Taylor.jpg
Photo by: Sid Avery (born 1918), Gelatin silver print, 1955, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Ron and Donna Avery

Hollywood has a long history of child stars who failed to maintain their screen appeal on reaching adolescence. Elizabeth Taylor, endowed with a dark, luminous beauty that only became more compelling as she matured, had no such difficulty. Following her widely praised performance at age twelve in National Velvet , her rise was steady, and by age seventeen Time was proclaiming her Hollywood's "sure star of the future." The prediction fell somewhat short of reality. Over the next several decades Taylor became America's ultimate screen celebrity, famed as much for her tumultuous private life as for her memorable performances in such films as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf .

In 1955, Taylor had the lead female role in the screen adaptation of Giant , Edna Ferber's epic novel about a Texas ranching family. In the photograph here, Hollywood photographer Sid Avery caught her soaking up the sun on the movie's set in Marfa, Texas.