Classic Movie Hub (CMH)

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Elizabeth Taylor, who was lauded for her charity work later on in her life, took on the challenging role of Katherine Minola in The Taming Of The Shrew in 1967. She had no experience of Shakespeare but Taylor was received well by critics (Allstar/ROYAL FILMS)

ELIZABETH TAYLOR must have wondered how she could possibly follow Cleopatra, but taking a long break turned out to be the answer.

Proclaimed The Most Talked-About Movie Ever Made, Cleopatra was the ultimate "hard act to follow".

The fact that Taylor had almost died during filming, developing near-fatal pneumonia and enduring a tracheotomy along the way, merely added to the feeling that she had just reached the highest and lowest points of her life at the same time.

Making the movie had almost taken Fox to bankruptcy, too, and they sued Taylor and Richard Burton for their outrageous, scandalous behaviour, saying it had added to the troubles.

Some critics even reckoned Liz was overweight and her voice wasn't right, but the folk who matter, the audience, loved it and saw it in their thousands, around the world.

Producers, despite all the hoo-hah about the Taylor-Burton affair, knew that getting them together for more films would be box office magic.

They next starred together in The VIPs, Liz playing a famous model intent on leaving her husband for her lover, and Burton playing her estranged millionaire husband.

It was another success, mirroring as it did their real lives, and Taylor was such a star now that they even paid her half-a-million bucks to visit London's landmarks for an American audience, reading from British writers' works as she went.

Having seriously considered leaving the business altogether while still a girl, she now took another two-year break, to the studios' exasperation.

Perhaps she figured, well, if they are all so outraged by our loving each other, we'll just go away and do it privately. She spent the 24 months getting divorced, as did Burton, and then marrying each other.

Once back in the business, and making a string of movies together, they raked in so much money that Richard would boast, "They say we generate more business activity than one of the smaller African nations."

For some critics, these films were often mere mirrors of their real lives, adding to their wild and decadent reputations and blurring the lines between reality and cinema.

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