cleopatra-elizabeth-taylor-20th-cent-fox-1963smOn this day in 1959, Elizabeth Taylor signs with 20th Century Fox to make Cleopatra. Her salary is $1 million.

Taylor was born in London to American parents in 1932. Her family moved to Los Angeles just before World War II. Taylor was striking even as a child, with flowing dark hair and violet eyes. By the time she was 10, she had signed with MGM and made her first picture, There’s One Born Every Minute, with Carl Switzer, better known as Alfalfa from the Little Rascals.

Taylor appeared in several Lassie movies, including Lassie, Come Home in 1943. She gave a stellar performance with Mickey Rooney in National Velvet. Unlike many other child stars, Taylor’s appeal didn’t fade as she entered her teens, and she was soon playing romantic leads in movies like Father of the Bride (1950).

At age 18, Taylor entered the first of her many marriages when she wed hotel owner Nick Hilton. The marriage dissolved after a few months. In 1952, she married actor Michael Wilding and divorced him five years later. In 1958, she married Mike Todd, producer of such film hits as Oklahoma in 1955 and Around the World in 80 Days in 1956. Taylor converted to Judaism upon entering the marriage. Sadly, Todd died a year later while flying his plane, the “Lucky Liz,” to accept an award from the National Association of Theatre Owners.

While making Cleopatra, Taylor entered a long-term romance with co-star Richard Burton. The two wed in 1964 (after her divorce from fourth husband Eddie Fisher), but they later separated, divorced, wed again, then finally split for good in 1976. Taylor married several more times.

Meanwhile, she continued making films. She won Academy Awards for Butterfield 8 (1960) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). Her film career declined in the ’70s, but she kept busy with TV movies and miniseries, her own perfume line, and charity work raising money to fight AIDS.

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