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3.6 65
by J. Randy Taraborrelli

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For more than six decades she has been a part of our lives. Now acclaimed biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli looks past the tabloid version of Elizabeth's life and offers the first-ever fully realized portrait of this American icon. You'll meet her controlling mother who plotted her daughter's success from birth...see the qualities that catapulted Elizabeth to


For more than six decades she has been a part of our lives. Now acclaimed biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli looks past the tabloid version of Elizabeth's life and offers the first-ever fully realized portrait of this American icon. You'll meet her controlling mother who plotted her daughter's success from birth...see the qualities that catapulted Elizabeth to stardom in 1940s Hollywood...understand the psychological and emotional underpinnings behind the eight marriages...and, finally, rejoice in Elizabeth's most bravura performance of all: the new success in family, friendships, and philanthropy she achieved despite substance abuse and chronic illness. It's the story of the woman you thought you knew—and now can finally understand.

J. Randy Taraborrelli is a respected journalist, a recognizable entertainment personality, and in-demand guest on many television programs. He is the bestselling author of eight books. Taraborrelli is a reporter for the Times (London), Paris Match, and The Daily Mail (UK) and a contributor to Redbook, McCall's, and Good Housekeeping.

Editorial Reviews

Browsing bookshops, one would never imagine that Elizabeth Taylor's film career essentially ended a quarter century ago. Counting her own memoirs, the double Oscar winner has been the subject of no fewer than ten full-length biographies. J. Randy Taraborrelli's Elizabeth earns its shelf space by virtue of its lively insights into every stage of Taylor's tumultuous life: early stardom; eight marriages; battles with alcohol and drugs; triumphs and controversies; success as a businesswoman; and philanthropic work on AIDS and other issues. A brisk read about a true living legend.
Publishers Weekly
Maclean's precise and nimble reading makes it nearly impossible for listeners to resist the pull of Taraborrelli's compassionate chronicle of the wild and tempestuous life of Elizabeth Taylor. With her more than a half dozen full-length biographies and five decades as tabloid fodder, most listeners will be well acquainted with surface events in Taylor's life. There are the eight marriages (five of them before she was 32), the affairs, multiple suicide attempts, decades of life-and-death health issues, the jewelry collection and finally her AIDS activism. Taraborrelli's strength as a biographer is his tenacity to dig beneath the surface to find the motivations and insecurities behind Taylor's actions, and his care helps listeners discover the dynamic charisma and good humor that have attracted men and moviegoers to her. Maclean's narration sails effortlessly over a life full of globe-trotting without stumbling over foreign names and locales. Taraborrelli bookends the production by reading a five-minute overview at the beginning and participating in a brief q&a session at the end of the fifth violet-colored disc, where he praises Taylor's indomitable will and ability to survive. Simultaneous release with the Warner hardcover (Reviews, May 22). (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Elizabeth Taylor's celebrated career and dramatic life have been chronicled by innumerable biographers as well as by Taylor herself twice (see Elizabeth Taylor Her Own Story and Elizabeth Taylor Takes Off: On Weight Gain, Weight Loss, Self-Esteem, and Self-Image). While not neglecting Taylor's professional career, best-selling author Taraborrelli (Once Upon a Time: Behind the Fairy Tale of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier) necessarily spends much time on her romances, especially her eight marriages; of these, the centerpiece is, of course, her explosive but loving relationship with fellow actor Richard Burton. Readers interested in the woman behind the celebrity will find especially satisfying the book's final sections, in which Taylor struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, becomes an AIDS activist, and revels in her roles as mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Taylor emerges from Taraborrelli's objective albeit sympathetic treatment a true survivor, facing the vicissitudes of aging with courage and humor. Considering the popularity of both the subject and the author, this is an essential purchase for all public libraries and highly recommended for academic libraries with strong film studies collections. A photo insert features several previously unpublished photographs. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/06.] M.C. Duhig, Carnegie Lib. of Pittsburgh Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Veteran diva-disher Taraborrelli, who has written about Cher, Madonna and Princess Grace, turns his pen on the silver screen starlet of the century. Elizabeth Taylor, she of nine lives and eight marriages, was born to privilege in England. She had a stunning, powerful mother intent on making her lovely daughter a Hollywood sensation. In her turbulent life, as Taraborrelli chronicles, Taylor has been (take a deep breath): the horse-loving preteen of National Velvet; the child-bride of volatile heir Nicky Hilton; the tragic young widow of hot-shot director Mike Todd; the home-wrecking vixen of Hollywood's most wholesome couple, Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds; one half of Liz and Dick, twice-married Tinseltown supercouple; political trophy wife and campaign-trail eye-candy; alcoholic pill popper and walking train wreck; AIDS activist and best friend to Michael Jackson; the bloated, bleach-blonde soon-to-be ex-wife of construction worker Larry Fortensky. With all this drama, Taylor's life is a story that nearly tells itself, and Taraborelli veers from his usual catty criticism. After detailing yet another embarrassing episode or inexcusable deed, the author attempts to make excuses for his subject, consistently starting sentences with the phrase "to be fair." Where has there ever been a place for "fair" in the provocatively offensive pages of an unauthorized biography? It is to the detriment of the book that Taraborelli seems to have a reverence and sympathy for Taylor, for it lacks the bitchy bite that makes celebrity journalism so, well, Schadenfreude-y. Still, the enchanting Elizabeth does not fail to fascinate, whether we pity or revile her. As the writer characterizes her, she isunable to distinguish between onscreen and offscreen realities, always performing, while feeling deeply. Overly worshipful, but you'd have to be quite jaded to be bored by this chronicle of a miniseries life.

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By J. Randy Taraborrelli


Copyright © 2006 Rose Books, Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-53254-1

Chapter One

Sara and Francis

Sara Viola Warmbrodt was born on August 21, 1896, in the mill town of Arkansas City, Kansas. For all of her time on this earth, she would be quite a character, a memorable presence not only in her daughter, Elizabeth's, life but in those of nearly every person she would touch over the years. Through it all, good times and bad, she and Elizabeth would remain inseparable. Even during times of estrangement-for they did have their disagreements-they knew to whom to turn for unwavering support: each other. "My mother was my best friend," Elizabeth would later say, "my guide, my mentor, and my constant companion." Indeed, mother and daughter were life and breath to each other, and thus it would remain until Sara's death in 1994, just one month short of her ninety-ninth birthday.

Historically, Sara has been portrayed as a negative influence on Elizabeth's life, mostly because of her steely determination to mold her daughter into a star; indeed, so-called "stage mothers" are seldom viewed in a positive light. Like many parents who encourage their children into show business, Sara had once been an entertainer. In 1922, she had changed her name to Sara Sothern after relocating to Los Angeles from Arkansas City to pursueher dream career. Her mother-Elizabeth's grandmother-was a talented singer and musician who played both piano and violin. She was very encouraging of Sara's goals and didn't mind her dropping out of high school to pursue them and also study acting in Kansas City. After appearing in a number of small productions in the Midwest, Sara found herself in Los Angeles. There, she was cast in a supporting role in a theatrical revival of Channing Pollock's The Sign on the Door. (The silent movie released a year prior had starred Norma Talmadge.) After Pollock saw her in that show, he cast her in a key role-a crippled girl, miraculously healed-in his play The Fool, based on the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. The plot, a faith-healing concept, was very much in alignment with Sara's own spiritual belief as a Christian Scientist-that unwavering faith in a higher power could result in physical healing far beyond the reach and understanding of the medical profession.

The Fool first opened in Los Angeles to weak reviews but eventually made its way east to New York, where it opened on Broadway at the Times Square Theater in October 1922. There it played to full houses for nearly a year, even though the show continued to receive generally poor notices-except for Sara, who was singled out for her performance by some reviewers. She was faintly praised by the New York Times critic, who said, "In the final scene of the third act, a little cripple, well played by Sara Sothern, falls on her knees in prayer and rises to find that she can walk." When the show went to London in September 1924, Sara went with it, and caused quite a bit of pandemonium there. After the opening night, at least according to an interview Channing Pollock once gave, she even had to be extricated from a mob scene, with fans "clamoring for bits of her frock and locks of her hair as souvenirs. Later," Pollock recalled, "the Prince Royal went to her dressing room to present her with a diamond brooch the size of a belt buckle."

Margaret DeForest was the daughter of a friend of Sara's from Palm Springs, California, where Sara spent her elder years. She recalls of the Taylor matriarch, "Though she was a slight woman, Sara had a magnetic personality. People gravitated toward her, as they would one day her daughter. She was funny, smart and nobody's pushover. I knew her when she was much older, but I saw many pictures of her as a young woman. She had wonderful scrapbooks of her show business days, and loved to show them to me and my mother. She told us that Elizabeth had gathered the clippings for her, compiled them herself, and then gave her the scrapbooks one year as a birthday gift. With her dark hair and blue eyes, Sara was a real beauty. She was funny, too. She had a biting sense of humor which, sometimes, people didn't know how to take. In her later years, she used to be frustrated by Elizabeth's life. 'It seems that someone forgot to teach that young lady manners,' she used to say. Then she would add with a wink, 'And I guess that would have been me.' I loved her. I just thought she was great, I really did."

After The Sign on the Door closed, four more less successful theatrical productions in New York followed for Sara Sothern. By the time she was thirty, she began reconsidering her options. It was at just that time that Francis Taylor-a man whom she had dated only casually back in Arkansas City-came back into her life.

The handsome and charming Francis Lenn Taylor was born on December 28, 1897, also in Arkansas City, of Scotch-Irish descent. He had dropped out of high school and worked as an apprentice in an art gallery owned by his beloved, if also demanding, uncle, Howard Young, in St. Louis. When Francis turned twenty-one, his uncle gave him the opportunity to move to New York and work at a gallery Howard opened there, the Howard Young Gallery, which specialized in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European paintings.

Sarah and Francis became reacquainted one evening quite by happenstance at the El Morocco nightclub in New York. Afterward, they began to enjoy each other's company on a regular basis. She found him to be quiet and unassuming, so different in character and temperament from the many show business types she'd known in recent years. True, he didn't have the kind of spark that she usually required to stay interested in a man, but still, she couldn't help but be fascinated by him. He'd been to Europe with his uncle, had a wealth of interesting anecdotes to share about his travels, understood art and could talk about it for hours, so there was seldom a dull moment between them.

Francis Taylor was soft-spoken and easygoing. Tall and lean, with an aristocratic and refined bone structure, he had piercing blue eyes and light brown wavy hair, which was combed straight back. His was a scholarly air with his horn-rimmed glasses and natty three-piece suits, in which he always looked great. He was always dressed for presentation, never casually. He accepted life as it was and had little interest in changing things. He was whimsical and artistic in nature, not practical. Don't get the wrong impression of him, though: He wasn't exactly carefree. Quite the contrary-he was a contemplative person who often seemed uneasy and distracted. Elizabeth once said that as a young girl she would sit and stare at her father as he sat in his easy chair, his eyes closed and brow furrowed as if attempting to solve a complex, troubling problem. A gentle man, he shied away from confrontation and would do anything in his power to avoid an argument. Later in life, at the end of any conflict his fiery and decisive wife, Sara, would always be the victor. In fact, it's safe to say, at least based on the recollections of those who knew the Taylors well, that Francis never won an argument with her in their entire marriage. "She's the boss," he would say. "What she says goes, and that's fine with me." Indeed, he had great respect for Sara, thought her to be savvy and smart as well as talented, and never felt that he didn't have a place in her life. He knew his place.

Sara's zest for life had led Francis to lose all sense in her presence when he first met her. Inexplicably drawn to her, he confided to friends that he couldn't stop thinking about the ball of fire called "Sassy" by those who only spoke of her and not with her. He loved her unquenchable spirit, her joyous soul. In fact, Francis saw in Sara many qualities he had wanted for himself, such as charisma, a quick wit, and an ability to point a finger in someone's face and say-as she would quite often-"I know what the problem with you is, and here's how to fix it." It was when that finger was finally wagged in his face, as he would recall it, that he felt somehow reborn. Indeed, the first sign that he and Sara were perfect for each other was when she agreed with him about his faults. She could see right away that he lacked focus and confidence, that he thought of himself as somewhat of a social misfit. He was foggy and scattered and didn't "finish his sentences with strength," as she noted. "We can all change, darling," she would tell him, "and for you, that will prove to be a godsend." Her brash manner may have proved a sticking point for previous suitors, but Francis found it refreshing, even enlivening. He was filled with an intense inquisitiveness about her, and to be so fascinated by anyone was, for him, a unique experience.

Many people who knew Francis before he met Sara were dumbfounded by the changes they soon began to see in him. Her coaching led him to address many of his behavioral deficiencies, at least as she saw them. Under her influence, he began to walk with purpose and at a quicker pace. He shook the hand of every person he met with strength. He made firm eye contact. He spoke highly of himself to others; Sara loathed the British tradition of self-deprecating humor and wouldn't stand for it in her suitor. He took all of her advice seriously-and it worked for him. His transformation profound after just a few months, he knew he had one woman-Sara Warmbrodt-to thank for all of it. Indeed, he felt like a new man.

Francis and Sara were married in 1926. Then, after one more show in New York, The Little Spitfire, Sara Taylor made the fateful decision to leave show business.

Marrying and eventually raising children rather than having the career in show business she had originally planned was a decision Sara Taylor made for herself, not something she ever felt had been foisted upon her. "I gave up my career when I married Daddy," she once said (referring to Francis), "and all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't have made me take it up again." As a Christian Scientist, she believed at a core, spiritual level that she could have her life exactly as she wanted if only she approached it with a positive and affirmative attitude. "Divine love always has met, and always will meet, every human need," she would say. Therefore, she rarely complained about her life or about her decisions. Rather, she felt empowered to handle anything that came her way, and she hoped to pass the same kind of belief system on to the children she might one day bear.

At this same time, a new branch of the Howard Young Gallery was about to open in London at 35 Old Bond Street in the heart of the British art center, and it was Howard's idea that Francis manage the new establishment. He absolutely insisted upon it, in fact, for Howard was an assertive man who almost always had his way. Francis and his new wife moved to London and settled into a suite at the luxurious Carlton Hotel, paid for, of course, by Howard Young.

Now that Sara had given up her career as an actress to be a wife, the rest of the world seemed to slip out of her view. Francis was her passion. For his part, he was just as devoted to her. While previously not a particularly effusive man, he now made an art out of romancing his wife. For instance, knowing Sara's favorite chocolatier was Fortnum and Mason, Francis would regularly stop at the high-class grocer's in search of the ultimate confection. He might surprise her with a bag of caramelized ginger, a tin of sweetmeats, or the traditional box of chocolates. He went to great lengths to show his devotion to her.

For the next two years, Francis and Sara would travel all over Europe in first-class style-London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, and Budapest-thanks to Howard Young's generous underwriting of such excursions, many of which were business-related. In the process, they would traffic with the powerful and affluent of the art world and acquire from them old masters for the Young Gallery. It was a heady time, but it wasn't to last, because when Sara became pregnant at the end of 1928, the couple decided to take root in London. Howard leased a lovely nineteenth-century cottage for them at 11 Hampstead Way. With its beautifully manicured gardens and pathways and its gorgeous views of the verdant Hampstead Heath, it was an enchanted place.

In June 1929, Sara gave birth to their first child, a son named Howard (after his great-uncle). With the addition of the baby, the Taylors' home was suddenly too cramped with just two bedrooms. The couple did have a nurse, a cook, and a driver, after all. It would make sense, Sara decided, if at very least the nurse and cook could live at the house. Howard quickly accommodated her and solved the domestic problem by purchasing nearby-with cash-a larger eighteenth-century home (with Tudor and Victorian influences in its architecture) known as Heathwood, at 8 Wildwood Road, again overlooking the Heath. Delightfully landscaped with aged trees and colorful wildflowers, the redbrick home came complete with a large kitchen, stately dining and living rooms, pool and tennis court, and live-in accommodations for all of the help.

Howard was a stunning baby who, his mother once proclaimed, "looked like a Botticelli angel." He really did, with large, expressive blue eyes, wavy blond hair, and perfectly placed features. He was his daddy's boy, though. Sara believed a father and son should share a special bond. Therefore, while she was an affectionate and effective mother, she would often abdicate parental duties to Francis. It was as if she saw the raising of her firstborn as an opportunity to further shape her husband into an even fuller, more responsible man. However, such devotion to Francis's betterment would not last forever. Things would change dramatically, beginning on February 27, 1932-the day Sara gave birth to a daughter, a baby she and Francis would name Elizabeth.


Excerpted from Elizabeth by J. Randy Taraborrelli Copyright © 2006 by Rose Books, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

J. Randy Taraborrelli is a respected journalist, a recognizable entertainment personality, and in-demand guest on many television programs including Today, Good Morning America, The Early Show, Entertainment Tonight, and CNN Headline News. He is the bestselling author of thirteen books.

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Elizabeth 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 67 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just recently got interested in Miss Taylor and this book came out at just the right time. Let me tell you guys.. I flew through this like you would not believe! Even if you're not her biggest fan, which I certainly am not, you'll find this book just fascinating to read. What a great book. I simply could NOT PUT IT DOWN. I especially like that the author takes time to describe in great detail her relationships/marriages to all 7 of her husbands. After finishing it, I was these three things: 1.) In love with Richard Burton 2.) Devastated that the book ended! 3.) Even more fascinated by Miss Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor Hilton Wilding Fisher Todd Burton Burton (c'mon.. who WOULDN'T marry him twice?!) Warner, Plotensky. Trust me folks- this book is EXCELLENT. Spend the $25. It's totally worth it.
TravelinT More than 1 year ago
I grew up hearing about her all the time. I have to say I couldn't stand her when the Eddie Fisher thing went down, and I really didn't hear very good things about her all the time she was with Richard Burton. But later in her life I grew to love her. She did so mich for her friends--Rock Hudson and later Michael Jackson. I had friends who died of AIDS and she went straight to Heaven for her work there. I don't understand her friendship with the Reagans. I believe that Ronald's bigotry helped kill a lot of good people who did nothing wrong other than to love someone. I could go on, but okay Elizabeth out of respect for you. Again great booK? I laughed, I cried, I edperienced all emotions reading this...Namaste Elizabeth!
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mimi vukosavljevic More than 1 year ago
I love this book
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debbi willis More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book. I have read many books on the subject of Liz...but this one was by far the best!
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The book gives you an insight in what it was like to be Elizabeth. What she went through, how she over came things to become the great women that she was. A remarkable women. A great read. Lets you really know her and those around her.
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