Elaine Taylor was born in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. With the encouragement of her mother Frances, she took dancing lessons as a child and, as early as 1950, had her hair styled by the celebrated Raymond Bessone (“Mr Teasy Weasy”) for the part of Will O’the Wisp. Taylor later studied at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts and joined the London Festival Ballet.
In the mid-1960s Taylor appeared in episodes of various British television series, including The Benny Hill Show (1965), The Lance Percival Show (1966), in which she sang as well as taking part in comedy sketches, The Old Campaigner (1967), which featured Terry-Thomas as a womanising plastics salesman, and Mr. Rose, starring William Mervyn as a retired senior policeman (1968). Her appearance with Benny Hill on 18 December 1965 included a gender-reversal parody of the 1956 film Baby Doll that Hill repeated in 1974 with Diana Darvey. Taylor is thought also to have been the announcer of a sketch in which Hill first performed his song "Those Days" in imitation of Sonny and Cher. She worked again with Hill in the third series of his BBC radio show Benny Hill Time, which started on the Light Programme on 27 February 1966 and featured, among others, Patricia Hayes and Peter Vernon.
In 1967 Taylor was a “Bond girl” (with, among others, Jacqueline Bisset, Barbara Bouchet and Alexandra Bastedo) as Peg in Casino Royale and played on both stage and screen with Tommy Steele in Half a Sixpence. In 1968 she took the role of the "mod" Victoria Ponsonby in the comedy film Diamonds for Breakfast - in Leslie Halliwell's view, a "yawning comedy caper yarn embellished with sex and slapstick" - that featured also Marcello Mastroianni, in his first English language film, and Rita Tushingham. In the same year she played Shirley Blair, pregnant fiancée of Tom Taggart (Christian Roberts), in Hammer's adaptation of Bill MacIlwraith's play The Anniversary, a "high camp" black comedy starring Bette Davis and Sheila Hancock. Tom Chantrell’s famous poster for The Anniversary featured a front-on still of Taylor in brassiere and panties below the slogan (attributed to Davies’ character) “I Spy with my little eye/Something beginning with SEX … and I mean to put a stop to it”.
Following her appearance as Cloris in the 1969 film Lock Up Your Daughters, Taylor appeared in two more films, Michael Winner's The Games and the Warren Mitchell comedy All the Way Up (both 1970). She also starred in an episode of ITC's Jason King ("A Royal Flush", 1972) and various televised dramas for the BBC, including Trelawny of the Wells (as Rose Trelawny, 1972) and Kingsley Amis' Dr. Watson and the Darkwater Hall Mystery (as Emily, Lady Fairfax alongside Edward Fox's Watson, 1974). In the mid-1980s she returned to television in America in The George McKenna Story (1986) and Sharing Richard (1988), and co-produced the 1987 film Love Potion. Taylor’s most recent appearance is thought to have been in the TV film Till Death Us Do Part (1992) (based on a true crime and unrelated to the long-running British TV comedy series of the same name).
In 1969 Taylor met Christopher Plummer, best known at the time for his role as Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music (1965), while they were both filming Lock Up Your Daughters in Kilkenny, Ireland. Plummer was almost fourteen years older, twice divorced, and had recently been partnering Richard Harris' ex-wife Elizabeth Rees-Williams. Taylor's usually "mousy" hair, which was tinted red on location, is said to have appealed to Plummer. For her part, Taylor, who initially thought Plummer "a most conceited prig", agreed to meet him again in London provided that he reduced his consumption of alcohol.
Taylor and Plummer were married in Montreal, Quebec on 2 October 1970. The best man was Plummer’s childhood friend Toby Johnson and the only other guest was Johnson's wife Alice, who was a bridesmaid. The officiant, the Reverend Philip Moreton, had married Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in 1964. Taylor and Plummer reached their ruby wedding (40th) anniversary in 2010.
Since the 1970s Plummer and Taylor have lived on a rambling English style estate at Weston, Connecticut. Taylor has no children of her own; her stepdaughter is the actress Amanda Plummer (born 1957), Plummer’s daughter from his first marriage to Tammy Grimes. Over the years she appears to have moderated aspects of Plummer's behaviour. A few months after their marriage, Alan Bennett remarked wryly to Kenneth Tynan that Plummer was "his own worst enemy—but only just," while Plummer's own autobiography almost forty years later was entitled In Spite of Myself.
In 2012 Plummer identified "the key to lasting marriage" as "stay[ing] out of each other's hair" and reflected that while he and Taylor quarreled a lot, they "always end up in laughter which saves the day". More generally, he has described Taylor's positive influence on his life as follows:
a combination of Edith Cavell and Julia Child ... a nurse and a cook. I feel guilty sometimes that I denied her a wonderful life, that she's wasted it on some terrible old ham. She could have married a duke or a prince! And she knows it. But being British, you see, she never complains. She's very well trained.
Taylor is a gourmet French cook and she and Plummer renovated or designed houses in West Hollywood, Grasse and London before settling in Weston.