Actress Elizabeth Taylor Has Died at Age 79

(NECN/CNN) - Legendary Hollywood actress Elizabeth Taylor has died at the age of 79. Taylor died "peacefully" at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles surrounded by her four children, according to a statement from her publicist.

Elizabeth Taylor was called one of the most beautiful women in the world. Her violet eyes lit up the screen in memorable roles from 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' to 'Cleopatra,' which made her the first actress to receive a million dollars for one part. Her highly-publicized real-life sagas were punctuated by eight marriages to seven different men, including Richard Burton twice.

The British-born Taylor rode into moviegoers' hearts as a child actress in 1945 with 'National Velvet. The actress downplayed her abilities.

"I, along with the critics, have never taken myself very seriously," she said. "My craft, yes. But as an actress, no."

Still, Taylor received five Academy Award nominations, and was twice named best actress for her role as a call girl in 'Butterfield Eight' in 1960, and as an ornery alcoholic wife in 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf' in 1966.

Through the years, Taylor battled a litany of health woes, but it was a health crisis affecting others that drew her attention. She took up the fight against AIDS after close friend, Rock Hudson, died of the disease in 1985.

"This is something that is a catastrophe that belongs to all of us," she said. "It isn't a thing that belongs to a minority group any longer."

Taylor helped found AMFAR, the American Foundation for Aids Research, and established the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation. Later, she publicly befriended Michael Jackson, appearing with the singer several times and supporting him to an often critical press. Late in her life, the actress took to Twitter, where she opened up to fans about her health issues, including a heart procedure in 2009.

Between her charitable work and her body of work on screen, Taylor stood out as one of Hollywood's most giving and glamorous stars.

Taylor was hospitalized six weeks ago with congestive heart failure. A private family funeral will be held later this week.

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