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Remembrance: The late Elizabeth

Posted By Les Kinsolving On 03/29/2011 @ 12:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

She was surely one of the most superb actresses and one of the most beautiful women who ever lived.

That was apparent, I believe, more than in any of her films in “A Place in the Sun.”

London’s Daily Mail reported:

  • She died surrounded by her children: Michael Wilding, Christopher Wilding, Liza Todd and Maria Burton.

  • Son Michael Wilding said, “We will always be inspired by her enduring contribution to our world.”
  • She weighed less than 98 pounds after spending the final two weeks on a respirator.
  • Four children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren will share her $600 million fortune.

She kept handwritten diaries through much of her life and was said to have discussed a deal to publish them as an explosive memoir following her death.

She earned four Oscar nominations for “Raintree County,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Suddenly, Last Summer” – finally winning with her fourth attempt, the film “Butterfield 8.”

In 1961, she became the highest-paid actress in America and the first star ever to be paid $1 million for a screen appearance, in the film “Cleopatra.”

The last of the great Hollywood movie stars, she gained fame not just for her stunning beauty or for her talent but also for her checkered love life.

Dame Elizabeth married eight times to seven husbands – most notably the late Welsh-born actor Richard Burton, whom she married twice.

The warring couple who met during the filming of “Cleopatra” made 12 films together.

Scandal erupted when Taylor and Burton – both married – began an affair. Dame Elizabeth and Burton divorced their respective spouses and wed in 1964. He would become Taylor’s fifth and sixth husband. They divorced over Burton’s excessive drinking habit in 1974 after 10 years together only to remarry the following year before divorcing again in 1976.

When her husband Mike Todd died in a plane crash, she went after married entertainer Eddie Fisher, regarding which she declared:

“Well, Mike is dead and I’m alive. What do you expect me to do, sleep alone?”

When, in 2000, Queen Elizabeth made her a dame commander of the Order of the British Empire, she told the media:

“You can call me Dame Elizabeth! I’ve been a broad all my life. Now I’m a dame!”

My closest experience with Elizabeth Taylor came when I was a syndicated religion columnist and reporter. We learned that her seventh marriage had been solemnized to future U.S. Sen. John Warner, by the Rev. Neale Morgan, rector of the Episcopal Church in Middleburg, Va., on Dec. 4, 1976.

Since the canon law of the Episcopal Church at that time had denied the right to church remarriage to thousands of people who had been previously married only once, I waited with other reporters until the Sunday service was completed after the Warner-Taylor nuptials were performed by the Rev. Mr. Morgan outside at Warner’s Atoka farm. (“Holy matrimony in the corn field,” as I described it on the day before, Saturday.)

Rector Morgan concluded his Sunday service and came into the adjoining building where we of the fourth estate were gathered.

“Why don’t you ask me what I preached on today?” challenged the Rev. Mr. Morgan.

So, I replied: “Well, since you ask, did you preach on ‘The Woman at the Well’?”

(This was a woman whom Jesus admonished for having been married five times. Morgan had “solemnized” Liz Taylor’s seventh.)

“No, I did not!” shot back Morgan. “I did not preach on that!”

And I thought: Understandably you didn’t.

I remain sorry for the Henry VIII-type of multiple marriages Elizabeth engaged in – because they were record disparagements of what should have been holy matrimony.

But whatever our sins, I do believe in a God of perfect love. I hope that is shared by all those who mourn her – that they may be comforted.


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