The pre-eminent actress died early Wednesday morning due to complications from congestive heart failure. She was 79.
Of all her romances, Taylor’s self-proclaimed Love Affair with Jewelry was the one that stood the test of time. Alongside acting, marriage and elegance, jewels were one of the threads stitched into her legacy.
She captivated American filmgoers at age 12 as the star of 1944’s National Velvet, which was entered into the country’s prestigious National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2003. Taylor would go on to star in more than 50 films in her 70-year career; best known as the title venomous vixen in Cleopatra. She won two “Best Actress” Oscars for her roles in BUtterfield 8 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
She was married eight times (twice to the same man, Richard Burton), intermittently from 1950 to 1996. Four children would come of the marriages. It was her relationship with Richard Burton that sparked her presence in our country.
When the two met on the set of Cleopatra they were both married to other people. Toronto’s King Edward Hotel became the rumoured love nest for their affair, where they were spotted dining together in January 1964. Burton later proposed in the King Edward’s Sovereign Ballroom.
But they didn’t stay in Toronto for long. Ontario refused to recognize the pair’s Mexican divorces, so they went to Quebec to tie the knot. They married at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montreal on March 15, 1964.
The union became an important cornerstone in Canadian marriage history. Quebec didn’t allow civil marriage at the time, but few churches would recognize an interfaith marriage. (Taylor had converted to Judaism for Eddie Fisher and Burton was Protestant.) They were eventually accepted by the Unitarian church.
The Reverend who performed the ceremony, Leonard Mason, requested his involvement be kept quiet. Despite the intended secrecy, word spread and Mason was subject to heated public backlash.
But Mason’s wife said that wedding was the seed for his eventual work with the then-mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeau, to change Quebec law to allow civil unions, reported the Winnipeg Free Press.
Taylor’s influence didn’t stop there. She became a crusader in the fight against HIV/AIDS after the death of Rock Hudson (a close friend) in 1985. Taylor’s tireless fundraising raised millions of dollars for the cause and earned her the respect of the gay community for her public advocacy in such a controversial issue.
She was many things, but Taylor was tenacious without doubt. She was plagued by persistent ill health throughout her life, ranging from back and hip problems to an almost-fatal pneumonia strain to her eventual congestive heart failure. Taylor also struggled with alcohol and drug addictions, but was said to have been clean over the last 20 years.
“My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humour and love,” Taylor’s son, Michael Wilding, told ABC News. “We know, quite simply, that the world is a better place for Mom having lived in it. Her legacy will never fade, her spirit will always be with us and her love will live forever in our hearts.”