One of the great Hollywood stars of the 20th century, Elizabeth Taylor had three fairly distinct career personas: as the winsome child star of movies like National Velvet
(1944); 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 as an older Hollywood grande dame
, tabloid favorite, AIDS activist and friend to pop stars like Elton John
and Michael Jackson
. Her tempestuous marriage to Welsh actor Richard Burton
made them Hollywood's reigning couple in the 1960s: 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 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
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.