No celebrity rivals Elizabeth Taylor’s glamour and guts or her level of fame. She was the last major star to come out of the old Hollywood studio system and she is a legend known for her beauty and her magnetic screen presence in a career that spanned most of the twentieth century and nearly sixty films. But her private life was even more compelling than her Oscar-winning on-screen performances. During her seventy-nine years of rapid-fire love and loss she was married eight times to seven different men. Above all, she was a survivor–by the time she was twenty-six she was twice divorced and once widowed. Her life was a soap opera that ended in a deeply meaningful way when she became the first major celebrity activist to lead the fight against HIV/AIDS. A co-founder of amfAR, she raised more than $100 million for research and patient care. She was also a shrewd businesswoman who made a fortune as the first celebrity perfumer who always demanded to be paid what she was worth.
In the first ever authorized biography of the Hollywood icon, Kate Andersen Brower reveals the world through Elizabeth’s eyes. Brower uses Elizabeth’s unpublished letters, diary entries, and off-the-record interview transcripts as well as interviews with 250 of her closest friends and family to tell the full, unvarnished story of her remarkable career and her explosive private life that made headlines worldwide. Elizabeth Taylor captures this intelligent, empathetic, tenacious, volatile, and complex woman as never before, from her rise to massive fame at age twelve in National Velvet, to becoming the first person to negotiate a million-dollar salary for a film, to her eight marriages and enduring love affair with Richard Burton, her groundbreaking multi-million-dollar perfume empire, her dazzling jewelry, her lifelong battle with addiction, and her courageous efforts as an AIDS activist.
Here is a fascinating and complete portrait worthy of the legendary star and her legacy.
Elizabeth Taylor: The Grit and Glamour of an Icon (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) (AbeBooks) (Audible.com) was a must-read for me. I love a good “Old Hollywood” biography. I’d already read Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century by Sam Kashner, Nancy Schoenberger and even dipped my toe into historical fiction with #TheLizTaylorRing by #BrendaJanowitz, but now was a chance for an official record of Elizabeth Taylor’s extraordinary life.
Taylor led a fascinating life, from her birth in England and escape during World War II to landing in pictures at MGM. A star by age 12, Elizabeth never faded in the public’s eye, and used her fame to her best advantage. And despite her incredible beauty, let’s not forget that she was also very talented at what she did!
One little quibble with the book. Andersen Brower would occasionally mention Taylor’s eye color as blue. What? Everyone knows that Taylor had violet eyes, as I’d seen in several close-up photos over the years. It was one of her most well-known features. How could the official biographer get such a well-known fact wrong? What else could she have gotten wrong?
From all my previous knowledge of Taylor’s life, surprisingly little, it turns out. Besides her meteoric career on the silver screen, Taylor was also well-known for her love life, on full display for the public. Each of her eight marriages is documented with a chapter, some longer than others. What I found surprisingly short was the chapter on Richard Burton, whom Taylor married and divorced twice. Perhaps because whole books and documentaries were devoted to their relationship (see above), but I thought not enough attention was devoted to their passionate love affair and larger-than-life extravagances.
What Andersen Brower got right was Taylor’s activism in the LGBTQ community. She was there for many friends when they had to hide their sexuality because of the times they lived in, like Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson and Roddy McDowell. Her support never wavered. When HIV and AIDS was still seen as a “gay” disease where people were afraid to touch those afflicted, Taylor offered her support and created a charity to raise funds for AIDS research.
Lastly, because this is the first authorized biography of Taylor, the author had access and was granted interviews with children, grandchildren, friends, former husbands, and staff. What results is the most comprehensive looks at one of Hollywood’s most famous, infamous, and talented personalities of the 20th century.
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