Film legend Elizabeth Taylor dies at 79

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(AP) - Elizabeth Taylor, the violet-eyed filmgoddess whose sultry screen persona, stormy personal life andenduring fame and glamour made her one of the last of the classicmovie stars and a template for the modern celebrity, died Wednesdayat age 79. She was surrounded by her four children when she died ofcongestive heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where shehad been hospitalized for about six weeks, said publicist SallyMorrison. "My Mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to thefullest, with great passion, humor, and love," her son, MichaelWilding, said in a statement. "We have just lost a Hollywood giant," said longtime friendElton John. "More importantly, we have lost an incredible humanbeing." Taylor was the most blessed and cursed of actresses, thetoughest and the most vulnerable. She had extraordinary grace,wealth and voluptuous beauty, and won three Academy Awards,including a special one for her humanitarian work. She was the mostloyal of friends and a defender of gays in Hollywood when AIDS wasnew to the industry and beyond. But she was afflicted by illhealth, failed romances (eight marriages, seven husbands) andpersonal tragedy. "I think I'm becoming fatalistic," she said in 1989. "Toomuch has happened in my life for me not to be fatalistic." Her more than 50 movies included unforgettable portraits ofinnocence and of decadence, from the children's classic "NationalVelvet" and the sentimental family comedy "Father of the Bride"to Oscar-winning transgressions in "Who's Afraid of VirginiaWoolf?" and "Butterfield 8." The historical epic "Cleopatra"is among Hollywood's greatest on-screen fiascos and a landmark ofoff-screen monkey business, the meeting ground of Taylor andRichard Burton, the "Brangelina" of their day. She played enough bawdy women on film for critic Pauline Kael todeem her "Chaucerian Beverly Hills." But her defining role, one that lasted past her moviemakingdays, was "Elizabeth Taylor," ever marrying and divorcing, in andout of hospitals, gaining and losing weight, standing by MichaelJackson, Rock Hudson and other troubled friends, acquiring ajewelry collection that seemed to rival Tiffany's.She was a child star who grew up and aged before an adoring,appalled and fascinated public. She arrived in Hollywood when thestudio system tightly controlled an actor's life and image, hadmore marriages than any publicist could explain away and carried onuntil she no longer required explanation. She was the industry'sgreat survivor, and among the first to reach that special categoryof celebrity - famous for being famous.

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