Elizabeth Taylor | Kate Andersen Brower

Summary of: Elizabeth Taylor: The Grit & Glamour of an Icon
By: Kate Andersen Brower

Introduction

Delve into the captivating life of Elizabeth Taylor in ‘The Grit & Glamour of an Icon’ by Kate Andersen Brower. The book chronicles Taylor’s rise from a childhood steeped in dance and performance to her unparalleled success as a Hollywood actress. Explore the highs and lows that shaped her acting career, her personal struggles with health issues and addiction, and her deep love for animals and jewelry. Beyond her on-screen persona, the book highlights Taylor’s contributions as an activist and philanthropist, shedding light into her unwavering support for the LGBTQ+ community and her advocacy for AIDS research and funding.

A Star’s Rise: Elizabeth Taylor

Born in 1932, Elizabeth Taylor’s journey began at the Vacani School of Dance, where she soon discovered her passion for performing. Her family’s relocation to Los Angeles during World War II became the catalyst for her introduction to Hollywood. Encouraged by her mother, Sara, Elizabeth navigated the challenges of the entertainment industry, ultimately securing a contract with MGM. Despite facing professional isolation, she found comfort in her love for animals and close bonds formed with fellow actors, creating a legacy of love and empathy that would define her career.

From her early days in the Vacani School of Dance, Elizabeth Taylor shone with her natural talent and stage presence. The British-American family’s move to Los Angeles during World War II, led by her ambitious and devoted mother, Sara, marked the beginning of Elizabeth’s Hollywood journey. Prepped for success by her mother, Elizabeth’s first role as a child actor in There’s One Born Every Minute didn’t lead to the stardom they hoped for, ultimately resulting in dropped contracts and mounting family pressure.

Relocating to Beverly Hills turned the tide, as Elizabeth won an integral audition that solidified her place in the industry through a long-term contract with MGM. With newfound stability, the driven young actor became a rising star, yet her success came at a price: isolation and controlled behavior within the studio system. Thankfully, Elizabeth’s love for animals, as well as the strong bonds she formed with older co-stars like Roddy McDowall, provided crucial support and solace during trying times.

Growing up around fellow actors, many of whom were members of the gay community, Elizabeth displayed nonjudgmental and empathetic qualities that were treasured at a time when society was less accepting. These connections forged a deep love and understanding within Taylor that guided her career choices and influenced the passionate, compassionate figure we know today.

Elizabeth Taylor’s Unyielding Spirit

Elizabeth Taylor was a versatile actress, transitioning from child stardom with Jane Eyre and National Velvet, to Oscar nominations for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, ultimately winning Academy Awards for roles in BUtterfield 8 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Throughout her life, she battled personal challenges and industry pressure, pushing boundaries with her talent and ultimately becoming a Hollywood icon with her performance in Cleopatra.

In the early years of Elizabeth Taylor’s acting career, she showcased her talent and versatility in numerous critically acclaimed films. After captivating audiences at just eleven years old in Jane Eyre, she later shared the screen with Roddy McDowall in The White Cliffs of Dover. Her role in 1944’s National Velvet marked her transformation from a child star to a serious actor, which was underlined by her commitment to personal freedom.

Behind the scenes, Taylor endured physical pain and the ruthless nature of the entertainment industry. Yearning for freedom, she would ride a horse named King Charles – a gift from the studio. This led to an accident in which she injured her back, hiding her discomfort to protect her career.

As she matured, Taylor recognized her desire for more complex roles, moving beyond stereotypical portrayals. Her role in the 1956 film Giant saw Taylor defy expectations, donning gray hair and embodying a strong, mature character. Critics praised her emotional range, setting the stage for future accolades.

In 1959, Taylor earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Maggie the Cat in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Despite her own doubts about her chances, Taylor’s undeniable skill was evident. She continued to push the envelope, winning a Golden Globe for her performance in Suddenly Last Summer, and soon after, her first Academy Award for BUtterfield 8.

Constrained by industry expectations and her public image, Taylor had been reluctant to accept the role of a party girl in BUtterfield 8. Nonetheless, she completed her obligations with MGM and continued her journey toward superstardom.

As Cleopatra, Taylor captured the world’s attention. The most expensive film production at the time, it encapsulated the magnitude of her stardom. But the path to Cleopatra was littered with challenges, from budget overruns to delays, as well as Taylor’s own health struggles. Despite cruel headlines about her romance with Richard Burton, Taylor remained a radiant force.

At just 30 years old, Taylor was a megastar. Her powerful performance in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? won her a second Academy Award, and she delivered memorable performances in both The Taming of the Shrew and Reflections in a Golden Eye.

While Taylor faced seemingly insurmountable personal challenges throughout her life, her unyielding spirit and remarkable talent continued to win awards and captivate audiences worldwide.

Elizabeth Taylor’s Personal Struggles

Despite being born with scoliosis and experiencing excruciating back pain, Elizabeth Taylor was a tenacious and resilient actress. As a result of various setbacks, including debilitating surgeries, addiction, and mental health challenges, Taylor considered quitting acting but ultimately persisted. Through each obstacle, she developed a profound empathy for the suffering of others.

Elizabeth Taylor’s life was a testament to the indomitable human spirit. Born with scoliosis, she endured early health challenges and an exacerbated horse-riding injury. With friends questioning her authenticity, her physical wellbeing was closely intertwined with her mental health. George Hamilton, her former romantic partner, observed her flair for drawing attention with her health issues.

Having a large family was a priority for Taylor, who welcomed three children despite her health concerns. In 1953 and 1955, she gave birth to Michael Jr. and Christopher with husband Michael Wilding. Liza Todd followed in 1957 but required a Cesarean section, which led to a medically necessary tubal ligation. In 1968, Taylor underwent a hysterectomy due to chronic back pain.

Taylor’s health issues were not limited to her spinal curvature. A movie set accident left her with a foreign object lodged in her eye; a challenging recovery and subsequent injuries demanded multiple surgeries. Contemplating the end of her acting career, Taylor persevered, even as further troubles unfolded.

While married to John Warner, Taylor faced another devastating setback. A horse-riding accident ended her favorite leisure activity, propelling her towards a dependence on alcohol and prescription pills. Grappling with addiction, Taylor visited the Betty Ford Center twice, and her mental health suffered. She confronted a myriad of surgeries, illnesses, sleeping pill dependencies, and even an alleged suicide attempt.

Amidst her struggles, Taylor experienced loneliness, akin to fellow star Marilyn Monroe. Plagued by tabloid portrayals and public obsession, she remained resilient. Through her own painful journey, Elizabeth Taylor cultivated a deep understanding of human suffering and compassion for others.

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