DAME Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, arguably the last great female star of the Hollywood studio system, died Wednesday at the age of 79. The two-time Oscar-winner had been in ill health for a number of years. Taylors luminous screen presence, allied to a colourful private life, made her a mainstay of US popular culture for more than 50 years. She won her first best actress Oscar for playing the self-styled slut of the world in 1960s Butterfield 8. Her second came courtesy of an electrifying turn opposite then-husband Richard Burton in the 1966 drama Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Born in Hampstead, north London, Taylor relocated to the US in 1939 and made her screen debut as a nine-year-old in the 1942 Universal comedy Theres One Born Every Minute. She found fame as the perky child star of Lassie Come Home and National Velvet before graduating to adult roles with the 1950 comedy Father of the Bride. The following year she rustled up one of her most vibrant and vital performances in A Place in the Sun. George Stevenss melodrama cast her as a spoiled debutante who bewitches Montgomery Clifts ambitious social climber. According to the critic Andrew Sarris, the films young actors were the most beautiful couple in the history of cinema. Other notable roles were in Giant, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly, Last Summer and Reflections in a Golden Eye. Yet Taylors on-screen prowess was often upstaged by the ongoing soap-opera of her personal life. She was married eight times to seven husbands and sparked a scandal when she began an affair with the British actor Richard Burton on the set of Cleopatra. The couple wed in 1964 and divorced a decade later. They remarried in 1975 and then split again the following year. Throughout this period they were embraced as the hydra-headed emblem of Hollywood glamour, their lives a whirl of ritzy premieres and indulgent movie collaborations. It was probably the most chaotic time of my life, Taylor would later recall. It was fun and it was dark oceans of tears but there were some good times too. Throughout her life, Taylor seemed drawn to fragile souls and those in need. She reportedly saved the life of the notoriously self-destructive Montgomery Clift following a car crash in 1956. Spurred on by the 1985 death of her friend Rock Hudson, she helped found the American Federation for AIDS Research and went on to raise an estimated $50m to fight the disease. Away from the cameras, her own life was punctuated by health problems. She survived a brain tumour, suffered from a heart condition and reportedly broke her back on five separate occasions. In later life, she was largely confined to a wheelchair as a result of osteoporosis. Yet until Wednesday, there was something resilient about Elizabeth Taylor a fighting spirit belied by her famous good looks. Ive been through it all, baby, she once boasted. Im Mother Courage. Guardian