Elizabeth Taylor

LOS ANGELES (BNO NEWS) — Actress Elizabeth Taylor, often hailed as one of the greatest actresses of the 20th century, died at a hospital in southern California on early Wednesday morning, her publicist said. She was 79.

Publicist Sally Morrison said Taylor died at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles on Wednesday as a result of congestive heart failure. “She was surrounded by her children Michael Wilding, Christopher Wilding, Liza Todd, and Maria Burton,” she said.

Taylor had been hospitalized about six weeks ago as a result of the congestive heart failure, which she has been struggling with for several years. “Though she had recently suffered a number of complications, her condition had stabilized and it was hoped that she would be able to return home. Sadly, this was not to be,” Morrison said.

The actress, who became notorious for her seven marriages, won her first Academy Award for Best Actress in 1960 for her performance as Gloria Wandrous in BUtterfield 8, which also co-starred her then-husband Eddie Fisher.

Taylor won her second Academy Award for Best Actress in 1966 for her performance as Martha in Who’s Afraid of the Virginia Woolf? Ironically, Taylor’s then-husband Richard Burton also co-starred in that movie.

In a statement released after Taylor’s death, her son Michael Wilding called his mother an “extraordinary woman” who lived life to the fullest with great passion, humor, and love. “Though her loss is devastating to those of us who held her so close and so dear, we will always be inspired by her enduring contribution to our world,” he said.

Wilding added: “Her remarkable body of work in film, her ongoing success as a businesswoman, and her brave and relentless advocacy in the fight against HIV/AIDS, all make us all incredibly proud of what she accomplished. We know, quite simply, that the world is a better place for Mom having lived in it. Her legacy will never fade, her spirit will always be with us, and her love will live forever in our hearts.”

A private family funeral for Taylor is expected to be held later this week, but a public memorial service is also expected.