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The last movie star

From the silver screen to the fight against Aids, Elizabeth Taylor was a feminine force to be reckoned with.

Calling Elizabeth Taylor a feminist is like calling Betty Friedan a movie star. Yet the story of her life is one of glorious, if extravagant, female emancipation.

As a child, she was dominated by a stage mother and as a starlet by an oppressive movie studio system - she called the head of MGM studios, Louis B Mayer, "a monster" - but she soon grasped the levers of power and money to live exactly as she pleased. She was the first film star to pull down $1 million for her portrayal of Cleopatra.

She was also fond of wisecracks: "If someone's dumb enough to offer me a million dollars to make a picture, I'm certainly not dumb enough to turn it down."

"Big girls need big diamonds," she explained. And big yachts, a staggering wardrobe and many husbands.

Without prating about "the craft" of acting, she turned in some iconic roles: the teenage temptress Angela in A Place in the Sun, the sultry Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and the slovenly Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

And in the end, she sold her diamonds to fund her crusade against Aids.

She did it her way.

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