National Velvet and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof established her as a star among stars with beauty extraordinaire. She was something of a romantic as a young girl but then, and after two divorces, tragedy struck with the death of Michael Todd, her third husband. Her persona took on a dangerous, unpredictable quality.
She married Eddie Fisher out of loneliness and a desire to be close with Todd’s best friend. They used each other to help keep the memory of him alive. Fisher passionately adored her and would never so much love again because of her, and this was even though she made a fool out of him. Once successful as a singer, his career became secondary to his devotion to her; and when she left, his limelight forever died.
Her acting in Tin Roof and Suddenly Last Summer was stunning but for neither of those two did she win an academy award. She won for Butterfield 8, a movie she hated and a movie for which some (Shirley MacLaine) say she got sympathy votes because of a tracheotomy.
Next was Cleopatra, for which she was guaranteed an unheard-of sum of $1 million. Though ever beautiful, her presence on the film was less than stellar, maybe because of the script and partly because her weak voice did not convince the imagination that it belonged to a demanding queen. In spite of herself to stay true to Mike Todd’s memory, she fell in love with Cleopatra co-star Richard Burton. The movie was a financial flop but the scandal surrounding it captured headlines internationally.
Liz and Dick went on to do several movies together, none of them very impressive except, of course, for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe, Elizabeth’s other academy award performance.
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were very much in love but their two marriages failed, largely it seems because of Richard’s drinking and womanizing. Yet he could never shake her from his system. She was his “ocean.”
Elizabeth went on to a couple more failed marriages, including one to Senator John Warner. She may have tried to find love again, but no one could fit the place of Michael Todd or Richard Burton in the deepest places of her heart. After Virginia Woolfe, she never had another acting role worth remembering. She instead gave most of herself to charity work, writing books, a successful perfume endeavor, and loyalty to her friends and family.
Elizabeth will always be remembered as the actress titled “the most beautiful woman in the world.” Not everyone will agree, but it’s impossible to find any woman whose face, particularly the eyes, was more astonishingly beautiful.