(CNN) -- Elizabeth Taylor, the legendary actress famed for her beauty, her jet-set lifestyle, her charitable endeavors and her many marriages, has died, her publicist told CNN Wednesday. She was 79.
Taylor died "peacefully today in Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles," said a statement from her publicist. She was hospitalized six weeks ago with congestive heart failure, "a condition with which she had struggled for many 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."
Though a two-time Oscar winner -- for "Butterfield 8" (1960) and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" (1966) -- Taylor was more celebrated for simply being Elizabeth Taylor: sexy, glamorous, tempestuous, fragile, always trailing courtiers, media and fans. She wasn't above playing to that image -- she had a fragrance called "White Diamonds" -- or mocking it.
"I am a very committed wife," she once said. "And I should be committed too -- for being married so many times."
She was hailed, in her prime, as the world's most beautiful and desirable woman. Her affair with actor Richard Burton, which began on the set of the film "Cleopatra," fueled a paparazzi rush unrivaled in its time. The two later married -- twice -- providing gossip columns and movie magazines with a wealth of material.
But Taylor could also be an effective and arresting actress. Her harrowing performance in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" (1966), opposite Burton, showed her as shrewish, plain, embittered -- the complete opposite of her real-life image.
She also gave sharp performances in "Giant" (1956), "Raintree County" (1957), "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958) -- three films that helped build her reputation as a worldwide sex symbol -- "The Sandpiper" (1965) and "Reflections in a Golden Eye" (1967).
Taylor was a champion for a number of charitable causes, notably the fight against AIDS. She founded the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation after the death of her friend Rock Hudson, and plowed both her time and money into its work, especially as her acting career waned in the 1980s. The BBC once noted that her charity work had grossed as much as her film career.
Elizabeth Taylor has passed away
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