Vivien Leigh, Elizabeth's "heroine".

Elizabeth Taylor and Vivien Leigh are two of film’s most enduring icons. Both are celebrated for their raven hair, porcelain skin, and delicate features, but the two have more in common than their physical appearance.

“Vivien Leigh was my heroine,” Elizabeth once said. “She was innocence on the verge of decadence, always there to be saved.” Vivien Leigh was born Vivian Mary Hartley on November 5, 1913 in Darjeeling, Bengal, India to British parents (her father was a British Officer in the Indian Cavalry). Like Elizabeth, Vivien made her stage debut at the age of three, giving a recitation of “Little Bo Peep” in front of her mother’s amateur theatre group. (Elizabeth’s debut came when she performed along with other young ballerinas from Madame Vacani’s class in front of The Duchess of York and her two daughters, the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose.)

When the family moved back to England, Vivien saw a film starring Maureen O’Sullivan (one of her childhood friends) and decided she wanted to become an actress. Elizabeth’s ambition to act is said to be quite similar. When the Taylor’s decided to seek refuge from London in their native America, Elizabeth saw her first film on the voyage across the Atlantic. The film was The Little Princess, and Elizabeth allegedly vowed then to become an actress.

After revealing her career choice to her parents, Vivien was enrolled at London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She made her film debut–uncredited–in 1935′s Things Are Looking Up. She would continue to act in films, and on the stage. Her notable film roles during this time include Fire of England and Sidewalks of London, but it wasn’t until 1939′s Gone with the Wind that she was propelled into international susperstardom. The role of Scarlett O’Hara not only became the most celebrated role of her Leigh’s career, but is arguably also the most famous female film role of all time.

Elizabeth’s mother, Sara, was supposedly stopped on the street by perfect strangers during this time telling her how much her daughter resembled a young Vivien Leigh, and saying that she was perfect for the role of Bonnie Blue Butler, Leigh and Clark Gable’s daughter in the film. But according to Elizabeth Taylor biographer William J. Mann, Sara had actively campaigned for the role for her daughter, including enlisting the help of her acquaintance, gossip queen Hedda Hopper:

Back in 1939, when Elizabeth was just seven, Hedda had suggested that David O. Salznick cast her as Vivien Leigh’s daughter in Gone With the Wind. It still rankled Hedda how disingenuous Sara could be about that whole experience, insisting that she’d never had any thought of putting her daughter in pictures. Sara claimed that it was only after ‘people on the street’ had told her how much Elizabeth resembled Leigh that she had even given it a thought. Hedda scoffed at such baloney. At that point in time, no one had any idea what Vivien Leigh looked like! Of course the entire enterprise had been Sara’s, right from the moment she’d showed up at Hedda’s office with her daughter in tow, obsessed with the idea of getting her into the film.

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George Michael’s concert at London’s Royal Opera House will benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s newly established Elizabeth Taylor Memorial Fund.

Michael, a longtime fan of Elizabeth’s, said he “really wanted to honour the inspiring efforts” of her pioneering work with HIV/AIDS.

The concert will be held on November 6. Tickets go on sale tomorrow.

 

A radiant Naomi Wilding with husband Anthony Cran.

Elizabeth was honoured posthumously yesterday evening with the Norma Zarky Award for her HIV/AIDS philanthropy at the 2011 Women In Film Crystal + Lucy Awards. Elizabeth’s granddaughter, Naomi Wilding, accepted the award on behalf of her late grandmother at the ceremony held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California.

 

Tomorrow is the first of two auctions consisting of Debbie Reynolds’ collection of classic Hollywood costumes and memorabilia.

Elizabeth’s costumes feature heavily in the auction. My friend Paul Murray was fortunate enough to attend a preview at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills and sent me these photographs to share with you all.

Thanks, Paul!

Two of Elizabeth's headdresses from "Cleopatra"

Elizabeth's sedan from "Cleopatra"

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Elizabeth and granddaughter Naomi Wilding in 2003. Naomi will accept a posthumous award for Elizabeth this evening.

Tonight Elizabeth will be posthumously honoured at the with Women In Film’s 2011 Crystal + Lucy Awards’ Norma Zarky Award, presented by jeweler Pandora, for her pioneering work with HIV/AIDS.

Mikkel Berg, Executive Director of Marketing at Pandora, said in a statement, “We believe all women of the world are unique and precious. They live different lives in different cultures, and yet they are all fabulous in their own, individual ways. At Pandora we celebrate all these personalities and their unforgettable moments. All stories are worth sharing and honoring, and so is the story of the humanitarian work done by the late Elizabeth Taylor, which we are thrilled to be able to give tribute to, together with WIF.”

Elizabeth’s granddaughter, Naomi Wilding, will be on hand to accept the award.

 

Elizabeth Taylor was remembered at last night’s Tony Awards. She was included in the in memoriam segment along with other notable Broadway luminaries who passed away in the last year.

Elizabeth starred in two Broadway productions: The Little Foxes in 1981, and Private Lives with former husband Richard Burton two years later.

The Broadway community also honoured Elizabeth by dimming its lights after her death in March.

 

Elizabeth’s friend and veteran gossip columnist Liz Smith promised in today’s column a big Elizabeth scoop in her column soon!

I’m wondering what it could be… Perhaps details on the Christie’s auction or the memorial? A new book? A commemorative DVD set?

I guess time will tell!