Published March 23, 2011
Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor died Wednesday at the age of 79.
Her rep told FOX News she died in the early morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles surrounded by her children.
Taylor had been hospitalized for over a month at Cedars-Sinai, where she was being treated for symptoms of congestive heart failure.
"My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humor, and love," her son Michael Wilding said in a statement. "Though her loss is devastating to those of us who held her so close and so dear, we will always be inspired by her enduring contribution to our world. Her legacy will never fade, her spirit will always be with us, and her love will live forever in our hearts."
Born in London on Feb. 27, 1932 to American parents -- her father was an art dealer, her mother had once been an actress -- Taylor moved to California with her family when she was seven and was quickly spotted by a talent scout.
She made her film debut aged 10 in "There's One Born Every Minute" and then hit the big time at 12 playing horse-crazy Velvet Brown in "National Velvet" (she blamed several spills from a horse during filming for later back problems).
The film, a smash hit, made her a household name and she went on to star in nearly 60 movies and dazzle as the last great glamorous star of the Hollywood studio system. Her first adult role was in "Father of the Bride" (1950) and she followed that with such classics as "A Place in the Sun" (1951), "Giant" (1956), "Raintree County" (1957), "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958), "Butterfield Eight" (1960) "Cleopatra" (1963) and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" (1966).
She won Oscars for her performances in "Butterfield Eight" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
She was considered one of the world's most beautiful women with her electric violet eyes, cloud of dark hair and voluptuous figure and she acquired husbands with regularity: Conrad "Nicky" Hilton (1950-51), Michael Wilding (1952-57), Michael Todd (1957-58), Eddie Fisher (1959-64), Richard Burton (1964-74 and 1975-76), John Warner (1976-82) and Larry Fortensky (1991-1996). Todd died in a plane crash, leaving her a widow; she divorced all the others.
Taylor's relationship with acclaimed Welsh actor Burton burned up the headlines for years. They met during the filming of "Cleopatra" when he played Marc Antony to her Queen of the Nile. Both were married to others --Taylor's then-husband was Eddie Fisher, who had left his wife Debbie Reynolds for her -- and their tempestuous relationship was nonstop gossip fodder. Taylor once said of the time, "I don't remember much about 'Cleopatra.' There were a lot of other things going on."
It was also Burton who bought her several of her magnificent jewels, including the pear-shaped 69-carat diamond that came to be called the Burton-Taylor Diamond. (She later auctioned it off to fund a hospital in Botswana.)
The couple acted together again in a riveting version of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" -- for which Taylor, playing an unkempt shrew, won a Best Actress Academy Award to add to her earlier one for "Butterfield 8" --along with a string of lesser films including "The Sandpiper," "The Comedians" and "Boom!"
After the death of her close friend and "Giant" costar Rock Hudson from AIDS, Taylor threw herself into raising funds to fight the disease and co-founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFar). That work gained her a special Oscar in 1993.
Her own health went through some precarious patches: a near fatal illness while filming "Butterfield 8," a benign brain tumor, congestive heart failure, skin cancer, a repeatedly broken back, hip replacements and pneumonia.
She was also an entrepreneur, introducing several perfumes with names like "White Diamonds" and "Black Pearls" and a line of diamond and precious stone jewelry.
For her various activities, Taylor was made a Dame of the British Empire and a Commander of Arts and Letters by the French government.
Amid all the tumult of her life, all the headlines and publicity, both good and bad, Taylor just carried on. "I'm a survivor, " she once said, "a living example of what people can go through and survive."
Taylor is survived by her children, Michael and Christopher Wilding by her second marriage, Liza Todd by her third, and Maria Burton, who she adopted with Richard Burton, to whom she was twice married. She also had nine grandchildren.