Today marks a sad day in film history. This morning the legendary Elizabeth Taylor, surrounded by her family, succumbed to congestive heart failure at the age of 79. MovieMaker pays tribute to this remarkable, classic movie star, whose films helped define American cinema.

As a child, Elizabeth Taylor starred in films like Jane Eyre (1943) and National Velvet (1944). As a teenager she appeared in Little Women (1949) and Father of the Bride (1950), the latter alongside film icon Spencer Tracy. Over the course of her long career she earned two Best Leading Actress Oscars for her work in Butterfield 8 (1960) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). She graced the screen in classics like A Place in the Sun (1951), Giant (1956), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), and Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), to name a few.

The violet-eyed actress is as well known for her personal life as she is for her films. She was married–and divorced–eight times; two of those marriages were to her frequent co-star Richard Burton. Taylor’s friendships with stars like Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, Rock Hudson, Elton John and Michael Jackson have also garnered public attention. Though the media’s focus was on her often scandalous private life, Taylor was also a committed humanitarian who devoted herself to the fight against HIV/AIDS. Her efforts earned her the Jean Herscholt Humanitarian Award at the 1993 Oscars, and in 2000 she was made a Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

Taylor is a true survivor; in addition to surviving for decades amidst the fickle nature of Hollywood, she avoided the plane crash that killed her third husband (producer Mike Todd) and battled a brain tumor and severe back problems which left her wheelchair-bound in her later years. In a 2006 interview with Larry King, Taylor recalled a grueling bout with pneumonia during which she was pronounced dead four times. Though it seems that this great star has finally dimmed, Elizabeth Taylor will forever live on through her films. She is a true icon who will be greatly missed but never forgotten.