Screen Legend Elizabeth Taylor Dies at 79

Elizabeth Taylor has died

She Was Late to Her Own Funeral

Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor, one of the most popular and desired actresses of the 20th century has died at 79.

Taylor "died peacefully today at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles," said a publicist. The two-time academy award winner (Butterfield 8 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf), has been undergoing health issues of late including her hospitalization six weeks ago with congestive heart failure. The actress, down to a weight of 96 pounds, had been on a ventilator for several weeks. Though she suffered a number of complications related to the illness, it was hoped that she would be able to eventually return home. Unfortunately that wasn't the case.

Word has it that Taylor's friends wanted to throw a celebration for her 80th birthday, but were afraid she wouldn't make it, so they held it a full month early. Guests, who mingled about Taylor's house that was filled with gardenias and lilies of the valley, mentioned how she didn't look well in her final days. One guest even went on the record as saying "She was in her wheelchair and having trouble breathing.  When she talked, it was in short sentences." But during a champagne toast by friends and relatives, the always feisty Taylor was able to lift her glass and exclaim, "I'm not dead yet!"

Taylor's funeral was held Thursday afternoon (3/24/11) at Forest Lawn Memorial Parks & Mortuaries in Glendale, Calif. She was interred in the Great Mausoleum on the grounds of the cemetery. Forest Lawn Cemetery is also where her good friend, Michael Jackson is buried. There's been no official word as to whether this was at her request or was simply a coincidence. Clark Gable and Jean Harlow are also interred at the marble mausoleum adorned with an ornately carved Michelangelo angel statue. Five black limousines believed to be carrying family members arrived shortly before the service, which lasted about an hour.

The small private service, attended by family members and a few close friends, was to begin at 2:00 pm, but in her own humorous way, Taylor got in the last laugh when, at her own personal request, the funeral service was fifteen minutes late getting started with the announcement, 'She even wanted to be late for her own funeral,'" a statement from the late actress' representative to Access Hollywood read. What a great lady. She goes down laughing.

The service was officiated by Rabbi Jerry Cutler (Taylor converted to Judaism in 1959) and "close friend Colin Farrell recited Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem "The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo." Many have reported throughout the years that Taylor converted to Judaism so she could marry her fourth husband, Eddie Fisher. (Fifth husband Richard Burton was also Jewish.) But if we're to believe what she wrote in her book Elizabeth Takes Off, that's not the case. Taylor writes, "My conversion to Judaism had absolutely nothing to do with my past marriage to Mike Todd or my upcoming marriage to Eddie Fisher, both of whom were Jewish. It was something I had wanted to do for a long time." So, there you have it.

Taylor's casket was closed during the ceremony and it was draped with gardenias, violets and Lillies of the Valley.

Interestingly, Elizabeth Taylor chose not to be interred in the crypt next to her parents at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

There was some speculation swirling about in the days following her death as to where Taylor was actually going to be buried. Seems Richard Burton's children had claimed to have had an agreement with Taylor that she was to be laid to rest in a tomb belonging to Burton in his native Wales. But since he is buried in Switzerland where he lived with his wife when he died 26 years ago, this made absolutely no sense at all.

In another interesting twist of fate, Mel Gussow, the writer of Elizabeth Taylor's swiftly published New York Times obituary that ran after the news of her death, was outlived by his subject. Gussow died of cancer in 2005 at the age of 71. It is fairly common practice for major news outlets to pre-write celebrity obituaries and keep them on file, periodically updating as necessary.

 

More Elizabeth Taylor Stuff:

Elizabeth Taylor has died

Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet
Taylor at the tender age of 17 in 1944's National Velvet.

 

Elizabeth Taylor has died

 

Elizabeth taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Elizabeth Taylor in 1958's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

 

Elizabeth Taylor bald for cancer support

After having a benign tumor removed in 1997, Taylor posed bald for the cover of Life Magazine to show her support for those battling cancer.

 

Cedars Sinai Hospital where elizabeth taylor died

Cedars-Sinai Hospital, where Elizabeth Taylor died.

 

Forest Lawn Cemetery where Elizabeth taylor is buried

Forest Lawn Memorial Parks & Mortuaries in Glendale, Calif., where Elizabeth Taylor is interred in the Great Mausoleum.

 

Interview with Glendale, California Public Information Officer discussing the arrangements for Elizabeth Taylor's funeral being held at Forest Lawn Cemetery. No real procession, just a few dozen family and friends arriving in their own cars.

 

Elizabeth Taylor's Death Certificate

Above: The importance of a High School eduction.

 

Her Estate Goes Up For Sale

Elizabeth Taylor's home was put on the market on May 24, 2011. She has owned the 7,000 s.f. ranch-style house and 1.27 acre gated property (which was previously owned by Nancy Sinatra, Sr.) since 1981. She also used the home to house her renowned arts collection that included several famous Aubusson rugs and Impressionist paintings. What was once a movie screening room, had been converted into an office while an adjoining half-bath was made into a sauna and shower room for the pool.

The house sits atop a long driveway that allows for a breathtaking view of the city below. This wasn't one of those properties that became shabby and overgrown in the owner's ill-health. She kept it keenly attended, and immaculately manicured. The house and its lushly appointed grounds were the focal point for family gatherings, especially holidays.

Taylor once said about her home, "I can look out on the lovely garden, where one tree in particular inspires me if I am down. It has an exotic, magical quality, like the woods that come alive in The Wizard of Oz."

Below are some pics of her home.

Photos of Elizabeth Taylor's Bel-Air Home
Photos of Elizabeth Taylor's Bel-Air Home
Photos of Elizabeth Taylor's Bel-Air Home
Photos of Elizabeth Taylor's Bel-Air Home

The Seven Grooms of Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor, loved by so many, was unfortunately a poor chooser of lovers, having been betrothed no fewer than eight times... to seven different men... none lasting more than 10 years, most self-destructing by five. Following is a list of Elizabeth Taylor's marriages disasters with her own comments about each:

Conrad Nicky HiltonConrad "Nicky" Hilton, Jr. - 1950-51
"My first husband was a gambler, and my first honeymoon was one long session at the card and roulette tables. Five months around the casinos. Even the croupiers felt sorry for me."
Michael WildingMichael Wilding - 1952-57
"I'm afraid in those last years I gave him a rather hard time, sort of henpecked him and probably wasn't mature enough for him."

Michael ToddMichael Todd - 1957-58
"I knew I wanted more than anything else in the world a man who could control me. Mike was strong, which was very good for me."


Eddie FisherEddie Fisher - 1959-64
"All we had in common was Mike [Todd] and that was sick. Boy, did I realize how sick it was." Editor's note: wonder what she meant by this?

Richard BurtonRichard Burton - 1964-74; 1975-76
Richard was magnificent in very sense of the word... and in everything he ever did. He was magnificent on the stage, he was magnificent in film, he was magnificent at making love... at least to me."

John WarnerJohn Warner - 1976-82
"John was a worthy senator. But his life is his work. There didn't seem to be room for anything else."

Larry FortenskyLarry Fortensky - 1991-96
"You get to know someone real fast when you are in group therapy, in a recovery program. All the bullshit is stripped away. We just started instantly to know each other."

 

Elizabeth Taylor Frans Hals painting
This 17th century painting ("Portrait of a Man") by the Dutch master Frans Hals that formerly hung in Elizabeth Taylor's California home sold in an auction on January 11th, 2012 for $2 million. Once the painting was purchased by Taylor's father, Francis Taylor, and given to the late actress in the '50s, the piece of art became basically "forgotten" until her death last March where it was discovered and eventually sold in her estate auction. The painting hung over Taylor's fireplace near a portrait of herself by Andy Warhol.

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