How Elizabeth Taylor redefined celebrity

3GM March 24, 2011 0

By Rajini Vaidyanathan
BBC News, Washington

Elizabeth Taylor won two Oscars but many people remember her as much for her eight tumultuous marriages, ill health and addictions, all lived out in a way more public than any Hollywood star had done before.

Her life read like a script for many of today’s Hollywood celebrities – she was a child star whose life was played out in the media, someone who was hounded by the paparazzi, had high profile relationships, and even battled drug addiction.

Elizabeth Taylor, who has died aged 79, in many ways defined the notion of modern day celebrity, someone whose life off-screen, as well as on, captivated millions.

“She was one of the first to really make her personal life as important as her professional life in terms of her stardom,” says William Mann, a biographer of Taylor.

One of the main reasons was that her personal life had a gripping narrative of its own. Marrying eight times, twice to the same man, Elizabeth Taylor first went down the aisle at the age of 18. By the time she was 26 she was already a widow.

Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands

  • 1950-1: Conrad “Nicky” Hilton. Hotel heir, Taylor divorced him because of his drinking
  • 1952-7: Michael Wilding. Actor 19 years her senior, the couple had two sons before divorcing
  • 1957-8: Michael Todd. Film producer, his death in a plane crash left Taylor a widow. They had one daughter together
  • 1959-64: Eddie Fisher. Singer and Todd’s best friend, he divorced his wife to marry Taylor. But their marriage, in turn, ended in divorce
  • 1964-74 and 1975-6: Richard Burton. An actor, he and Taylor had a turbulent relationship
  • 1976-82: John Warner. US Republican senator, their marriage ended in divorce
  • 1991-6: Larry Fortensky. A construction worker, the pair married at Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch. But they divorced five years later
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