classical Hollywood cinema, with a career that started all the way back when she was young.
She had an astonishing career all told, one that spanned more than six decades. Taylor also had a widely reported personal life, with the star getting married no less than eight times, and having four children.
Taylor passed away in 2011, leaving a considerable fortune behind. Now, her last husband, Larry Fortensky, has revealed new details about their life together, as well was what she left him in her will.
Elizabeth Taylor was born in London, England, on On Feb 27, 1932. Her parents, both American, happened to be living there when she was born. But shortly after the outbreak of World War II, Elizabeth and her parents returned to the US to start a new life in Los Angeles.
Taylor’s parents were both art dealers, though her mother had done some work as an actress before her marriage. Their creative qualities were passed over to Elizabeth, who started dancing at a very young age.
Still a child, Elizabeth went for a screen test and ultimately signed a contract with Universal Studios soon after.
At 10, she made her Hollywood debut in the comedy film There’s One Born Every Minute (1942), which she followed up with more significant roles in Lassie Come Home (1943) and The White Cliffs of Dover (1944).
Later in 1944, Taylor had her significant breakthrough role, starring in National Velvet. It proved to be a massive hit – the then-12-year-old Elizabeth grossed more than $4 million.
However, looking back on her upbringing in the middle of the Hollywood spotlight, Taylor herself admitted it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Rolling Stone Magazine asked Taylor in 1987 if her childhood had been like growing up inside of a “big extended family” at the film studios. Taylor thought of it as the complete opposite.
“It was like a big extended factory; I’m sorry to say. But if you like being smothered, I guess it was a very productive family. I was nine when I made my first films in Hollywood. I was used from the day I was a child and utilized by the studio,” she said.
She added: “I was promoted for their pockets. I never felt that they were a haven. I’ve always been very much my own person. I had my own mother and father — they were my family, not the bloody studio.”
Unlike other child stars, Elizabeth Taylor knew how to navigate Hollywood, and eventually made the transition into a massive movie star. Her development was not without its troubles, though, and there was one particular incident that she never forgot.
“When I was 15, and Louis B. Mayer started screaming at my mother and using swear words that I’d never heard before (‘I took you and your f*cking daughter out of the gutter’),” Taylor recalled.
“I uttered my first swear word and told him that he didn’t dare speak to my mother that way, and he and the studio could both go to hell and that I was never going to go back to his office. And I left my mother there with her eyes shut, and I think she was sort of praying.”
She received two Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Butterfield 8 (1961) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1967), as well as receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, awarded to individuals for “outstanding contributions to humanitarian causes.”
Moreover, Taylor had four additional nominations for an Academy Award – no one will forget her classical role in the film Cleopatra (1963).
“I have never had an acting lesson in my life. But I’ve learned, I hope, from watching people like Spencer Tracy, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Jimmy Dean — all people who were finely tuned and educated in the art of acting,” Taylor told Rolling Stone in 1987.
“They were my education. I found quite early on that I couldn’t act as a puppet — there would be something pulling my strings too hard — and that I did my best work by being guided, not by being forced”
But as successful as her professional life was, Taylor’s personal life often was described as “scandalous.”
She was married eight times to seven men – she wed Richard Burton twice – and gave birth to four children: Michael Wilding Jr., Chris Wilding, Liza Todd, and Maria Burton.
Her last marriage was to Larry Fortensky, whom she married in 1991. Their marriage lasted for five years before they divorced in 1996.