Elizabeth Taylor: Savvy, Steely-Eyed Business Woman

Even without a film in more than 10 years, Taylor was likely a multimillionaire.

ByABC News
March 23, 2011, 2:58 PM

March 24, 2011 — -- Elizabeth Taylor may be remembered for her sultry and dramatic roles in Cleopatra, Butterfield 8, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Yet despite being the first actor to receive $1 million for a movie and two Best Actress Oscars, her main source of recent income was most likely not from her films, but her branded products.

One of the first celebrities to endorse a perfume, Taylor launched her first fragrance, Passion, in 1987. It's still licensed with beauty products company, Elizabeth Arden.

"That was really setting the standard. Celebrities had not really done that before," said William J. Mann, author of How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood.

Doing so allowed Taylor to "keep herself comfortable in her later years," according to Mann.

"It shows how smart she was," Mann said. "People think about her as a glamorous movie star. She was actually a very smart business woman."

And Taylor's death may not be a barrier to her income earning potential. Already predicted to hold Hollywood iconic status like that of Marilyn Monroe, Taylor merchandise likely will produce a steady stream of income. Marilyn Monroe has been featured at least eight times on Forbes' annual Top-Earning Dead Celebrities list, bringing in $6.5 million when she was featured on the list in 2008.

Taylor paved the road for other celebrity fragrances, like that of Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, and P. Diddy. In 1991, she introduced White Diamonds, and followed with a handful of other scents, many of them still available. Taylor's most recent perfume, Violet Eyes – alluding to her fabled eye color - launched in spring of 2010.

In 1993, Taylor partnered with Avon Products to launch her own costume jewelry line. Her pieces have become "the most sought after and highly valued of the Avon costume jewelry collections," according to eHow.

Avon and Elizabeth Arden could not be reached for comment.