Dame Elizabeth Rosemond “Liz” Taylor, (February 27, 1932 – March 23, 2011) was a British-American actress. From her early years as a child star, she became one of the great screen actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Taylor was recognized for her acting ability and for her glamorous lifestyle, beauty, and distinctive violet eyes.
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 costar 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 theater.
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.
In 1959, at age 27, after nine months of study, Taylor converted from Christian Science to Judaism, taking the Hebrew name Elisheba Rachel. She stated that her conversion was something she had long considered and was not related to her marriages. After Mike Todd’s death, Taylor said that she “felt a desperate need for a formalized religion”, and explained that neither Catholicism nor Christian Science were able to address many of the “questions she had about life and death”.
After her conversion to Judaism, Taylor worked for Jewish causes throughout her life. In 1959, her large-scale purchase of Israeli Bonds caused Arab boycotts of her films. In 1962, she was barred from entering Egypt to complete Cleopatra; its government announcing that she would not be allowed to come to Egypt because she had adopted the Jewish faith and “supports Israeli causes”. However the ban was lifted in 1964 after it was considered that the film had brought favorable publicity to Egypt.
In 1974 Taylor and Richard Burton considered marrying in Israel, but were unable to do so because Burton was not Jewish. Taylor helped to raise money for organizations such as the Jewish National Fund; advocated for the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israel and canceled a visit to the USSR because of its condemnation of Israel due to the Six-Day War, along with signing a letter protesting the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 of 1975.
She offered herself as a replacement hostage after more than 100 Israeli civilians were taken hostage in the Entebbe skyjacking in 1976. After the success of the operation in which the hostages were freed, she acted with Kirk Douglas in a TV special, Victory at Entebbe, broadcast in January, 1977. Of her role, she stated, “I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. I have strong ties to Israel and I firmly believe in the courage and dedication of the Entebbe mission.