OXFORD’S theatre community last night paid tribute to legendary screen actress Elizabeth Taylor, who died aged 79.

Dame Elizabeth, famed for her role as Cleopatra, died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles yesterday morning from congestive heart failure.

She had strong links to Oxford, performing on stage and staying in city and county hotels many times during her life.

Don Chapman, Oxford Mail theatre critic from 1959 to 1994, saw Dame Elizabeth and husband Richard Burton star in Oxford University Dramatic Society’s production of Dr Faustus in 1966, pictured below.

The pair agreed to give their services for free and join undergraduates at the Oxford Playhouse to help raise funds for the society.

Mr Chapman said: “She was a megastar in the truest sense of the word.

“She was stunningly beautiful and emerged on to the stage through a trapdoor, and later ‘floated’ across the stage on dry ice. It was a wonderful evening. The security was incredibly tight.”

Her most celebrated relationship was with Mr Burton, whom she met on the set of one of her defining movies, Cleopatra, when he played Mark Antony.

Their romance captivated the world, but ended in divorce in 1974 after 10 years. Mr Burton died in 1984.

The Burton-Taylor Studio, in Beaumont Street, is one of the smallest theatre venues in Oxford and hosts university student productions during each eight-week term.

Mr Burton received his first standing ovation in Oxford while he was studying at Exeter College.

He often spoke of giving up acting to become a student in the city and was made an honorary fellow of St Peter’s College in 1972 after donating £100,000. He later donated money towards the Burton Rooms and in the late 1980s it was renamed the Burton Taylor Theatre.

The Oxford Playhouse manages the 50-seat venue on behalf of the university.

Director Michelle Dickson said: “Everyone at Oxford Playhouse is deeply saddened to hear the news.

“At the time of their performance in Oxford, they were the most famous couple in the world, and the production remains a highlight in the Playhouse’s history.

“We would like to pay tribute to her and celebrate her connection to our studio and to the ongoing work that the Oxford Playhouse does to support and develop theatrical opportunities for University of Oxford students.”

Dame Elizabeth is believed to have visited the Turf Tavern Pub, in Oxford, a number of times and regularly enjoyed stays at the Bear hotel, in Woodstock, with Mr Burton during the 1970s.

Her son, Michael Wilding, one of four children, said: “My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humour, and love.”

The Oscar-winning star was married eight times and had a lengthy battle with substance abuse.

Dame Elizabeth was born in Hampstead, North London, to American parents who took her back to the US when she was a child at the outbreak of the Second World War.

After a near-fatal battle with pneumonia in 1961, Dame Elizabeth suffered years of ill-health, including heart problems, a benign brain tumour and a double hip replacement.

A spokesman for the Fawsitt family, which owns the Bath Place Hotel where Dame Elizabeth had stayed, said: “It’s in our little history. It’s so sad and it really is the end of an era.

“She was such a great actress.”