|Movie Poster for Giant|
Elizabeth Taylor began her career under the old studio system where "movie moguls," the producers and studio owners, controlled the movie business in every aspect. Actors, even major celebrities like Clark Gable and Myrna Loy, were completely at the mercy of the studios that owned their contracts. These contracts limited the choices actors could make, and the salaries they could command. At age 15, Elizabeth Taylor realized that for her at least, things could be different. After publicly reprimanding Louis B. Meyer for verbally abusing her mother, Taylor stormed out of his office. While a lesser star would have been fired for standing up to a producer, Taylor suffered no recriminations. In an interview with Johnny Carson many years later, Taylor remarked that it was at that moment she realized "Elizabeth Taylor the commodity" was a source of strength. She realized that movie moguls could not act with impunity if a star's marketability was powerful enough.
By 1963, Elizabeth Taylor was a screen icon, with success in critically and popularly acclaimed films. She had worked alongside legendary actors including James Dean, Marlon Brando, Rock Hudson, and Paul Newman. She had attained the stature necessary to command a record-breaking salary. More actors would follow Elizabeth Taylor's lead; now, a million-dollar salary seems like only a modest fee for a star.