Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor has passed away aged 79 at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, where she had recently been admitted with congestive heart failure. Born to American parents in Hampstead, London in 1932, Taylor began taking ballet lessons at the age of three and in 1941 she was signed to a contract by Universal Pictures, making her screen debut that same year in the comedy There’s One Born Every Minute (dir. Harold Young). The following year she moved to MGM and starred alongside Roddy McDowall in Lassie Come Home (dir. Fred M. Wilcox) and made further appearances in Jane Eyre (1944, dir. Robert Stevenson) and The White Cliffs of Dover (1944, dir. Clarence Brown) before shooting to stardom as the lead character in National Velvet (1944, dir. Clarence Brown).
In 1948 Taylor earned critical acclaim for her first adult role in the 1949 British thriller Conspirator (dir. Victor Saville) and went on to appear in classics such as Father of the Bride (1950, dir. Vincente Minnelli), A Place in the Sun (1951, dir. George Stevens) and Giant (1956, dir. George Stevens) before earning a trio of Academy Award nominations for Raintree County (1957, dir. Edward Dmytryk), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958, dir. Richard Brooks) and Suddenly, Last Summer (1959, dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz). In 1960 she received her first Academy Award for BUtterfield 8 (1960, dir. Daniel Mann) and also became Hollywood’s highest paid actress, headlining the lavish epic Cleopatra (1963, dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz) alongside two-time husband Richard Burton.
Taylor earned a second Academy Award for her work in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966, dir. Mike Nichols) and continued to make regular appearances during the 1960s and 70s alongside Hollywood legends such as Marlon Brando, Warren Beatty, Jane Fonda and Ava Gardner. In the 1980s she battled alcoholism and made only sporadic screen appearances, with her last cinematic role coming in 1994’s The Flintstones (dir. Brian Levant). In later years the eight times married actress devoted much of her time to AIDS-related fundraising and in 1999 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.