She was a bona fide movie star by age 12, thanks to a horsey little number called “National Velvet,” but it’s safe to say that Elizabeth Taylor was able to avoid the curse of the child actor, given the countless memorable screen moments she produced over the next 50 years in films such as “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Butterfield 8,” “Cleopatra” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” to name just a few. (And did you know she was once the voice of Maggie Simpson?)

On Wednesday morning, the violet-eyed grande dame of old Hollywood died of congestive heart failure, leaving a colorful legacy both on- and offscreen — and, more important, a noteworthy contribution in the fight against AIDS as one of the first public figures of her stature to call attention to the growing global epidemic. CNN had more on this last point following news of her passing. –KA


In the early 1980s, Elizabeth Taylor stepped up when others were afraid.

A mysterious disease was taking the lives of many gay men, and there was fear and uncertainty about how it was being transmitted. But the movie star refused to treat HIV/AIDS sufferers like lepers.

“Everyone was talking about AIDS, but talking behind their hands,” Taylor said in a BBC Omnibus Special profile that aired in 2000. “But nobody was doing anything about it, including myself. And then I got really angry.”

Taylor’s activism made her an international spokeswoman for the fight against HIV/AIDS. Now, the iconic star is as revered for her charity work in that battle as she is for her shining moments on the screen.

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