With the passing of Elizabeth Taylor, the world lost not only one of its great screen actors, but also one of its most generous.

Taylor, 79, starred in a string of classic movies during the 1950s and '60s, including "Giant," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "Cleopatra." She also became an international sex symbol, fashion icon and perfume mogul.

"My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest with great passion, humor and love," said son Michael Wilding in a statement read on "Good Morning America." "Though her loss is devastating to those of us who held her so close and so dear, we will always be inspired by her enduring contributions to our world."

In 1985, Taylor's close friend, actor Rock Hudson, died from complications from AIDS, inspiring the actress to dedicate the rest of her life to helping AIDS-related charities and fundraisers. In addition to helping co-found the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amFar), Taylor also formed her own foundation, the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation, with a focus on direct services for people living with AIDS around the world.

“I decided that with my name I could open certain doors, that I was a commodity in myself — and I’m not talking as an actress," she said. "I could take the fame I’d resented and tried to get away from for so many years — but you can never get away from it — and use it to do some good. I wanted to retire, but the tabloids wouldn’t let me. So I thought, if you’re going to screw me over, I’ll use you.”

It's estimated that by 1999, Taylor's efforts helped raise more than $50 million for the fight against AIDS.

Last month, Taylor was honored by amFAR during the organization's 25th anniversary gala with the Award of Courage for outstanding leadership and distinguished service in furthering the organization's mission. Sir Elton John accepted the honor on her behalf, delivering a personal note that read: “I am there in spirit, and I join you in saluting my fellow honorees and all these extraordinary leaders. I am inspired by their example, exhilarated by their vision, and encouraged by their compassion and love. And I love them in return.”

It's reported that Taylor will be buried at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. A funeral date has not yet been announced.

Also on MNN: More about the famous actress, her movies and relationships

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Elizabeth Taylor remembered for charity work
Legendary actress was a leader in raising money to find a cure for the AIDS virus. She lost a close friend, Rock Hudson, to the disease, and that changed her fo