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Elizabeth Taylor dies at 79

After a five-decade long film career, it was announced yesterday that classic Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor had died, at age 79.

According to her publicist, the tempestuous actress had died “peacefully” in Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, after being hospitalized with a congestive heart failure six weeks ago.

In her prime, Taylor won two Academy Awards for her role in Butterfield 8 (1960) and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966), where she starred alongside her two-time husband, Richard Burton.

She also starred in Cleopatra (1963) where she negotiated a record-breaking $1million contract, a production which almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox after producers spilled over their allocated $2million budget.

Gracing the screen with a sort-of old Hollywood charm, her personal life was just as colourful, if not more tumultuous than her on-screen persona.

Married eight times to seven husbands, her most prolific relationship and perhaps most volatile marriage was to fellow actor, Richard Burton.

After getting married in 1964, the pair divorced 11 years later, only to get married again in the same year, splitting shortly after.

“I never planned to acquire a lot of jewels or a lot of husbands” she said during one of her last interviews with Kim Kardashian in Harpers Bazaar. “I have been supremely lucky in my life in that I have known great love, and of course I am the temporary custodian of some incredible and beautiful things.”

She maintained close friendships with Montgomery Clift, and more notably Michael Jackson, where Taylor acted as godmother to the late pop icon’s two children, Paris Jackson and Prince Michael.

She often spoke about how she and Jackson shared a special bond over their “horrible” if not absent childhood.

“The fact is I stopped being a child the moment I started working in pictures, aged nine” she once said. “That’s not a childhood”.

But behind the veneer of Hollywood glamour, it was no secret; the two-time Oscar winner was suffering from a life-long struggle with addiction.

Similarly to close friend, Michael Jackson, she was heavily dependent on painkillers and prescription pills, and suffered from alcohol abuse.

She eventually overcame her addiction in the 1980s, and emerged as valiant advocate and spokesperson for AIDS.

“I have never felt more alive than when I watched my children delight in something, never more alive than when I have watched a great artist perform, and never richer than when I have scored a big check to fight AIDS” said Taylor.

After being wheel-chair bound for several years in the later part of her life, she fought through a series of health ailments which included three hip-replacement surgeries, a benign brain tumor, and pneumonia.

Despite her depreciating physical state, and eventual death yesterday, she will always be remembered as one the greatest screen legends to emerge from Hollywood’s golden age era.

Elizabeth, you will be missed.

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