Elizabeth Taylor was a big name during Hollywood’s Golden Age. The stunning actress is known for her role in Cleopatra, but I bet you have no idea what went on behind the scenes of that movie. In addition to her beauty and talent, Elizabeth Taylor is also famous for getting married eight times to seven different men. Like many stars who grew up in the entertainment industry, Elizabeth Taylor had her share of struggles.
Elizabeth Taylor worked with MGM Studios, and although she, at one time, became the highest-paid actress in the world, the studio didn’t always treat her with respect. Behind Elizabeth Taylor’s iconic purple eyes is a life filled with tragedy, betrayal, and broken marriages.
Check out everything you need to know about this beautiful Hollywood legend.
Born Far From Hollywood
On February 27th, 1932, Elizabeth Taylor was welcomed into the world. She was born in Hampstead, England, to American parents. She has since become a massive star in the Golden Age of Hollywood. She was destined for stardom. Taylor started her career in the 1940s as a child actress and remained a famous figure for the rest of her life.
In 1939, her family moved to the United States for a rather dark reason. World War II was progressing fast. Her parents worried that the war would spread to Great Britain and put their baby girl’s life in danger. So, they decided to move to California.
Her Mom’s Secret Man
It doesn’t come as a surprise that Elizabeth Taylor comes from a talented family. Her mom, Sara Sothern, was a recognizable stage actress and had a number of Broadway credits to her name. However, there is more to her legacy than her acting chops and her daughter’s impressive career.
There was a lot of gossip going around about her in Hollywood. One rumor claimed that Sara Taylor was having an affair with the notoriously evil MGM boss, Louis B. Mayer. I cannot confirm or deny this, but apparently, it was no secret, especially to the people on set. If that wasn’t bad enough, her daughter Elizabeth was not happy about it.
She Hated Her Boss at MGM
Even though Sara Taylor had a crush on Louis B. Mayer, Elizabeth hated “The Monster of MGM” with a passion. He always helped her and supported her career as a child. But as she grew up, she realized how egotistical and overbearing he is. There was a reason he has a reputation for being a cruel studio head.
Elizabeth started hating Mayer. To quote the starlet, she said the boss resembled “a gross thick penguin.” She went on to say how he looked at all his actors and employees like they were all “completely squashable.” This didn’t sit well with the actress, and when the time came, she told him what she really thought about him.
Don’t Mess with My Mama
Don’t mess with Elizabeth Taylor! She was never one to hold back her feelings. When the starlet was just a teenager, she witnessed her boss, Louis B. Mayer, criticize her mom. Elizabeth wasn’t about to let anyone speak to her mother like that. The young actress hit her boss, where it hurt.
She straight up told him that he and his studio could “go to hell.” A bunch of Mayer’s employees begged and pressured her to apologize, but the stubborn actress refused. Honestly, I don’t blame her. If anyone ever made a mean comment to my mom, I would speak my mind and never apologize for it. You mess with my mama, you mess with me.
Tragic Dinner Party
Elizabeth Taylor loved to entertain guests and often hosted dinner parties at her home. One evening, Elizabeth had people over for dinner, and her friend (and fellow actor) Montgomery Clift attended. On his way home, the actor fell asleep at the wheel and crashed his car into a tree.
Taylor was understandably terrified and felt guilty. She ran over to help Clift until the ambulance got there. One particularly frightening part of the whole ordeal was that Taylor literally had to pluck pieces of teeth from Clift’s tongue and throat so that he won’t choke. Thankfully, he survived, but his life was changed forever.
A Hollywood Disaster
As a result of the accident, Clift’s famous good looks were ruined. If that weren’t bad enough, things only got progressively worse. The actor developed a dependency on pills – specifically pain killers. The addiction caused him to behave erratically, which led to major studios blacklisting him.
However, Taylor still supported the actor. Not only did she feel guilty about his accident, but he was her friend, and he needed someone. She insisted for him to be cast in a movie with her. She wanted it so badly that she used her own salary as insurance. Sadly, Clift never got the chance. He passed away shortly before filming started at just 46 years old.
Marriage Number One was Terrifying
Elizabeth Taylor walked down the aisle in 1950 for the first time. She was just 18 years old when she married hotel heir Conrad Hilton Jr. Considering their age and the toxic Hollywood environment, it seems as though their relationship was doomed from the start. Three months after a long honeymoon in Europe, the couple divorced.
The divorce cited “irreconcilable differences,” but it was only a matter of time before the truth came out. Supposedly, the young actress was fearful of her husband. She was worried about his extreme gambling and drinking issues. It was obviously not the healthiest relationship, but that wasn’t even the worst part.
MGM Forced Her Into Marriage
Historians believe that MGM studios played a huge role in Taylor and Hilton’s marriage. The story goes, that they “suggested” that she enters a relationship with the hotel heir. Supposedly, they even bought their star a stunning, expensive wedding dress, and a white robe for their wedding night.
It should be noted that the studio never admitted that they were part of this marriage. However, the wedding was gorgeous and looked like a dream. Unfortunately, their marriage was the complete opposite – a total nightmare! Hilton had the nerve to call Taylor “a bore,” and she later stated that he physically abused her.
MGM Punished Her
Taylor and Hilton divorced less than a year into their marriage, and let’s just say, the studio was not happy about it. Taylor’s next movie seemed to have gone under the radar, and it was surprisingly low profile. The romantic comedy was called “Love is Better than Ever,” but the audience didn’t know about the behind-the-scenes darkness of the lighthearted film.
Allegedly, MGM forced the actress to star in the B-movie as punishment. Yes. The poor girl got in trouble for leaving her abusive husband. Divorce was considered a scandal at the time, and the studio was more concerned about their reputation than the safety of their biggest actress. Thankfully, the industry has changed.
Her Husband’s Betrayal
Elizabeth Taylor’s second husband was Michael Wilding. Taylor had a crush on the British actor, but they had a massive age difference. Despite the fact that he was 20 years older than Taylor, he seemed to be the immature one in their relationship. The couple had two sons together, and they appeared to be happy.
However, the couple split up when Taylor found out that whenever she went away, her husband hired female entertainers for “pool parties.” He is married to one of the most beautiful women in the world and still proceeds to cheat on her; he should know how lucky he is. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the worst part of their marriage.
Her Husband’s Alleged Secret
Hedda Hopper was a toxic gossip columnist at the time, and even she tried to stop Elizabeth Taylor from marrying Michael Wilding. She strongly believed that the actor was keeping a huge secret from his new bride – that he was gay. The columnist heavily implied that Wilding and his supposed friend Stuart were much closer than they let on.
Of course, these silly rumors didn’t stop Taylor from marrying Wilding. Hopper continued to publish numerous articles suggesting that Wilding has a wandering eye – for men. As we know now, being openly gay is accepted and even praised in 2020, but back in the day, it was considered a scandal that could end your career. That’s partly why many people (particularly actors) stayed closeted.
Finding Love Again
Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Wilding were officially divorced by 1957. But the stunning actress tied the knot once again with her third husband, Mike Todd. Todd was a famed Academy Award-winning producer best known for his 1956 production of “Around the World in 80 Days.” He did so much for the star and seemed to love her dearly.
He had a lot of money and was happy to spend it on his wife. For Taylor’s birthday, Todd rented out all of Madison Square Garden to throw her a massive party. 18,000 party guests were invited, and the entire event was broadcast on CBS. Sadly, the good times didn’t last forever.
Dubbed as a Gold-digger
Todd was super rich and enjoyed showering his new bride with luxurious gifts. But the press ran with whatever interpretation they wanted and constructed a narrative that she is a heartless gold-digger. However, Karina Longworth, a film historian, believes that there was a much sadder alternative.
Sure, Todd was a wealthy man, but that wasn’t the reason she married him. It was just that after two disastrous marriages, the actress just wanted to be free and have fun. She was forced to give up all her savings to Wilding after their messy divorce. Todd’s money allowed the star to feel safe. That didn’t mean she didn’t love him. He was the only one out of her seven marriages that didn’t end in divorce.
She Was Kinky
Apparently, when Debbie Reynolds hung out with Elizabeth Taylor and Mike Todd, she was shocked by the way the couple would violently fight with each other. When Reynold tried to step in and defend her friend, the actress told her to back off. Taylor explained that these weren’t really fights.
For Taylor and Todd, their fights were “foreplay.” They often fought before hitting the sheets (if you know what I mean), but it was reportedly consensual and not abusive. It seems as though their kinky approach worked; in 1957, the couple had a daughter named Liza. The family seemed to be happy, and Taylor was finally able to relax. Unfortunately, the good times ended far too soon.
Losing Her True Love
A year after their baby was born, Elizabeth Taylor suffered a huge tragedy. Mike Todd died in a devastating plane crash. As you can imagine, Taylor was distraught and completely heartbroken. She finally married a man who treats her with respect. They started a family, and suddenly, he was gone.
Despite all the rumors that Taylor was with Todd for his money, she truly loved him. The actress later revealed that he was one of the three loves of her life. As we previously mentioned, Taylor got married seven times, and Todd is the only husband she never divorced. His death really took a toll on her.
When Elizabeth Taylor almost died (which we’ll get into later), she had an overwhelming vision. The actress claimed that she saw her dead husband, Mike. He apparently told the actress that it wasn’t her time yet, but when it is, he will be on the other side waiting for her. Aww. How sweet?
During an interview with Dianne Sawyer, Taylor said: “I don’t fear [death] because, when I was on the other side, like in the tunnel, and was with Mike [Todd], it was so beautiful and warm and the light was so welcoming, and I held on to him, and he said you have to go back. You have things to do, and I’ll be here.”
The Other Woman
The tabloids sucked all the drama they could from Taylor’s relationship with Mike Todd, but it was nothing compared to the media frenzy caused by her next conquest: Hollywood heart-throb, Eddie Fisher. Just hours after he divorced America’s sweetheart, Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor did the unimaginable.
She didn’t walk but basically pranced down the aisle for the fourth time. Believe it or not, that wasn’t the worst part. Before Taylor stole her man, Debbie Reynolds was her best friend. And Taylor didn’t even wait for their divorce to sleep with him. This was a huge deal at the time. Imagine the Brangelina scandal times 20.
Infamous Love Triangle
In the midst of Taylor’s illicit affair with Eddie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds gave her gal pal Elizabeth a call, just to chat. Unfortunately, Taylor wasn’t the one who answered the phone. Instead, her cheating husband, Eddie Fisher, was on the other end of the line. Reynolds supposedly said, “Roll over darling and let me talk to Elizabeth.
The two actresses were extremely close and were even classmates in the 1950s. In 2010, Debbie told The Daily Mail: “There had been hints in the papers, and I had noticed that when I turned up at functions or parties on my own, my friends were whispering. Although I didn’t want to find out the truth, I had to face up to it. Even so, it was a great shock to find them together. It left me shattered.”
She Had Her Diva Moments
Elizabeth Taylor was dragged through the mud for her relationship with Eddie Fisher and betraying her best friend. After her 1958 movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Taylor needed a break from the public eye and decided to retire from movies. Unfortunately, she couldn’t just leave. Exclusives at MGM had a say, and they had other ideas.
After a heated dispute over her contract, the studio forced her to star as a sex worker for the film, Butterfield 8. To make matters worse, the co-star was her real-life husband, Eddie Fisher. Taylor resented the movie and didn’t have a problem letting the director know. She refused to speak to him throughout the entire filming process.
The Love-Making Scene
No matter what you think about their relationship, you can’t deny that Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher shared an intense passion. The actor admitted that he and his wife were so freaky, and during the movie’s lovemaking scene, the two actually did the deed. This doesn’t sound like a big deal when we’re living in 2020, but this was back in 1960.
Sex was still considered a scandalous topic, and lovemaking scenes in movies weren’t nearly as common as they are now. In fact, their lovemaking scene was ultimately cut from the final film. Considering they weren’t Hollywood’s favorite couple at the time, it was probably for the better.
Grieving James Dean
James Dean is a heartbreaking example of a star who was taken from the world far too soon. When he passed away, he left a huge hole in Hollywood, and the world, but nobody felt his loss and strongly as Elizabeth Taylor. At the time of his tragic death, Taylor was working with him and Rock Hudson on the film, Giant.
Well, on the day that the cast and crew found out about Dean’s death, the director George Stevens didn’t give anyone a break. He made the mourning actress film reaction shots for a scene that Dean was supposed to be involved in. Elizabeth Taylor never forgave Stevens for his insensitivity.
In 1944, tragedy struck when 12-year old Elizabeth Taylor was filming National Velvet. King Charles, the horse on set, was known to be aggressive, but he always seemed to be calm and behave around Elizabeth Taylor… until one life-changing day. The animal threw the young actress, and she severely injured her back.
Taylor forgave King Charles almost immediately. She loved him so much and even arranged to keep the horse after filming ended. Unfortunately, Taylor’s back injury plagued her for the rest of her life; she required over 20 surgeries and countless treatments. But other reports state that her scoliosis was the reason for her chronic back pain.
Highest-Paid Actress of Her Time
In 1961, Elizabeth Taylor began filming the most expensive movie ever made, Cleopatra. Her starring role as the Queen of the Nile earned the actress a paycheck of $1 million. At the time, this was the largest amount of money an actress was ever paid to be in a movie. But something tells me Elizabeth Taylor would have done it for less.
She later commented, “If someone is dumb enough to offer me a million dollars to make a picture, I’m certainly not dumb enough to turn it down.” Well… she has a point. A million dollars is a lot of money; especially, back then. But a hefty paycheck wasn’t the only thing Taylor took from the Cleopatra set.
The infamously troubled set of Cleopatra is where Elizabeth Taylor met Richard Burton. The movie was so expensive that it literally drove 20th Century Fox into bankruptcy, but that wasn’t even the most disturbing part. The worst thing to come out of the movie was Taylor’s next major Hollywood scandal.
The gorgeous actress fell in love with her co-star, Richard Burton, and started seeing each other. The romance between the two actors wouldn’t have been such a big deal if they both weren’t already married at the time. Burton’s spouse was a woman named Susan Hunt, and Taylor was still infamously (and scandalously) married to Eddie Fisher.
Getting her Friend Back
It didn’t take long for the press to leak photos of Taylor and Burton on the beach getting all hot and heavy. The fallout was devastating for both parties because they were both cheating on their spouses, and they were condemned for their “erotic vagrancy.”
It was only a matter of time before Taylor and Eddie Fisher broke up; she dumped him 1964. Then she made an iconic move by rekindling her relationship with Debbie Reynolds – her ex-best friend and a woman she betrayed when she slept with her husband. Somehow, Taylor and Reynolds managed to patch things up, but Taylor and Fisher did not. They split up and never spoke again.
She Married The Same Man Twice
Despite all the drama, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton became one of the most iconic duos in cinema. There was a good reason for it. It’s not common for couples to say that they got married, got divorced, and then married again. I mean, Eminem had an infamous relationship like that with Kim… but this was way before.
During one of their on-and-off periods, Burton gifted Taylor with a 69-carat diamond, which was once considered the most valuable diamond on the planet. He certainly knew how to win her heart because Taylor was known for her love of diamonds. Despite all the jewels, the couple broke up and divorced for the last time in 1976.
A Hollywood Legend Insulted Her
The fact that Taylor was already involved in her share of scandals, this was just another thing for everyone to talk about. Even back then, famous people were put under a microscope, and the entire world got to see their mistakes. Everyone had opinions on Burton’s and Taylor’s relationship.
Lauren Bacall was another star from Hollywood’s Golden Age, known for her distinctive voice. As a fellow celebrity, she was asked to comment on Burton’s affair with Elizabeth Taylor. She didn’t hold back. The cinema legend replied with a little insult saying: “Richard’s Values were not very good, and I don’t think his standards are either.” Ouch! Tell us how you really feel.
As we mentioned, Cleopatra was a notoriously troublesome movie to film for more than one reason. But none of them could compare to that day when Elizabeth Taylor almost died. Taylor started suffering from reoccurring bouts of pneumonia, and if they got really bad, it could become really dangerous – and possibly fatal.
One time, Taylor’s pneumonia attack was really bad on set. An assistant found her, and her face was a horrifying shade of blue. The actress was so sick that it was reported by news outlets that she actually passed away. She was given an emergency tracheotomy, and thankfully, she survived and recovered.
She Always Speaks Her Mind
We already established that Elizabeth Taylor doesn’t sugar coat anything. She says whatever is on her mind and isn’t shy about it. She was very outspoken about how she hated Butterfield 8. She resented the movie after her studio forced her to film it as a punishment. She didn’t really have anything positive to say about it.
But just because Elizabeth Taylor hated making the movie, doesn’t mean Hollywood agreed with her. Thanks to her brilliant performance in the movie, the star won her first Academy Award for Best Actress. When she was asked to comment about the movie’s success, Taylor’s amazing response was, “I still say it stinks.” At least she sticks to her opinions.
Her Oscar Win Was Tainted
That same year that Elizabeth Taylor won her first Oscar, Shirley MacLaine appeared to have been the favorite. The Oscars that year had its share of drama. It was believed that the only reason Taylor won was because of her recent hardships. Mainly, her near-death experience on the set of Cleopatra.
Many people thought that the only reason she won is that people felt sorry for her, not because of her talent. That’s a pretty brave assumption considering she did an incredible job with the role. However, that was the rumor. MacLaine herself commented, “I lost out to a tracheotomy.”
Whirlwind Romance with a Politician
The sixth time Elizabeth Taylor tied the knot, it was to a politician named John Warner in 1976. The couple had a romantic ceremony at the Second Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia. They had a whirlwind romance, but the actress got tired of Washing D.C. pretty quickly.
Taylor started developing a dependency on drugs and alcohol, and that’s when she realized their relationship wasn’t meant to be. By November 1982, the couple was divorced, and Taylor was free to pursue her last and odd, choice for a husband. As for Warner, he remarried a real estate agent named Jeanne Vander Myde in 2003.
The Younger Man
As you can tell, Elizabeth Taylor always had a healthy appetite for romance. In 1991, when Taylor was in her sixties, she married a man named Larry Fortensky. The hunky man was a construction worker, and twenty years younger than her. That means when she married her first husband, her last husband, Larry, wasn’t even born yet.
It doesn’t come as much of a shock, but the relationship didn’t last. The prenup agreement stated that Fortensky would be guaranteed one million dollars, as long as the marriage lasts for at least five years. The couple split up exactly five years later, almost to the day! But I’ll let you make of that what you will.
Her Genetic Mutation
Elizabeth Taylor is known for incredible eyes; they were undeniably her most compelling feature. But funny enough, doctors would classify her violet looking eyes as a genetic mutation. The condition is known as “distichiasis,” which is a mutation of the FOXC2 gene, which also leads to an extra pair of eyelashes.
Whatever this genetic mutation is, I want it. The double eyelashes made her gorgeous eyes stand out even more. However, it should be noted that there could be a downside. Sometimes, the extra eyelashes can poke and scratch the cornea if they curl inward. But thankfully, that didn’t happen to Elizabeth Taylor. She just got unique purple eyes.
Shaded by a Romanic Rival
After Elizabeth Taylor passed away, some people wondered if she would be buried next to Richard Burton. They had a powerful relationship, but it was a strange thought considering they were already broken up at the time of his death. Sally Hay, Burton’s actual widow, made sure that wasn’t going to happen. Hay bought the plot around Burton’s grave, but that wasn’t all.
She put a gigantic gravestone across both plots, seemingly marking her territory. Hay wasn’t going to let Taylor pull a diva move, especially after she died. However, Taylor’s coffin got to the funeral 15 minutes after it was scheduled to start. She stated in her will that she wanted to be fashionably late – even in death.
No Time to Mourn
When she landed the role of Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Elizabeth Taylor beat out the one and only Marilyn Monroe for the part. Initially, the actress was thrilled she got the role and was excited to portray Maggie. But then, her whole world came crumbling down when she found out her darling husband Mike Todd died in a plane crash.
She discovered the news on the exact same day she started filming the movie. Unfortunately, she had no choice but to work. The starlet’s grief caused her to stutter in the movie. Luckily, her character’s southern accent helped repress it. I just can’t believe they made her work on the day her husband died.
She Was Banned From Egypt
In 1959, Elizabeth Taylor shocked the world when she converted to Judaism. Many people thought it had to do with the recent death of her husband, Mike Todd. Even though Todd was Jewish, the actress claimed the choice was completely personal. When she converted, Taylor took the Hebrew name, Elisheba Rachel.
Elizabeth Taylor was thrilled, but not everyone was happy with her decision. Her conversion almost jeopardized the filming of Cleopatra. Scenes of the movie were filmed in England, Italy, Egypt, and Spain. Because she converted to the Jewish faith, the Egyptian government initially barred the star from entering the country and banned all Columbia Picture’ films due to the outrage. Thankfully, they ended up letting her in.
A Presidential Scandal
Since Taylor has been working in Hollywood at a young age, Taylor was a precocious and mature child. Maturity isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in Elizabeth Taylor’s case, it led to some shocking consequences. It was alleged by one of her biographers that the well-developed starlet was only 15 when she ended up in bed with 36-year old Ronald Regan. Gross!
He was a recognizable actor at the time. Apparently, the teenager went to the future president’s house, and they started making out on the couch before moving into his bedroom. She later revealed to one of her friends, “Reagan was treating me like a grown woman, and that thrilled me.” Yikes! But she wasn’t a grown woman. She was in high school, Reagan!!