EntertainmentFurious love. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

Furious love. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, New Mexico, 1963.
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, New Mexico, 1963.
Images source: © Getty Images

9:43 AM EDT, September 29, 2023, updated: 9:14 AM EDT, October 5, 2023

The Vatican condemned them, the tabloids loved them. The shared fate of violet-eyed Liz and rebellious Dick turned into an extraordinary tale of passion, luxury, addiction, and destruction. They married and divorced twice. Even when they finally separated, they regretted nothing.

During one of the trips to Paris, lovestruck Dick bought his Liz a jet plane. He loved to shower her with diamonds, which she had a particular weakness for. When he drank, she drank too.

When he struck a blow, she did not owe any. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton are one of the most interesting acting duos, but off the screen, they had a turbulent relationship that was observed with concern by their close ones and the press with a desire for more sensations.

The calm before the storm

In 1960, work began on a film that was to make a monumental mark on the history of cinema. The unfinished "Cleopatra" was advertised as the "largest production of the decade". The plan was for the renowned scandalous beauty, Elizabeth Taylor from Hollywood, to play the captivating queen of Egypt.

Elizabeth was born on February 27, 1932, in London. Since her performance in "Lassie Come Home" she became a star. She transformed from a charming little girl into a beautiful woman in front of the eyes of the whole world. Before she turned thirty, she had received three Oscar nominations. She proved that not only was she beautiful, but she also had acting talent. In addition, for some time she had been continuously appearing in American tabloids.

Her first marriage to Conrad Hilton Jr. (the heir to Hilton Hotels, a drunkard, and a ladies man) lasted only a year. In 1952, Elizabeth got married for the second time. With Michael Wilding, who was 20 years her senior, she had two sons: Michael and Christopher.

However, in January 1957, she was divorced again - until February, when she married producer Mike Todd. On March 22, 1958, Todd died in a plane crash. Elizabeth found consolation in the arms of Eddie Fisher - a family friend.

At the time, Eddie was the husband of Debbie Reynolds. Therefore, the press began portraying Liz as a ruthless home-wrecker. Nevertheless, in 1959, Taylor converted to Judaism for her chosen one and became Mrs. Fisher, announcing to the world that "from now on, she will only be a wife and mother".

However, she was soon lured by the fabulous salary offered by 20th Century Fox Studio - an amount of 1 million dollars - and she accepted the role in the epic production about the Queen of the Nile. The director, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, saw Rex Harrison and Richard Burton in the roles of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony - Cleopatra's lovers.

Richard Burton, unlike Elizabeth Taylor, worked hard for his acting position.

He was born on November 10, 1925, in the Welsh village of Pontrhydyfen. He was the son of a miner and grew up in poverty. Thanks to a scholarship, he was able to study acting in Oxford. He then embarked on a television career.

In 1947, on the set of the movie "The Last Days of Dolwyn", he met Sybil Williams, whom he soon married. They had two daughters: Kate and Jessica. Richard never promised fidelity. However, his reputation as a womanizer did not hinder his international career.

In the 1950s, he found success on Broadway, then in Hollywood. In 1952, he received his first Oscar nomination. He began to be cast mainly in historical films. Finally, 20th Century Fox offered him the role of Mark Antony in "Cleopatra".

Richard was pleased with the prospect of working with Elizabeth, who had caught his eye at a Hollywood party several years earlier. Taylor admired Burton for his theatrical achievements and intellectual pursuits, but his behavior left much to be desired.

However, in February 1961, Elizabeth fell severely ill with pneumonia. She miraculously survived. Upon leaving the hospital, she was ready to embrace whatever life had to offer her. Including a new love.

Roman Scandal

No one expected that a romance would erupt on the set of an epic production in Rome, a romance that would overshadow the film itself. Taylor was Fisher's wife, and Richard Burton was married to Williams. The wedding rings on their fingers did not stop them - the actors quickly fell into each other's arms.

They filmed their first scene together on January 22, 1962. Just a few days later, one of the assistant production managers noticed: "Liz and Richard aren't pretending in their love scenes. There's passion between them on set and off". He was not wrong.

Elizabeth felt something for Richard that she later compared to the experiences of the sleeping princess, awakened by a tenderly kissing prince. It was Burton who caused Liz to remove Mike Todd's ring from her finger - a melted and twisted token found at the disaster site.

The romance on the set of Cleopatra was for her something much more than an adventure. Having recently faced death, she was determined to take a risk and fight for happiness. Additionally, being raised in Hollywood and spending her life reciting movie lines, she had learned to experience romantic fascinations in a cinematic way, with a large dose of drama and highly emotional reactions.

At the end of January, Burton told reporters, "I have to admit, I'm fascinated by Liz".

It was no longer possible to stop the avalanche of rumors.

Tabloid favorites

From the very beginning of the romance, the press did not give Liz and Dick any peace. Photojournalists accompanied them during their weekend escapades or nocturnal bar hops. In 1963, the media obsession was ongoing. The Vatican condemned the lovers, and the U.S. government considered revoking Burton's visa.

When the lovers could not be together, they wrote love letters to each other. In September 1963, they both set off to Mexico, where Richard was to work on the set of the movie "Night of the Iguana." When director John Huston went to the airport to greet the couple, he had trouble making his way through the crowds waiting for the notorious scandal-makers. Among this crowd were devoted admirers and fanatic defenders of morality.

Liz and Dick often argued, but love prevailed and they became a married couple on March 15, 1964. The intimate ceremony took place at the Ritz-Carlton in Montreal. Elizabeth looked stunning in a yellow chiffon dress with a hyacinth tucked in her hair.

The Burtons

The media predicted the downfall of Taylor's career and the end of the Welshman's winning streak. However, in 1963, Dick and Liz starred together in the film "The V.I.P.s" directed by Anthony Asquith.

In 1965, Vincente Minnelli proposed the couple's participation in the film "The Sandpiper". The extraordinary chemistry between the spouses made the duo one of the most desired in Hollywood.

Their tumultuous relationship from the very beginning allowed them to experience various emotions: from suppressed desire, through euphoria, pathological jealousy, indescribable anger, to love - in all its shades.

In 1966, they starred in the adaptation of Edward Albee's outstanding play "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?". Elizabeth Taylor received her second Oscar in her career for Best Leading Actress. Mike Nichols' film is undoubtedly the greatest artistic achievement of the duo, who appeared in 11 productions.

Richard didn't hide the fact that he only acted in movies for the money - and the Burtons were lavish with it. They bought luxurious villas in various parts of the globe. They loved art, yachts, and sports cars. They even had a private airplane. Richard showered his wife with jewels. Once, seeing an absurdly expensive bauble at the jeweler's, usually generous Dick exclaimed: "What a price! Who would pay that much!". Liz sweetly smiled and announced: "You will pay". She was right.

The turn of the 60s and 70s, however, was a difficult time for the Burtons. Elizabeth was receiving fewer and fewer offers, while Richard was getting quite a lot, in addition, he engaged in politics and expressed his views in numerous articles.

While Burton was concerned with professional and political matters, Taylor dreamed of another child. Instead of confirming the long-awaited pregnancy, doctors began to suspect Liz had cancer and proposed a hysterectomy.

The traumatic event caused the spouses to start drifting apart. They began to drink more, their fights became more frequent and spectacular. Both had affairs, and jealousy became the reason for further eruptions of fury. Over time, they stopped being the "hottest couple in Hollywood".

Farewells and Returns

The Burtons raised Elizabeth's sons from her second marriage, Richard adopted little Liz (Liz and Todd's daughter) and a German orphan, for whose adoption Taylor had applied during her relationship with Fisher.

However, they were not a family leading an idyllic life. Alcohol, sex, and luxury - these three words aptly defined their tumultuous relationship.

Taylor often showed up on set so bruised that makeup artists spent hours doing makeup to cover a black eye or split lip. In 1974, the marriage ended in divorce.

However, when Taylor and Burton met to discuss financial matters, they fell into each other's arms and declared that they "cannot live without each other". They remarried on October 10, 1975. They lasted several months. The divorce - their second and last - was finalized in July 1976.

Richard was the first to understand that they should not be together: - Elizabeth and I lived on the edge of an exciting volcano. [...] It can be wonderful, but it can just as well end in murder.

Soon Elizabeth married Republican politician John Warner, then Larry Fortensky. Richard, on the other hand, married British artist Suzy Miller, and his fourth wife was theater producer Sally Hay.

In 1983, Liz and Dick appeared together in the play Private Lives. The chemistry between the ex-spouses was impossible to ignore. They remained friends until the end. Richard was rooting for Elizabeth when she decided to face her destructive addiction in 1983. Burton suddenly passed away on August 5, 1984.

Liz once said, "- Even as he was dying, I was madly in love with him. I think he loved me too. Looking back, the actress had no regrets. In one of her interviews, she confessed that if she could, she would marry Dick again. She passed away on March 23, 2011."

The text is based on excerpts from the book "Portraits without embellishments. Stories of (un)forgotten Hollywood stars".

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