No one knows what the body can do. -Spinoza

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Iconic Photo: Photo 9

Elizabeth Taylor

One of the world's most famous film stars of all time, and also considered one of the most beautiful, Elizabeth Taylor began her Hollywood career during the golden age of cinema, then only a young girl.

Taylor was born in London to American parents originally from Kansas (my dear friend Paul's "scary place"). (As an interesting sidenote: Her godfather, and parents' close friend in London, was a close friend of Winston Churchill.) In the mid-1930's Elizabeth Taylor attempted to renounce her American citizenship but the United States government actually refused to allow it. Then when World War II began her parents moved the family to Los Angeles where they opened an art gallery that became influential enough it connected the family directly to the Hollywood cinema community. Taylor's mother soon realized that Hollywood loved pretty faces and began working to link Elizabeth to an actress future.

At the time Elizabeth Taylor was first being introduced to the camera the likes of Shirley Temple stood as the Hollywood standard for the child actress. Taylor's demeanor, on the other hand, had a seriousness and concentration that didn't suit what Hollywood saw as the upbeat child presence. As a result, Taylor had a (very slightly) slow start with the major film studios, which liked to sign their actors to long term contracts at the time. Later, the same quality that worked against her as a child became an incredible asset to Taylor. That air of concentration and strong presence meant people couldn't keep their eyes off her.

Taylor won two academy awards in her lifetime and appeared in well over 50 films, plus numerous television shows and movies. After establishing herself in Hollywood and raising her family Taylor channeled her fame into activist work striving to make a difference in relation to causes she cared about. She is most well known for her work in regards to HIV and the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and won awards from both of her countries of citizenship for her work in that regard including the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, and the Presidential Citizenship Medal. She was also honored with the French Legion of Honour, and named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, both for her work raising money for HIV research and awareness.

Taylor was known for being passionately committed to any pursuit she took up in her life from raising her children, to her acting, to her activist work. Further, her incredibly active life and innumerable successes all occurred in the midst of her surviving multiple illnesses and injuries including breaking her back five times, a brain tumor, skin cancer, and pneumonia.

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