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The 5 Roles That Defined Elizabeth Taylor's Career

By    |   Friday, 08 May 2015 04:48 PM

Elizabeth Taylor was the rare breed of actress who could start an acting career at an early age (she was just 10 when she landed her first film role) and keep it going to span decades, sharpening her craft with every passing year. Having appeared in dozens of movies over course of her life, these five movies provided the roles that truly defined her career:

1. Velvet Brown, “National Velvet (1944)

Starring opposite Mickey Rooney, Taylor portrayed a girl who accepts help from a cynical former jockey to tame a wild horse for competition in England’s Grand National Sweepstakes. “National Velvet” provided Taylor with a vehicle to become an international movie star. The film grossed over $4 million, with MGM quick to sign her with a long-term contract.

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2. Angela Vickers, “A Place in the Sun” (1951)

The film centers on a love triangle with fatal results. Also starring Montgomery Clift and Shelley Winters, Taylor portrayed a socialite who falls in love with an upwardly mobile (but already taken) factory worker. “Elizabeth Taylor’s delineation of the rich and beauteous Angela also is the top effort of her career,” wrote The New York Times film critic A.H. Weiler. Taylor garnered an Oscar nomination for her work, but did not win.

3. Maggie Pollitt, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1958)

Adapted from the play of the same name, the story tells the tale of Brick, a former football player (played by Paul Newman) suffering from alcoholism who consistently rejects affection from his wife Maggie (Taylor) and must confront his father who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The only way Brick and Maggie will receive his father’s inheritance is if they have children.

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Bosley Crowther, a film critic for The New York Times, wrote that Taylor was "terrific as a panting, impatient wife, wanting the love of her husband as sincerely as she wants an inheritance.”

4. Gloria Wondrous, “Butterfield 8” (1960)

Acting alongside Laurence Harvey and Eddie Fisher, Taylor earned her very first Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role by playing a party girl who falls for a married man. While the film was panned by most critics, Variety noted that “the picture’s major asset is Taylor.”

5. Martha, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966)

Taylor scored another Oscar for this drama telling the story of an embattled middle-aged couple who seek joy through spreading their animosity to others, namely a younger couple with whom they’ve recently become acquainted.

"Taylor's complete conviction and willingness to be transformed shows her commitment to her craft,” said InStyle Editor-at-Large Hal Rubenstein. “Although she was the most beautiful actress in Hollywood, she was also one of the best actresses."

Vote Now: Which of These Actresses Stands the Test of Time?

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Elizabeth Taylor was the rare breed of actress who could start an acting career at an early age (she was just 10 when she landed her first film role) and keep it going to span decades, sharpening her craft with every passing year in every role.
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