Elizabeth Taylor, from TIME’s Archives

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Elizabeth Taylor, circa 1960

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Oscar-winning actress Elizabeth Taylor has died at 79, after experiencing symptoms of congestive heart failure. Since the 1940s, TIME has traced her legendary career — and infamous social life.

TIME published myriad articles on every aspect of the actress’s life. See just a few takes on Taylor, as she blossomed through many acting roles and almost as many husbands.

(More on TIME.com: See Elizabeth Taylor’s life in pictures)

On her promising start in National Velvet:

— Twelve-year-old Elizabeth Taylor, a beautiful little girl who has hitherto had minor roles in Lassie Come Home, Jane Eyre, etc., is probably the only person in Hollywood who could bring to this curious role its unusual combination of earthiness and ecstasy. (Dec. 25, 1944)

TIME’s 1949 cover story on Elizabeth Taylor (see the cover here):

—One studio that is less desperate than most is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; that is partly because M-G-M has already turned up a jewel of great price, a true star sapphire. She is Elizabeth Taylor … Her complexion has been described by an ecstatic publicity man as “a bowl of cream with a rose floating in it.” [...] One day a Metro photographer walked up to Elizabeth and said: “I thought you’d like to know that the boys have voted you the most beautiful woman they have ever photographed.” “Mother!” gasped Elizabeth, “did you hear what he said? He called me a woman!” (Aug. 22, 1949)

On her infamous affair with singer Eddie Fisher:

—Charging “extreme cruelty,” Cinemactress Debbie Reynolds filed suit for divorce from Crooner Eddie Fisher after three years, two months of another Hollywood “ideal marriage,” asked for “reasonable and substantial support and maintenance” and custody of the two little Fishers, Carrie, 2, and Todd, nine months. Hours later, Eddie shared champagne and caviar at a Beverly Hills bistro with the cause of it all, Cinemactress Elizabeth Taylor (“I’m alive”) Todd. (Dec. 15, 1958)

(More on TIME.com: See the top 10 love triangles)

On her massive payday from Cleopatra:

—If Cleopatra so much as breaks even, Elizabeth Taylor will earn at least $7,000,000. A figure of this magnitude deserves to be savored and detailed. $1,725,000 in salary. Then 10% of most of the gross. This is not just the most money that anyone has ever been paid in the history of show business, more than doubling the $3,000,000 that William Holden siphoned out of the River Kwai. It is the most money that any employee has ever been paid for anything. (June 7, 1963)

On her performance in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf:

—Liz as Martha is loud, sexy, vulgar, pungent, and yet achieves moments of astonishing tenderness. Only during sustained eruptions does she lapse into monotony, or look like an actress play-acting animosity instead of feeling it. (July 1, 1966)

On her first divorce from Richard Burton:

—They were back in Rome where it all started eleven years ago during the filming of Cleopatra. This time it was quits for Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. After a 17-day separation and brief reconciliation, the Burtons were filing for a “friendly” divorce in Switzerland, their legal residence. In spite of rumors about Peter Lawford, Warren Beatty and Helmut Berger, Liz denied that there were any other men involved. (Aug. 13, 1973)

On her reconciliation with Richard Burton:

—Their first marriage survived ten years, produced more bad scenes than a B movie, and finally finished in divorce 14 months ago. Now Elizabeth Taylor, 43, and Richard Burton, 49, appear strong enough for a second try. “This is not a trial reconciliation, it is permanent,” proclaimed Pressagent John Springer of his clients (Sept. 1, 1975)

On yet another divorce:

DIVORCED. Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner, 50, violet-eyed empress of stage, screen and altar; and John Warner, 55, Republican Senator from Virginia; after six years of marriage; she for the sixth time, he for the second; in Fauquier County, Va. (Nov. 5, 1982)

(More on TIME.com: See the top 10 perpetual divorcés)

On her next engagement:

“I will never marry again,” Elizabeth Taylor reportedly declared 18 months ago. Well, when she was young, it was said that a woman was entitled to change her mind. And so last week Taylor, 51, announced her engagement to wealthy Mexican Lawyer Victor Gonzalez Luna, 56. He will be husband No. 8. To mark the occasion, Gonzalez Luna presented his intended with a 16½-carat sapphire surrounded by tiny diamonds. So forget Liz and Dick; until further notice, make it Liz and Vic. (Aug. 22, 1983)

On another engagement, the following year:

ENGAGED. Elizabeth Taylor, 52, violet-eyed veteran of stage, screen and marital campaigns, including two spectacularly publicized ones with the late Richard Burton; and Dennis Stein, 52, entrepreneur, man-about-New York City and her steady companion since they met a month ago, reportedly on a blind date; she for the eighth time (she is once widowed and six times divorced, most recently from Virginia Senator John Warner in 1982), he for the second; in Los Angeles. (Dec. 24, 1984)

On her AIDS activism:

Says Elizabeth Taylor, a ferocious fund raiser for AIDS research: “Since we began fighting this tragic disease, the most loyal, courageous support has come from the artistic community. The irony is that AIDS has decimated the arts, and every day we lose some of the greatest talent of our time to this hideous disease.” (July 27, 1987)

On persevering after surgery on a brain tumor:

While ELIZABETH TAYLOR’s preference in jewelry has always been diamonds, it turns out that silver suits her quite nicely also. Especially when it’s on her head. The actress-activist-marital artist, who is 65, showed off her new au naturel look in Istanbul, in a rare post-brain surgery appearance, at a fund raiser for the children of Chechnya. Although she looked tired and left right after her speech, her spokesperson says she has had no repercussions from the surgery. Next up for Taylor: the 10th anniversary of her Passion perfume. (Aug. 11, 1997)

Reacting to the death of close friend Michael Jackson:

Reclusive screen star Elizabeth Taylor might have been speaking on behalf of all of Michael Jackson’s fans when she emotionally lamented the loss of her longtime friend. “We shouldn’t have to be here,” Taylor told fellow mourners at Jackson’s funeral on Thursday, Sept. 3. “It shouldn’t have happened. He shouldn’t have passed away.” (Sept. 4, 2009)

- With reporting by Megan Gibson and Kayla Webley

(More on TIME.com: See pictures of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s romance)

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