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National Velvet (1944) was Taylor's first success, and she starred in Father of the Bride (1950), A Place in the Sun (1951), Giant (1956), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), and Suddenly, Last Summer (1959). She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for BUtterfield 8 (1960), played the title role in Cleopatra (1963), and married her co-star Richard Burton.
They appeared together in 11 films, including Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), for which Taylor won a second Academy Award. From the mid-1970s, she appeared less frequently in film, and made occasional appearances in television and theatre. Her much publicized personal life included eight marriages and several life-threatening illnesses. From the mid-1980s, Taylor championed HIV and AIDS programs; she co-founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research in 1985, and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1993.
She received the Presidential Citizens Medal, the Legion of Honour, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and a Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute, who named her seventh on their list of the "Greatest American Screen Legends". Taylor died of congestive heart failure in March 2011 at the age of 79, having suffered many years of ill health.
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Taylor's two first names are in honor of her paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Mary (Rosemond) Taylor. Colonel Victor Cazalet, one of their closest friends, had an important influence on the family. He was a rich, well-connected bachelor, a Member of Parliament and close friend of Winston Churchill. Cazalet loved both art and theater and was passionate when encouraging the Taylor family to think of England as their permanent home.
Additionally, as a Christian Scientist and lay preacher, his links with the family were spiritual. He also became Elizabeth's godfather. In one instance, when she was suffering with a severe infection as a child, she was kept in her bed for weeks. She "begged" for his company: "Mother, please call Victor and ask him to come and sit with me." Biographer Alexander Walker suggests that Elizabeth's conversion to Judaism at the age of 27 and her life-long support for Israel, may have been influenced by views she heard at home.
Walker notes that Cazalet actively campaigned for a Jewish homeland, and her mother also worked in various charities, which included sponsoring fundraisers for Zionism. Her mother recalls the influence that Cazalet had on Elizabeth: Victor sat on the bed and held Elizabeth in his arms and talked to her about God. Her great dark eyes searched his face, drinking in every word, believing and understanding.
A dual citizen of the United Kingdom and the United States, she was born British, through her birth on British soil and an American citizen through her parents. She reportedly sought, in 1965, to renounce her United States citizenship, to wit: "Though never accepted by the State Department, Elizabeth renounced in 1965.
Attempting to shield much of her European income from U.S. taxes, Elizabeth wished to become solely a British citizen. According to news reports at the time, officials denied her request when she failed to complete the renunciation oath, refusing to say that she renounced "all allegiance to the United States of America."
At the age of three, Taylor began taking ballet lessons. Shortly before the beginning of World War II, her parents decided to return to the United States to avoid hostilities. Her mother took the children first, arriving in New York in April 1939, while her father remained in London to wrap up matters in his art business, arriving in November. They settled in Los Angeles, California, where her father established a new art gallery, which included many paintings he shipped from England.
The gallery would soon attract numerous Hollywood celebrities who appreciated its modern European paintings. According to Walker, the gallery "opened many doors for the Taylors, leading them directly into the society of money and prestige" within Hollywood's movie colony.