Hollywood’s queen Elizabeth Taylor dies

LOS ANGELES: A stream of tributes poured in from celebrities and fans alike for legendary actress and pioneering AIDS activist Elizabeth Taylor who died from congestive heart failure.

The British-born Hollywood star was 79 and had been in Cedars-Sinai Hospital for over a month when she passed away early Wednesday surrounded by her family.

A leading member of Hollywood royalty, Taylor was known for her electrifying screen presence and turbulent romantic life, as well as her AIDS activism and personal battles with health problems and addiction issues.

Taylor was born Feb 27, 1932, in London to American parents. Considered one of Hollywood’s greatest stars of all time, she was married eight times – including twice to actor Richard Burton.

A teen actress, most of Taylor’s first films were unremarkable, but she became a box office star with 1944’s “National Velvet”, the story of a girl who trains and rides her horse to victory in the Grand National.

She won an Oscar for portrayal of a promiscuous girl-about town in “Butterfield 8” in 1960 and another for an alcoholic woman trapped in a vicious marriage in “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf” in 1966. One of her most famous roles, however, was “Cleopatra” in 1961 – where she met and fell in love with Burton.

“Cleopatra” was also notable as the first time any actor or actress had been paid $1 million for a movie. Other notable films included “Giant” with James Dean, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, “Suddenly Last Summer”, “The Taming of the Shrew”, “Under Milkwood” and “The Sandpiper”.

Her sultry dark looks, wide eyes and iconic eyelashes captivated many men and cinema audiences worldwide for decades. At times, her love life overshadowed her work as an actress, although it reinforced her stardom and celebrity.

In all she was married eight times – to seven men. They were Conrad Hilton, Michael Wilding, Michael Todd, Eddie Fisher, Richard Burton, Richard Burton (again), John Warner and Larry Fortensky.

“I will remember her as a woman whose heart and soul were as beautiful as her classic face and majestic eyes,” Warner said.

Major film roles dried up in the 1980s, although she later appeared as a guest star on The Simpsons and several TV movies.

However, in her later years it was her charity work for AIDS awareness, with the establishment of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, for which she was better known – as well as her friendship with the popstar Michael Jackson.

She also launched lucrative perfume and jewellery lines, pioneering merchandising efforts by Hollywood stars.

Her life was also marred by health problems, many of which were attributed to a horse fall she suffered while filming “National Velvet”, and she also famously battled addictions to alcohol and drugs.

She was given the honour Dame Elizabeth Taylor by the queen of England in 1999.

“My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humour, and love,” her son Michael Wilding said in a statement.

“Her remarkable body of work in film, her ongoing success as a businesswoman, and her brave and relentless advocacy in the fight against HIV/AIDS, all make us all incredibly proud of what she accomplished. We know, quite simply, that the world is a better place

for Mom having lived in it.”

Singer Elton John, a long-time friend of the actress, said: “We have just lost a Hollywood giant. More importantly, we have lost an incredible human being.”

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