Remembering Elizabeth Taylor

February 27, 1932 – March 23, 2011

Few stars have held the public’s attention to the degree that Elizabeth Taylor has, from the time she became a child star at MGM in the 1940s, throughout her entire adult life, to her passing at the age of 79 on March 23. Whether it was because of her romances, her marriages, her frequent health crises, her humanitarian causes, or, one hopes, her actual work as an actress, she kept the world population in awe. Indeed, to many she was the epitome of what constitutes a true movie star. For someone held in so high esteem it was inevitable that it took her quite some time to get around to television, but when she did appear on the small screen it was seldom without a great deal of hype and newsprint attached. As far as most people within the industry were concerned, if Elizabeth Taylor was interested in doing your script, you said yes very quickly and then let it be known that she was gracing your project.

The Television Appearances

Her first official television appearance came in 1963 (the same year she caused a stir by appearing in cinemas in Cleopatra), when she hosted the special Elizabeth Taylor’s London, receiving a much-publicized half-a-million salary for her contribution. In so much as her relationship with Richard Burton was nothing less than an on-going media frenzy in itself, television was smart to cash in on it, notably when the couple kidded themselves and Taylor’s million dollar diamond ring on a highly rated Here’s Lucy episode and then starred in a two-part television movie, Divorce His/Divorce Hers. Although Taylor’s stature as one of the highest paid of all movie stars faded with the 1970s, she was still treated as nothing less than Hollywood royalty. Even during periods of inactivity, the whole world still had an insatiable curiosity about her every move, and television grabbed her every chance it could get.

When Taylor let it be known that she was a fan of daytime serials, she was written into episodes of General Hospital and All My Children. When she did an occasional television movie or mini-series, including There Must be a Pony, North and South, Malice in Wonderland (playing columnist Louella Parsons), and Sweet Bird of Youth, each one received the media coverage worthy of her status. When it came time for Maggie to speak her first word (“daddy”) on The Simpsons, it was Taylor who provided the vocals. When great contributors to entertainment were rewarded on air with American Film Institute and Kennedy Center Honors tributes, Taylor was among those selected to receive these accolades without hesitation. When she launched her own perfume line (of three different fragrances, Passion, White Diamond, Black Pearl), her commercials for them outclassed all such others. When she helped create the American Foundation for AIDS Research to raise money to combat the disease the already beloved actress was elevated to a whole new level, as one of the world’s great humanitarians.

Luckily, we will have these recorded appearances, both on television and in film to remember her by. Nevertheless, it will be hard to imagine show business, or indeed the world in general, without her being part of it. She loomed that large.

Read all the references to Elizabeth Taylor in the Paley Center database.

The Barbara Walters Special (1977)

Shortly after her marriage to Senator John Warner, Elizabeth Taylor appeared on this special to discuss the life she has lived.

All My Children (1983)

For a laugh, Elizabeth Taylor agreed to do a cameo appearance on this long-running daytime serial along with Carol Burnett.

Here’s Lucy (1970)

Bringing attention to her famous million dollar diamond ring, Elizabeth Taylor and husband Richard Burton guest starred on an episode of this Lucille Ball sitcom that was a ratings smash.