Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Last Great Glamour Icon Says Farewell

Larry King: "Elizabeth Taylor was a great friend, a great star and one gutsy woman. She was so special. You won't see the likes of her again…"

She of the violet eyes.
It goes without saying that Liz Taylor (or Dame Elizabeth Taylor to the little people) was one of, if not THE biggest name in Hollywood. She was known not only for her multiple Oscars in a plethora of movies that were destined to be classics, but also for the drama she brought off-screen to the media surrounding Hollywood. She was not only one of the major catalysts of Superstardom and Celebrity, but also of the idea that we as a society should be interested in the private lives of the rich and famous, because... well, she made it interesting.
“I’ve always admitted that I’m ruled by my passions.”
Stephen Fry: RIP Dame Elizabeth Taylor, surely the last of a breed…

Nobody can say that Taylor was not an intelligent and extroverted woman, especially the way she lived life as she pleased before the time that women in North America were allowed to do so. She always walked a fine line between putting on a grand show for the cameras and being labeled "too riske" for the common good. In the end, her tumultuous and drama-laden life and career earned her a cemented place in top ranks of Hollywood Icons, but in every sense, she also left that status far behind when she showed the world that she was also a giving and charitable lady of grace as she took on work benefitting AIDs research before it was a popular issue.

With co-star Montgomery Clift whose life she saved.

She has always been noted by her peers as being  a good and kind person. Her life on camera started with her early years and the choice of her relationships followed alongside.

On the set of Lassie Come Home
Wearing the Golden Football of one of her first notable bfs.

Nothing captured the media's attention more though, than the extravagance that Liz embodied. And nothing displayed that more, than her multiple weddings, their subsequent drama, and her choice of grooms.

Wed Conrad Hilton in 1950 at age 17.
Attendees in yellow organdy...

The hotel heir accepts a sweet token...

Liz married the first "Nicky" Hilton at her most extravagant wedding in 1950. Much of the wedding was promoted and paid for by MGM as her movie "Father of the Bride" opened one month later. Her $1500 dress was a gift from the studio, a creation by MGM studio designer Helen Rose (who also created Grace Kelly's wedding gown). The white satin dress, accented with seed pearls and beading, featured a sweetheart neckline that was covered with a chiffon overlay. She also wore a veil attached to a cap combined with a pearl tiara. The dress was very similar to the one she wore in Father of the Bride.

The marriage lasted eight months. To be fair, she was only seventeen at the time and although he had been sober for his courtship with her, he reportedly fell off the wagon during their wedding reception and was a less than stellar groom, flirting with other passengers on their honeymoon voyage and gambling. He was also, she would reveal later in life, abusive, although she would not recognize this trait until she felt less jaded with subsequent marriages.

If you ask me, in this photo taken while they settle a property dispute, he still looks pretty enamored. She looks much wiser. He went on to date Natalie Wood and Joan Collins, then wed and divorced an oil baroness before his early death in 1969.

wearing a fairly modest suit and pearls
One year later, Liz was married to British actor Michael Wilding in London. Michael was twenty years her senior and she was his second wife. He provided for Liz the stability she needed after her dramatic, albeit short, first marriage and she fell into the role of wife more easily in this second marriage.

While fairly accomplished in film and on stage overseas, Michael contracted to MGM during his years with Liz and co-starred in mainly dull roles. His most memorable role in the US was the Pharoah in the Egyptian.

This marriage lasted five years and saw Liz birth two sons, Michael Jr. and Christopher. During her final days of being Mrs. Wilding, Liz was swept off her feet by the producer of "Around The World In 80 Days".

Weds Mike Todd in February 1957.
In 1957, only three days after her divorce from Michael Wilding, Liz wed producer Mike Todd. Although 24 years older than she, she has admitted publicly that although not always easy, this was her happiest marriage. "He had a joy, a relish about being alive, a vitality that was so contagious," she wrote. "He was a fabulous con artist, could con the gold out of your teeth, but was terribly, gregariously generous." 

Liz's parents to the far left. Liz wears a hooded silk gown.

It was with Todd that she had baby girl Liza (short, of course for Elizabeth). Tragically, Todd would die when his plane, Lucky Liz, crashed in 1958 in New Mexico. Eddie Fisher, Todd's best friend, stated that no fragments of Todd had been found, and that his coffin contained only his ring. The marriage had lasted 418 days.

Liz and Todd attend Derby Day with Fisher and Reynolds following.
Marries Fisher in a green silk hooded number.

 In the time that followed, Liz would be portrayed in the media for being a home-wrecker as she married Eddie little more than a year later. An extremely popular pop singer, Eddie Fisher left his wife, Debbie Reynolds to marry her. It seems widely assumed that he had designs on her when she was married to Todd.

Liz, Eddy and Debbie.
When interviewed, Reynolds graciously said that she could understand being dumped "for the world's most beautiful woman (Taylor)", previously a close friend. Taylor and Reynolds later resumed their friendship, and mocked Fisher in their TV movie These Old Broads, wherein their characters ridiculed the ex-husband they shared, named "Freddie."

Fisher visits Taylor on the set of Cleopatra
Her next marriage to Richard Burton may have been karma for Fisher. While filming Cleopatra, Liz was to have an affair with her co-star where director Joseph Mankiewicz described their chemistry as "like being locked in a cage with two tigers".

Liz cutting Richard's hair the day her divorce from Fisher finalizes.

Frocked in yellow chiffon.

A few flowers in her hair.
Promptly after the release of the movie left Fisher for the Welsh actor. They wed in Montreal in 1964, nine days after her divorce from Eddie Fisher was finalized. They stared in many movies together, most notably "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" where they seemed to portray their own stormy off-screen relationship.

Some of my favourite photos of Liz were taken during this marriage. I think it was a time where she had come into her own both as an actress and as a person... and probably felt an equal to Burton, which may have contributed to their tumultuous relationship. Regardless of the media feast that they provided for the paparazzi, she seems to be more peaceful and relaxed in many of the photos taken during this time.

Dress no. 2
The two divorced in 1974 and remarried in 1975... and divorced in 1976.

That same year Liz married Senator John Warner. This marriage lasted until 1982. Liz states that when Warner was elected she started to feel redundant and began to eat and drink "with abandon" to try to console herself. She said "I had nothing else to do".

In October 1991, she married for the eighth and final time to Larry Fortensky, a construction worker. She had met Fortensky, 20 years her junior, while in rehab. The opulent ceremony was held at Michael Jackson's 2,700-acre Neverland Ranch. Jackson gave away the bride, who wore a pale yellow gown by Valentino. Fortensky's best man was Liz's hairdresser, Jose Eber. Among the 150 guests were Liza Minnelli, Eddie Murphy and former first lady Nancy Reagan. The marriage ended in 1996.

"I think I ended up being the scarlet woman partly because of my rather puritanical upbringing and beliefs," she once said. "I couldn't just have a romance; it had to be marriage."

Rest in Peace and Love Dame Liz, you will be missed.

* Hotel heir Nicky Hilton (married May 6, 1950-divorced January 29, 1951)
* Actor Michael Wilding (married February 21, 1952-divorced January 26, 1957)
* Producer Mike Todd (married February 2, 1957-his death March 22, 1958)
* Singer Eddie Fisher (married May 12, 1959-divorced March 6, 1964)
* Actor Richard Burton (married March 15, 1964-divorced June 26, 1974)
* Actor Richard Burton (2nd Marriage) (married October 10, 1975-divorced July 29, 1976)
* Senator John Warner (married December 4, 1976-divorced November 7, 1982)
* Teamster construction-equipment operator Larry Fortensky (married October 6, 1991-divorced October 31, 1996)

Photo credits to Time/Life, Splash,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, I wouldn't say she was the LAST Glamour-Icon, Andrea...