Elizabeth Taylor was the ultimate movie star: violet-eyed, luminously beautiful, and bigger than life; although never the most gifted actress, she was the most magnetic, commanding the spotlight with unparalleled power. Whether good (two Oscars, one of the first million-dollar paychecks, and charity work), bad (health and weight problems, drug battles, and other tragedies), or ugly (eight failed marriages, movie disasters, and countless scandals), no triumph or setback was too personal for media consumption.
Born February 27, 1932, in London, Taylor literally grew up in public. At the beginning of World War II, her family relocated to Hollywood, and by the age of ten she was already under contract at Universal. She made her screen debut in 1942's There's One Born Every Minute, followed a year later by a prominent role in Lassie Come Home. For MGM, she co-starred in the 1944 adaptation of Jane Eyre, then appeared in The White Cliffs of Dover. With her first lead role as a teen equestrian in the 1944 family classic National Velvet, Taylor became a star. To their credit, MGM did not exploit her, despite her incredible beauty; she did not even reappear onscreen for two more years, returning with Courage of Lassie. Taylor next starred as Cynthia in 1947, followed by Life With Father. In Julia Misbehaves, she enjoyed her first grown-up role, and then portrayed Amy in the 1947 adaptation of Little Women.