From: Susan Sackett, The Hollywood Reporter Book of Box Office Hits, Billboard Publications: New York City (1990), page 102:
It is interesting to note that Elizabeth Taylor played a Jewish girl in this film [Ivanhoe (1952)], although she was not raised in this faith. Seven years after Ivanhoe's release, she converted to Judaism. According to Ms. Taylor, in her book Elizabeth Takes Off, "It had absolutely nothing to do with my past marriage to Mike [Todd] or my upcoming marriage to Eddie Fisher, both of whom were Jewish. It was something I had wanted to do for a long time." http://www.adherents.com/people/pt/Elizabeth_Taylor.html
Whereas Judaism, unlike some other religions, discourages conversions, there has always been a certain amount of giddy excitement when a star, from Marilyn Monroe to Sammy Davis Jr., converts to the Jewish faith. Few, if any, such conversions, however, made the lasting impact of the ceremony at Hollywood’s Temple Israel on March 27, 1959, at which a 27-year old Elizabeth Taylor took the Hebrew name Elisheba Rachel and converted to Judaism.
Although some ridiculed this decision by Taylor, who died in the early morning of March 23 at age 79, she took it utterly seriously. Biographer Kitty Kelley quotes Taylor as stating: “I felt terribly sorry for the suffering of the Jews during the war. I was attracted to their heritage. I guess I identified with them as underdogs.” http://forward.com/articles/136447/
Her support for Israel caused her films to be banned in a good part of the Arab/Muslim world.
I think Cleopatra was briefly banned in Egypt before they decided it was good publicity. They had banned Taylor from the country between 1962 and 1964.
■Elizabeth Taylor Barred from Egypt; is Blacklisted As Jewish
July 20, 1962
LONDON (JTA) -- Elizabeth Taylor has been barred from entering Egypt and, as a result, the multimillion dollar film, "Cleopatra," practically completed in Rome except for Egyptian location shots, may have to be finished in some other country, according to a Cairo dispatch received here today. Gen. Essam Elmasri, head of the Cairo regional bureau of the Israel Boycott Office, said in the Egyptian capital that Miss Taylor will not be allowed to come to Egypt because she has adopted the Jewish faith and "supports Israeli causes." Miss Taylor is the wife of Eddie Fisher, the singer, who is Jewish. Officially, Miss Taylor's movies have been on the Egyptian blacklist for a long time. However, some of her films are shown occasionally in Egypt, and receive enthusiastic support from Egyptian audiences. Gen. Elmasri said the actress is being barred in accordance with the Arab League's ban on all persons aiding Israel.
■Egypt Removes Name of Elizabeth Taylor from Arab Blacklist
Jan. 23, 1964
LONDON (JTA) -- The name of film star Elizabeth Taylor has been removed from Egypt's blacklist of pro-Zionist personalities after Egyptian officials saw a private run of her new film, "Cleopatra," it was reported here today from Cairo. The officials decided the film was good publicity for Egypt which is mentioned 122 times in the movie. The film will be shown in Cairo in a few days, according to government reports. http://blogs.jta.org/telegraph/article/2011/03/23/3086532/in-the-jta-archive-remembering-liz-taylor
There was a mag story when I was a kid about how they made those huge gates of Thebes and the Statuary chochkies for the movie. It was interesting cause I think it was one of the first times when they used a foam plastic that they sprayed over with a stucco like material in thin layers. It was very time consuming . Today they build fcades of malls like that.
Elizabeth Taylor, convert to Judaism, Zionist, passes away at 79
Posted On March 24 , 2011 (1)Category - Breaking News
ELIZABETH TAYLOR seen here with co-star and husband, RICHARD BURTON
An ardent Zionist has passed away: Actress Elizabeth Taylor, who died on Wednesday in Los Angeles from heart failure at the age of 79.
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) issued a statement of mourning for Taylor, announcing that she had been converted to Judaism in 1959 by a former ZOA President, Reform Rabbi Max Nussbaum.
The ZOA statement listed a series of efforts Taylor made for Israel and the Jewish community, including her purchase of $100,000 in Israel Bonds in 1959, her participation in raising $840,000 for Israel in a 1967 London gala, and her cancellation of a visit to Moscow after the Soviet Union lashed out at Israel following the 1967 Six Day War.
In addition, she was one of 60 prominent women to sign a statement in 1975 to then-UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, condemning the General Assembly’s infamous Zionism-is-Racism resolution. Taylor offered herself as a hostage when 104 Jews aboard an Air France airbus were held hostage by PLO terrorists at Uganda’s Entebbe Airport, from which they were rescued in a spectacular Israeli commando mission on July 4, 1976, America’s 200th birthday.
Taylor frequently visited Israel and met with its leadership, including Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1983. In 1987, she signed a petition seeking the release from Soviet prison of leading refusenik Ida Nudel.
Elizabeth Taylor’s pro-Israel activism led to the banning of her films in several Arab countries. After she bought $100,000 in Israel Bonds in 1959, the United Arab Republic (now Egypt) banned all her movies. Gen. Essam Elmasri, head of the Cairo regional bureau of the Israel Boycott Office, said at the time that she would not be allowed into Egypt because she had adopted the Jewish faith and “supports Israeli causes.”
As was stated before, the Egyptian ban on the movie Cleopatra was rescinded by Egypt.
Fri 25 Mar, 2011 06:43 am
Quite amazing how Hollywood spared no expense for details in those days. Of course, the fact that those monumental efforts almost put 20th Century Fox out of business is the stuff of legends.
The cost was $44M in USD, in 1963. I think if cost is projected out to 2011, it is STILL considered the most (or one of the most) expensive movies of all time.
A noted cinemaphile posted this excellent review:
"One of the greatest ironies of filmmaking is the fact that quality doesn't seem to be the only or the most important reason why films are remembered decades after their premiere. More often than not popularity is much more important than artistic merit or influence on future filmmakers. In some cases films become cultural icons of its time even without being popular. Such was the case with CLEOPATRA, 1963 historical spectacle directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Today this film is remembered for many reasons - its budget that is unsurpassed even by present-day Hollywood megalomaniacs, romance between principal stars, and last but not least, commercial failure which brought "20th Century Fox" near bankruptcy and in many ways marked the end of Old Hollywood."
Fri 25 Mar, 2011 06:57 am
Poor Liz is a sharp reminder that youth and beauty fail and we all succumb in the end. She looks so frail and old in the second picture. Wow was she something when she was young!!
Fri 25 Mar, 2011 07:01 am
The movie earned Elizabeth Taylor a Guinness World Record title, "Most costume changes in a film"; Taylor made 65 costume changes. This record stood until 1996's Evita with Madonna's 85 changes of wardrobe.
Fri 25 Mar, 2011 07:33 pm
I heard about one of the most fitting tributes to Taylor today--the flags were lowered in NYC's diamond district.
In 2002, she penned a book, "Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry" and in it she said, "I'm fortunate to have some very important pieces of jewelry. I don't believe I own any of the pieces. I believe that I am their custodian, here to enjoy them, to give them the best treatment in the world, to watch after their safety, and to love them."
Some of the notable jewels in the Elizabeth Taylor jewelry collection include the 33 carat Krupp Diamond ring, La Peregrina pearl (a Valentine present from Richard Burton), an antique diamond tiara (gift from Mike Todd), Taj Mahal heart shaped yellow diamond necklace (gift from Richard Burton), the Duchess of Windsor diamond brooch, a 29 carat diamond ring (gift from Mike Todd), the pear shaped 69 carat Taylor-Burton diamond (sold to fund a hospital) and the Grand Duchess of Russia emeralds.
She once hosted an auction of donated jewelry that raised over $240,000 for The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. When she removed the engagement ring given to her by Richard Burton, an emerald and diamond ring, she told the crowd - "Please know that it is not easy for me to give it away. It is only my commitment to AIDS that persuaded me to let it go. My love is inside that ring forever." http://www.diamond-legend.info/people/taylor.html
I think I read that much of her jewelry collection (valued at $150 million) will be sold at auction to help pay the taxes on her $600 million estate.
The icon once talked to Barbara Walters about her love for all-things-bling, explaining, "The beauty, the perfection, God's workmanship. They're all from the ground." Her affinity for gemstones began as a child and continued as she counted husbands. Walters asked her if it was awkward for her new men to see their predecessor's presents. "So I've been told," Liz remarked. What did she do about it? "Encourage them to give me more." Naturally. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/24/elizabeth-taylors-jewelry_n_840021.html