1. Elizabeth Taylor as Helen Burns in the 1943 version of Jane Eyre.
The movie, which had Orson Wells as Mr. Rochester and Joan Fontaine as Jane Eyre, was made when Taylor was 11. It was filmed right before National Velvet made her famous. Just a year before, a casting director at another studio had complained, “Her eyes are too old, she doesn’t have the face of a child.” About this role, a biographer writes: “So tiny was her part, as one of the classmates of young Jane (Peggy Ann Garner), that she got no billing on the credits; and years later when she wanted her own children to see the film on television, she discovered she had been entirely cut out of the version re-edited for commercials.” (“One of the classmates”—poor Helen, poor Liz, both keep going unbilled.)
2. The very best primer: Scandals of Classic Hollywood does Elizabeth Taylor, Black Widow.
3. A November 1954 appearance on “What’s My Line?”
The husband mentioned is Michael Wilding, who was 20 years older than Taylor. He’d just starred in The Egyptian.
4. The Michael Todd – Eddie Fisher – Richard Burton saga as played out in a selection of Photoplay covers from 1957 to 1964.
5. A 1969 profile & interview of Taylor and Burton by Roger Ebert.
“Elizabeth just got a new sapphire,” he explained to Charles Jarrott, his young Canadian director. “It’s 39 carats I think. She’s so fascinated by it she won’t even come down on the set. She’s sitting up there adoring it with one hand and eating steak and kidney pie with the other.”
“A gift from you?” Jarrott said.
“Well of course,” Burton said. “Who else would give her anything?”
6. A report on a scientific study that compared the eye motions of autistic and non-autistic adults watching Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?:
When Ms. Taylor flirted with George Segal, playing a young professor, as her husband lurked in the background, the gaze of the nonautistic adult described a triangle as he followed the expressions of all three. The autistic man never looked at Mr. Burton or anyone’s eyes.
7. At Vanity Fair, a bunch of candid photos from Taylor’s stint at a “fat farm” in Florida in the late 70s with her friend Maury Hopson. From that description, the photos won’t sound like much fun (and Hopson like such a great friend) but they’re delightful. From his account, the trip was partly about weight loss, partly about abstaining from booze for a while, and partly giddy friendship adventure. Hopson suggested the trip when Taylor was languishing in D.C. during her marriage to Sen. John Warner. He and Taylor named their bungalow at the spa “Butterfield Ate.”
8. A 1987 interview with Rolling Stone: “Now, I’m fascinated by cats.”
9. The White Diamonds commercial, filmed in 232 B.C.
The perfume White Diamonds launched in 1991, and as of last year, it was still the best-selling celebrity fragrance in the world. Here’s a description of its scent, from Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez’s indispensable Perfumes: The Guide: “This is a soft woody floral in the classic mold, slightly low-budget but pretty good—lush, creamy, and sweet, with a tropical white-flowers accord smelling slightly like ripe bananas, all bolstered by some of those big, powdery musks you’ll recognize from your laundry soap. Seems designed to waft up from cleavage.” They give it three stars (out of five).
10. The sad sateen carnival of the Liza Minnelli-David Gest wedding, as recorded in a 2002 People article:
“In walked Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Ross and Diana Ross’s son Evan,” says hairstylist John Barrett, who fashioned Minnelli’s Cabaret-influenced do for the big day. ” [Evan] proceeded to do his moonwalk for Michael and Elizabeth. I thought, ‘If I never see anything else…’ ”
Taylor was matron of honor and forgot her shoes, so showed up wearing her slippers. (Or Liza hid the shoes so Liz couldn’t run away.)
11. And then, Elizabeth Taylor makes up her eyes in 1974’s The Driver’s Seat.
Related: Elizabeth Taylor and AIDS: A Brief History of the 80s