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ELIZABETH TAYLOR by Kate Andersen Brower


The Grit & Glamour of an Icon

by Kate Andersen Brower

Pub Date: Dec. 6th, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-063-06765-3
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

A celebrity life marked by booze, men, and incomparable fame.

Journalist Brower draws on the capacious archives of actor and philanthropist Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011)—7,358 letters, diary entries, articles, and personal notes and 10,271 photographs—as well as interviews with her friends and family, to produce an appreciative biography of the iconic celebrity. “Elizabeth,” Brower writes, “led the most glamorous and colorful life of any movie star in the world,” appearing in 56 films and 10 TV movies. After a small part in Lassie Come Home, in 1943, she was cast as the star of National Velvet, leading to a long-term contract with MGM. Taylor chafed under an exploitative, controlling studio system as well as her controlling mother, who was “singularly obsessed with making her daughter a star.” She escaped her family by getting married, at 18, to Nicky Hilton, son of Conrad, who turned out to be an abusive drunk. The marriage lasted less than a year. Although Brower portrays Taylor as an intelligent, feisty woman with a dry wit and photographic memory, she was also hard-drinking and shockingly foulmouthed. She made disastrous choices in husbands and seemed to thrive on volatility—but coveted the jewels men gave her, a massive collection that included a 69-carat diamond ring. She showered motherly attention on tormented men like Montgomery Clift and Michael Jackson but not on her own children, relegated to nannies and boarding schools. Brower chronicles Taylor’s career, illnesses, marriages, affairs, and notoriously lavish lifestyle: “In 1992, for her sixtieth birthday, Disneyland closed for the night and a thousand of her friends were invited to celebrate.” By the 1980s, her dependency on tranquilizers, sleeping pills, painkillers, street drugs, and alcohol led to two stays at the Betty Ford Center. Brower sees the “single most defining chapter” of Taylor’s life as her decadeslong work as an AIDS activist and fundraiser.

A well-researched, gossipy portrait of a star.