Now arriving at gate ...

Elizabeth Taylor once starred in a film about Heathrow VIPs' lounge. The casting was perfect, for her dramatic arrivals and departures, husbands in tow, belong to the movie of her own life.

August 1953 Happy families with husband No 2, Michael Wilding

January 1957 With husband No 3, the film producer Mike Todd

June 1957 A lone appearance, but it doesn't last for very long earance

September 1960 With husband No. 4, balladeer Eddie Fisher

June 1961 Again with Fisher, once the husband of Debbie Reynolds

January 1966 With No. 5, Richard Burton - their first marriage

September 1970 Now the world's most famous married couple July 1971 Still with Burton, but a glam granny in go-go boots

April 1971 As ageing trendies of the Love Generation

November 1973 `Constant companion' Henry Wynberg was `in cars'

December 1973 Off her legs, but back with Burton, now No 6

November 1975 On its last legs - the second marriage, that is December 1976 With husband No 7, senator John Warner

March 1985 Comforted, between husbands, by her pet Peke

August 1986 With the actor and escort George Hamilton

April 1987 Slim and single again

February 1988 Another wheelchair, another mink

October 1991 Husband No. 8, Larry Fortensky, was `in construction'

Airports were glamorous once, back when air travel was just a dream for the Great Unwashed and stars adorned the heavens. Every day in the gossip columns and the (35,000 ft) high-society pages, a famous face appeared, pouting hello or waving goodbye as it made its pseudo-Royal progress to or from the VIP lounge - preternaturally aware that the airport was, if not a stage, then certainly a frame: a new and exciting site, exquisitely poised between public and private, splashy entrance and dramatic exit, with a celebrity etiquette all of its own.

No one fitted or fiddled with that frame better than Elizabeth Taylor. Long before third husband Mike Todd, died in their aeroplane, fatally christened The Lucky Liz, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World instinctively realised that the sky was the utter limit. Notorious are the transatlantic tales of Taylor hogging the only toilet for hours so that she could stride from the 747 freshly painted and looking fabulous, apparently impervious to the mortal malady of jet lag. True, she never went so far as Marilyn Monroe, who would slip into an exact but unwrinkled duplicate of her travelling outfit just before landing - but then Taylor had her violet eye beyond mere vanity and on the bigger picture.

As biographer Brenda Maddox notes in Who's Afraid of Elizabeth Taylor?, there was a time - the Michael Wilding marriage, actually - when, "photographs always seemed to show her clutching a baby as she got on and off planes". And when the cosy image ceased to play in the wake of her recreation as Scarlet Woman, Taylor cannily went for flamboyance.

In the early days, the British-born Taylor usually had a handy quote about "coming home", but words soon yielded to what the camera wanted and What Becomes A Legend Most, an on-going parade that was Taylor-made for the pop memory banks. Sunglasses and diamonds; wheelchairs and sympathy; Liz fat; Liz-Lite; Liz, recently made a grandmother, in white hot pants, tight top and go-go boots; Liz across the decades smiling adoringly at Eddie, Dick, George, Larry and sundry other consorts as if they were, indeed, The One and Only and not trinkets she'd treated herself to in Duty Free whilst travelling first class.

An airport's sterile surroundings impose a false, yet none-the-less illuminating, context. Heathrow provides narrative stability for an idol's quick changes and slow transformations, even if its exotic promise, like Taylor's, has faded with familiarity. It was destiny - or crass inevitability - when the two came together in 1963 for The VIPs, no one guessing that, in their different ways, both had already peaked. The era of movie-star glamour was over; Liz would sell less and less tickets at the box office as airlines sold more and more to her erstwhile audience. It's all there in Terence Rattigan's script: after waiting a tortuous 24 hours for the fog to lift, Taylor never sets a stiletto on a plane, but is whisked home instead by Richard Burton in the Rolls, plainly ill-at-ease with being grounded. Like the photographs reproduced here, some sort of metaphor, not only for The Way She Was but The Way We Were, too Celebrity Airports is an illuminated poster campaign by Dennis Stone, at BAA airports from August, held in conjunction with the `Airports' exhibition at The Photographers' Gallery, Great Newport St, London WC2, from 6 Sept

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SAP Project Manager

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

    SAP Project Manager

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

    Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

    £600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

    Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash