Elizabeth Taylor portrait in her Bungalow at The Beverly Hills Hotel
Art and culture

Elizabeth Taylor by legendary photographer Bert Stern

August 09, 2022

The Beverly Hills Hotel served as a backdrop to Elizabeth Taylor’s life in California. Now she returns in a series of striking portraits, taken by legendary photographer Bert Stern. Hear stories from behind the scenes surrounding these fascinating images.
Photographer Bert Stern
Courtesy of The Bert Stern Trust

About Bert Stern

Born in Brooklyn in 1929, Bert Stern started out as a photographer in the army, working on a base in Japan. On his return to America, he went on to become a highly sought-after photographer by magazines, advertisers, Hollywood studios and fashion designers. He worked with countless celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Gary Cooper and Marilyn Monroe. For our latest exhibition at The Beverly Hills Hotel, you can see his photos captured during the time Elizabeth Taylor was filming Cleopatra and falling in love with Richard Burton.

When a portrait evokes a feeling then you’ve got something, technique isn’t really important. What I want is a believable moment.

Bert Stern


Capturing Cleopatra

“I got there at 10am and set up my lighting. She said she was going to take four hours to do her own makeup. I said that was fine with me because it would take me four hours to get the lights right. It was more like six hours before she was ready, but when she came out in her Cleopatra makeup it was worth the wait. She was perfect, even with the scar on her throat from her recent tracheotomy. I knew the picture right away.”

Elizabeth Taylor in costume for Cleopatra by Bert Stern
Courtesy of The Bert Stern Trust
Bert Stern photograph of Elizabeth Taylor wearing scarf
Courtesy of The Bert Stern Trust

A rare beauty

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, especially if that person happens to be a photographer. Some people are so amazing that anyone in the world can see their beauty; like Elizabeth Taylor. Beauty is hard to define, but you know it when you see it.”

What makes a great model is her need, her desire; and it’s exciting to
photograph desire.

Bert Stern

Cover story

“By the time Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton arrived in London after the filming of Cleopatra, their love affair was being exploited by the press and they were plagued by paparazzi. Later, I was the only photographer allowed to photograph them as newlyweds. When I returned to New York, I raced to the offices of Life Magazine clutching a single photograph of them and I said to the editor, “How’s this for a cover?” He glanced at it and handed me a check for $5,000 and ran it on the cover.”

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton pose for Cleopatra
Courtesy of The Bert Stern Trust
Elizabeth Taylor & Father at The Beverly Hills Hotel
Courtesy of “The Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows - The First 100 Years” by Robert S. Anderson, available at www.thebeverlyhillscollection.com

Backdrop of her life

Elizabeth Taylor’s father had a gallery in the promenade at The Beverly Hills Hotel, and she went on to become a frequent guest of the hotel throughout her life. Our famed bungalows are where she spent several of her honeymoons. She also regularly dined at the Polo Lounge and celebrated many iconic moments in her life with us, such as her Oscar win for BUtterfield 8. Having recently formed a partnership with House of Taylor, we have renamed her favourite bungalow in her honour, the Elizabeth Taylor Bungalow 5.

Our complimentary exhibition in The Beverly Hills Hotel’s promenade is open to the public daily August 1 – September 30. All photos are available for purchase and a portion of the proceeds will benefit House of Taylor. The exhibition is curated by Shannah Laumeister Stern, widow of the late Bert Stern and Trustee of the Bert Stern Trust.

Header image is courtesy of Olivia Lopez

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