Elizabeth Taylor Dies at 79

The Atlantic
Elizabeth Taylor Dies at 79
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Elizabeth Taylor Dies at 79

Elizabeth Taylor, the screen legend whose career spanned more than 60 years and included star turns in Cleopatra, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, passed away this morning in Los Angeles at the age of 79, reports ABC News. Taylor had been hospitalized at L.A.'s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center since February for symptoms related to congestive heart failure.

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Taylor made Hollywood history in 1961 when she became the first actress to break the million-dollar salary threshold for Cleopatra. Reshoots and spiraling production costs turned the project into the most expensive film (adjusted for inflation) in Hollywood history and nearly drove 20th Century Fox out of business.

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In her later years, she was perhaps as well known for her personal life--including eight marriages to seven husbands--as for her dramatic prowess. She made headlines for her jet-setting lifestyle, her opulent line of jewelry, and her struggles with alcohol and barbiturate abuse.

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Here's how people are remembering her around the web:

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  • Roger Ebert tweeted a link to his 1969 interview with Taylor and husband Richard Burton on the eve of the release of Anne of the Thousand Days.
  • Even non-Hollywood writers are paying their respects to Taylor today. "When the media tributes call her an icon, I think what is meant is: She always captured popular attention — whether on the silver screen or in People magazine," mused National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez. "Whether for her marriages, or her activism. When we saw her, she often seemed in pain. I pray she has found some peace.
  • Among the most widely circulated pieces of footage today is a tribute to Taylor filmed by Paul Newman for TMC before his own death in 2008. Newman and Taylor worked together in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

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  • Hit Fix's Alan Sepinwall was one of many Twitter users disappointed to discover Taylor's two Simpsons appearances--both as herself and the voice of baby Maggie--were not available online.

 

  • The Ticket's Holly Bailey reminded people Taylor wasn't just an actress and Hollywood icon. From 1976 to 1982, she was married to Virginia Sen. John Warner and was just like every other congressional spouse. The couple divorced after six years and Taylor admitted later she was "the loneliest person in the world" while in Washington.
  • Kenneth Turan would go on to become the film critic for the Los Angeles Times, but when he saw Elizabeth Taylor in The Washington Post newsroom one day in the late 1970s, he was just a young sports writer on the way up. He shared his memory of that day:

I never met Elizabeth Taylor, but when I think of her career I think of a moment when I saw her across a crowded room, the Washington Post newsroom in the mid-1970s, where I worked and where the actress was paying a kind of Hollywood state visit.

Other stars had come to the Post newsroom in the post-Watergate era, and despite their celebrity they had often tried unsuccessfully to blend in to the point where they were irritated if people gawked. Not Elizabeth Taylor. Dressed to be noticed, her fabulous eyes accentuated by makeup, huge diamonds on her hands, she knew she was a star and relished, even cherished her position. She will be missed.

  • The Washington Post credits her with developing the blueprint for the modern celebrity. "More than for any film role," writes Adam Bernstein, "she became famous for being famous, setting a media template for later generations of entertainers, models and all variety of semi-somebodies."  That may be true, says the Boston Globe's Ty Burr, but she curated her fame in odd ways during her later years. "Her final husband was a construction worker she had met in rehab. She called her close friend Michael Jackson "the most normal person I know." She had her 60th birthday party at Disneyland, and irony was not on the menu.
  • It was friend Rock Hudson's death from AIDS in 1985 that prompted her to devote so much of her time and money in later years to AIDS/HIV-related causes, notes People's obituary. On Twitter, Magic Johnson sent out his condolences. Elizabeth," he wrote, "thank you for all your help in the battle for HIV and AIDS. You will be missed."
  • Today Show contributor John Harti used the occasion to mark Taylor's consistency as an actress. She was "one of those rare performers who give career-peak performances as a child, a teenager, a young adult and as a middle-aged studio veteran...unlike most child stars, she survived the studio system, escaped its pigeon-holing, and established herself as an independent performer with a rare instinct for choosing strong scripts and co-stars."
  • The xx's Emily Yoffe recalls her two up-close encounters with Taylor, one at the Kennedy Center in the early 1980s and another at a Los Angeles restaurant a decade later. At each, "[Taylor] effect on everyone in the room demonstrated what real fame is."  And while "Taylor reduced everyone to a gawker," Yoffe's enduring memory from the evenings was "what a burden being this famous must be, your ever gesture noted, the impossibility of ever just disappearing into a crowd." Without even really seeming to try, Taylor possessed "enduring power to reduce everyone to a stunned fan," whether they wanted to be or not.
  • There was no shortage of photo slideshows commemorating Taylor's life and career, but the most compelling presentation was at  Vanity Fair, showing her 1976 trip to Iran. Go to their website for the whole slideshow.

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