Showbiz world in mourning for Elizabeth Taylor, a true Hollywood giant

TRIBUTES poured in yesterday for Elizabeth Taylor, the Queen of Hollywood, who died aged 79.

The eight-times married, double Oscar-winning, British-born actress and Aids campaigner died of heart failure, surrounded by her four children, at Cedars Sinai hospital, LA.

She had been admitted to hospital six weeks ago.

Sir Elton John was one of the first stars to pay tribute to the actress, who will be remembered for her roles from National Velvet, Suddenly Last Summer and Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?

“We have just lost a Hollywood giant; more importantly, we have lost an incredible human being,” he said. Victoria Beckham also lamented the loss. On her Twitter page she wrote: “The world has lost a truly iconic beauty, inside and out.”

In a statement her son, Michael Wilding, said: “My mother lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humour, and love.”

Taylor was the last of the great studio stars so her death is very much the end of an era. But Barbra Streisand said she will be missed as much for her humanitarianism.

“She put a face on HIV and Aids,” she said. “She was funny. She was generous. She made her life count.”

Whoopi Goldberg said: “She was funny, joke-telling, diamond loving and fantastic.” Sir Michael Caine said: “So sad to hear about my beautiful friend Elizabeth Taylor – a great human being.”

She was also that rare thing, a child star who enjoyed success as an adult. And acclaim. She won best actress Oscars for Butterfield 8 in 1960 – after she nearly died from pneumonia, leading closest rival Shirley Maclaine to quip: “I lost to a tracheotomy” – and for Virginia Woolf with Richard Burton in 1966.

Her epic romance with Welsh actor Burton was one of the defining love stories of the 20th century. She was “the most beautiful woman in the world”, famed for her violet eyes and sexual allure. He was the most desirable man on screen. Both were married. Their affair on the set of Cleopatra was decried by the Pope.

They went on to wed in 1964. He bought her fabulous diamonds and nicknamed her “Tubby”.

They divorced in 1974, remarried in 1975 and divorced again in 1976. Of the six other men she married, her other great love was Mike Todd, killed in an air crash in 1958.

Earthy and maternal, Taylor loved “wounded” men, actors like James Dean and Montgomery Clift, and child-man pop star Michael Jackson.

When her friend Rock Hudson died from Aids she was the first major star to publicly fight prejudice over Aids.

In later life the London-born star battled numerous illnesses and was mostly seen in a wheelchair. She was made a Dame in 1999.

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