Liz Taylor was a larger than life celebrity, a legend from Hollywood's Golden Age, one of the world's most famous and recognisable women and named seventh among the Greatest Female Stars of All Time by The American Film Institute.
She is renowned, not just for her great acting skills and beauty but for her vast jewellery collection, her flamboyant lifestyle with numerous boyfriends and eight marriages to seven men. Men of immensely diverse character, as we shall see.
Elizabeth found movie fame at an early age and as a young star in the public eye she couldn't hook up with just anybody. She is known to have dated Howard Hughes, the director and movie mogul, and she had two serious pre-marriage flings with two gentlemen of a standing suitable for a young actress.
The first romance was with West Point football star and 1946 Heisman Trophy winner Glenn Davis (who later married starlet Terry Moore), wearing his gold football around her neck.
When the Davis romance ended in mid-1949 she turned her attention to William P. Pawley Jr., the well-to-do son of the one-time U.S. ambassador to Peru and Brazil. He it was who started Elizabeth's fantastic jewellery collection with a three-and-a-half carat diamond ring. Despite this, the romance wore off and as her first husband Elizabeth chose the 24-year-old Hilton Hotel heir Conrad Nicholson "Nicky" Hilton Jr., son of Conrad Hilton. She could have chosen anyone. She could have chosen better.......
In chronological order
Conrad "Nicky" Hilton (May 6, 1950 - January 29, 1951) (divorced)
Michael Wilding (February 21, 1952 - January 26, 1957) (divorced)
Michael Todd (February 2, 1957 - March 22, 1958) (widowed)
Eddie Fisher (May 12, 1959 - March 6, 1964) (divorced)
Richard Burton (March 15, 1964 - June 26, 1974) (divorced)
Richard Burton (again) (October 10, 1975 - July 29, 1976) (divorced)
John Warner (December 4, 1976 - November 7, 1982) (divorced)
Larry Fortensky (October 6, 1991 - October 31, 1996) (divorced)
Husband Number One - Conrad Hilton
In 1950 Elizabeth was 18 years old and had fulfilled all her early promise of great beauty. Conrad Hilton was the eldest son of a remarkably successful father, Conrad Nicholson Hilton, who founded the Hilton Hotel chain. The son was likable, handsome, and, when sober, fun to be around.
Wedding Day, Hilton soberBut he was doomed to live out his short life in his father's shadow. And he was seldom sober.
The wedding took place on May 6th, 1950, one month before Liz's movie, Father of the Bride was set to open. In theory it was a dream for MGM's publicity department and they took full advantage, planning the ceremony, designing the wedding gown, and supplying make up and hairdressing experts to all concerned. But the studio failed to take into account the new groom's propensity for alchohol.
Things started to go awry after the ceremony when Hilton reportedly spent much of reception getting drunk, and when finally aboard their Queen Mary honeymoon cruise to Europe, continued his drinking, soon moving on to flirting with female passengers and gambling when he should have been with his new bride. Many years later Elizabeth, reflecting on her first marriage, admitted that he was a "cruel" drunk, a character trait she had been unaware of at the time of the wedding, since Nicky had been on the wagon during their initial romance and engagement. During their honeymoon the out-of-control Hilton showed his bad side, and even reportedly physically absued his new and by now, disillusioned, wife.
It is not, therefore, surprising, that Elizabeth and Nicky Hilton only stayed married a scant eight months, divorcing on February 1, 1951. Elizabeth, of course, went onto marry another seven times, and Hilton would marry once more, to oil heiress Patricia "Trish" McClintock, divorcing in 1965. He died early, at the age of 42 of a heart attack in West Los Angeles, California.
Husband Number Two - Michael Wilding
Liz wed for the second time in February 1952. Husband Michael Wilding was twenty years her senior and he provided some much needed stability in her life. With him she had two sons. Michael Jr. was born in 1953, and Christopher in 1955.
Liz with Michael WildingWilding had been an extra in some early 1930s pictures, and worked as a stand-in for Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in Catherine the Great (1934). He then amassed an impressive list of British stage and screen credits during the 1940s. His most memorable screen appearances can be found particularly in affable light comedy roles including Sailors Three (1940), Kipps (1941) and In Which We Serve(1942). Wilding replaced Rex Harrison and teamed up with Anna Neagle to star in a series of very popular 'London' films directed by Neagle's husband Herbert Wilcox, including Piccadilly Incident (1946), The Courtneys of Curzon Street (1947), Spring in Park Lane (1948) and Maytime in Mayfair(1952).
From 1952 through 1957, whilst the husband of Elizabeth he spent five years working in Hollywood under contract to MGM mostly in rather dull co-starring roles, the best being the Pharoah in Michael Curtiz's The Egyptian (1954). Illness forced Wilding to cut down his film appearances in the late '60s and in semi-retirement he became a theatrical agent.
He had four wives, Kay Young (married 1937-divorced 1951), Elizabeth Taylor (married 1952-divorced 1957), Susan Neill (married 1958-divorced 1962), and actress Margaret Leighton (married 1964-her death 1976).
Michael Wilding died at age 66 in Chichester, West Sussex, after falling down a flight of stairs during an epileptic seizure.
Husband Number Three - Mike Todd
Liz married movie producer Mike Todd in February, 1957 in Acapulco only 3 days after her divorce from Michael Wilding. Todd was 24 years her senior, but Taylor acknowledges that of all her marriages, this, although tempestuous, was her happiest. The couple had a daughter, Elizabeth "Liza" Todd in August of the same year.
Todd had first married in 1929 to Bertha Freshman who bore him a son, Mike Todd, Jr.. She died in 1946, and a year later, Todd married actress Joan Blondell. They subsequently divorced on 8 June 1950, when she alleged that he abused and extorted her.
On 22 March 1958, Todd's private plane, Lucky Liz, crashed near Grants, New Mexico. The plane, a Lockheed Lodestar, was downed by engine failure while being operated grossly overweight at the limit of its altitude capability, and the crash killed all four on board. In his autobiography, Eddie Fisher, Todd's best friend, stated that no fragments of Todd had been found, and that his coffin contained only his ring.
The marriage had lasted 418 days.
Eddie Fisher - Husband Number Four
It wasn't long after mourning the loss of husband number three that Taylor wed again, this time to one of her late husband's closest friends.
Eddie FisherIn fact Eddie Fisher had been best man at Liz and Mike Todd's wedding. He was one of the most popular US singers of the 50s, an idol of the bobbysoxers, with a strong, melodic voice. He had seventeen songs in the Top 10 between 1950 and 1956 and thirty-five in the Top 40.
His career was interrupted from 1952-53 when he served in the US Armed Forces Special Services, and spent some time in Korea. After his discharge he became immensely popular singing in top nightclubs, and on his own television series, Coke Time and The Chesterfield Supper Club, with George Gobel. In 1956 he co-starred with his first wife, Debbie Reynolds, in the film musical Bundle Of Joy; and he then had a straight role in Butterfield 8 (1960), in which his then wife, Elizabeth Taylor, won an Academy Award for Best Actress.
Fisher divorced his first wife, actress Debbie Reynolds, in order to to marry Liz, and she received very bad press for having broken up the marriage when they wed in May 1959. When
Fisher with his current and next wifeinterviewed, Debbie Reynolds generously said that she could understand being dumped "for the world's most beautiful woman (Taylor)", previously a close friend. Taylor and Reynolds later resumed their friendship, and mocked Fisher in their TV movie These Old Broads, wherein their characters ridiculed the ex-husband they shared, named "Freddie."
Fisher has had five wives: Debbie Reynolds (married 1955-divorced 1959), Elizabeth Taylor (married 1959-divorced 1964), actress Connie Stevens (married 1967-divorced 1969), Terry Richard (married 1975- divorced 1976) and Betty Lin (married 1993). Betty Lin died on April 15, 2001. Fisher is the father of two children by Reynolds, actress Carrie Fisher and Todd Fisher, and the father of two children by Stevens, actress Joely Fisher and actress Tricia Leigh Fisher.
After the late 1950's Fisher was beset by drug and financial problems, and in the 70s attempted several unsuccessful comebacks. In 1990, following extended periods of treatment at the Betty Ford Centre, he announced that he was finally cured of his drug problems and intended to resume work.
Richard Burton Husband Number Five (and Six)
Scandal and gossip were to follow Elizabeth when she ended her marriage to Fisher in order to marry the actor Richard Burton. They began their affair during the filming of "Cleopatra," and both left their current relationships in order to devote themselves to each other; feeding the tabloids and the press with juicy headlines. Chemistry between the two stars was so fiery director Joseph Mankiewicz described it as "like being locked in a cage with two tigers". "Cleopatra" premiered in
1963, but didn't do well at the box office. She again co-starred with Burton in The V.I.P.s in 1963, and divorced Eddie Fisher in March 1964; nine days later, she and Burton were married.
They became filmdom's and one of the century's most famous couples, seldom out of the tabloid headlines as audiences and press became fixated on their relationship. In June 1974, after ten stormy years of marriage, the star couple divorced. Sixteen months later, bizarrely, they remarried.
However, their stormy relationship did not last. The couple began rowing and separated in February 1976, reportedly when Richard Burton began drinking again and unsurprisingly, they were divorced for a second time.
In all they appeared together in ten films and in the 1983 play, "Private Lives." Probably the most notable film they did together was "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," in 1966.
Including his two marriages to Liz Taylor, Burton was married in all five times, first to Sybil Williams from 1949 to 1963, with whom he had two children, actress Kate Burton and Jessica Burton. Burton's fourth marriage was to Suzy Hunt, ex-wife of motor racing driver James Hunt, and his fifth was to Sally Hay, a make-up artist who later became a successful novelist. While married to Sally, in 1984, he died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage at his home in Switzerland, where he is buried. He was 58 years old.
John Warner - Husband Number Seven
In December 1976, Liz married husband number six, Virginia Senator John Warner; they divorced in 1982.
John WarnerWarner's first marriage had been to banking heiress Catherine Mellon, the granddaughter of billionaire Andrew Mellon, with whom he has three children; they divorced in 1973. He married Elizabeth Taylor on December 4, 1976; they divorced November 7, 1982. He then married real estate agent Jeanne Vander Myde on December 15, 2003.
Larry Fortensky - Husband Number Eight
In October 1991, she married for the eighth time - to construction worker Larry Fortensky, 20 years her junior, whom she had met while in rehab.
The opulent ceremony was held at Michael Jackson's 2,700-acre Neverland Ranch. Jackson gave away the bride, who wore a pale yellow gown by Valentino. Fortensky's best man was Liz's hairdresser, Jose Eber. Among the 150 guests were Liza Minnelli, Eddie Murphy and former first lady Nancy Reagan.
The marriage ended in 1996.
Fortensky was subsequently jailed for assaulting his girlfriend.
Taylor said she lost her sense of worth when then-husband John Warner was elected a U.S. Senator. "I felt I'd become redundant--I had nothing to do," she wrote in Elizabeth Takes Off. Out of loneliness, she said, "I ate and drank with abandon. The large amounts of food I ate were a substitute for everything I felt was lacking in my life. But what was really starving was my self-esteem, and all the food in the world couldn't bolster it."