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Elizabeth    by J. Randy Taraborrelli order for
by J. Randy Taraborrelli
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, CD

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Beautiful, cobalt blue-eyed, Elizabeth Taylor was born to affluent parents in 1932 London - former theatre actress Sara Viola (Warmbrodt) and Francis Lenn Taylor (both from the state of Arkansas) who married in 1926. Sara left the theatre after her last show in New York, The Little Spitfire. As a Christian Scientist, Sara 'believed at a core, spiritual level that she could have her life exactly as she wanted if only she approached it with a positive and affirmative attitude.'

The Taylors' first child was a boy, Howard, proclaimed by his mother to 'look like a Botticelli angel'. Sara and Francis settled in Pasadena, California, and later in Beverly Hills in a home bought by Francis's Uncle Howard. When her daughter was two years old, Sara orchestrated Elizabeth's demeanor - laugh, walk, grace, and social interaction, and enrolled her in dance and singing lessons. The author writes in his Prologue, 'For a young Elizabeth Taylor, performing soon became the only acceptable option. Anything less would be considered failure.' Evolving from a child star, Elizabeth was to face years of rollercoaster fame, and injuries such as on the set of National Velvet (1944) - when she damaged her spine in a fall while riding, which affected her for the rest of her life.

The first contract was signed with Universal Studios when Elizabeth was nine years old (her mother was her only acting trainer and agent at that time). She was cast in a sixty-minute film, first named Man or Mouse, renamed to There's One Born Every Minute, and dropped by Universal two weeks later. MGM, the 'most powerful and influential of all the film studios at the time', took over its stars' lives entirely, with orders 'how to act, not only on stage but off'. They cast Elizabeth in Lassie Come Home, co-starring thirteen-year old Roddy McDowall, who was to become a lifelong friend.

Elizabeth Taylor's life has been recorded by the media and in books (some written by her) for over six decades. There were eight marriages, two Oscars, suicide attempts, life-threatening illnesses, and alcohol and prescription drug addiction. Through the intervention of family and friends, Elizabeth entered the Betty Ford Clinic. The most well-known of her marriages were to Mike Todd (who died in a plane crash), and (twice) to Richard Burton - their relationship began while filming Cleopatra. As a philanthropist, Elizabeth embraced the cause for AIDS in the 90s. She helped to destigmatize the disease, served as chair for the American Foundation for AIDS Research, and created her own AIDS Foundation. She also succeeded as a businesswoman, with Passion perfume.

Elizabeth is mother to Michael Howard Wilding, Jr., Christopher Edward Wilding, Liza Todd Tivey, and Maria Burton Carson McKeown (an adopted daughter), as well as a grandmother and great-grandmother. In 2000, she was honored by the Crown as Dame (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor. In Elizabeth, Taraborrelli writes about a true survivor, who faced ups and downs, and aging, with courage and humor. There is only one Elizabeth Taylor.

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