One of the great Hollywood stars of the 20th century, Elizabeth Taylor had three fairly distinct career personas: first as the winsome child star of movies like National Velvet
(1944); then as a fiery prima donna, the acknowledged "world's most beautiful woman" and star of movies like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
(1958) and Butterfield 8
(1960); and finally as an older Hollywood grande dame
, tabloid favorite, AIDS activist and friend to pop stars like Elton John
and Michael Jackson
. Elizabeth Taylor's tempestuous marriage to Welsh actor Richard Burton
made them Hollywood's reigning couple in the 1960s. (They married twice and divorced twice between 1964 and 1976.) They starred together as lovers in the big-budget epic Cleopatra
(1963, with Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra
and Richard Burton as Marc Antony
) and then played bitterly battling spouses in the 1966 film of Edward Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Elizabeth Taylor had seven husbands and eight marriages in all: hotelier Nicky Hilton (1950-51, divorced), actor Michael Wilding (1952-57, divorced), producer Mike Todd (1957 until his 1958 death in a plane crash), singer Eddie Fisher (1959-64, divorced), actor Richard Burton (1964-74, divorced), Burton again (1975-76, divorced again), politician John Warner (1976-82, divorced), and construction worker Larry Fortensky (1991-96, divorced). Elizabeth Taylor won best actress Oscars for Butterfield 8
and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
. She was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) in 2000 by Queen Elizabeth II
. She died in Los Angeles in 2011 of congestive heart failure.