Burton’s last epic

THE RICHARD BURTON DIARIES

EDITED BY CHRIS WILLIAMS

Burton diary cover

Richard Burton was at one time Hollywood’s most highly paid actor, famed as much for his epic romance with glamorous Elizabeth Taylor and his heavy drinking, as he was for his magnetic performances on stage and screen.

Throughout much of his life, Burton kept a diary. Although he dismissed them as “merely a daily exercise in the observation of frustration,” they have now provided us with an invaluable insight into the life and mind of the legendary actor.

His diaries were published for the first time in full last year having been lovingly edited and referenced by Chris Williams using Burton’s original journals plus other photographs, newspapers, recordings, scripts and books.

The resulting 654 pages are utterly brilliant and as compelling a read as any great novel. Burton is articulate, charming, callous and full of fun and gossip. He writes with such a beautiful and poetic voice that you feel yourself falling for him.

Burton documents a life well lived amongst famous friends and the elite. Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando cop quite a bit of his wrath throughout!

 burton and taylor pose

As well as a journal of his own life it is also interesting to read Burton’s take on history, current affairs, travel and sport. From the moon landings to Churchill, Mussolini to golf, Burton offers intelligent opinions on the topics of the day.

The ease with which he uses quotes from, among others, Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas and  Yeats  to illustrate his thoughts and feelings is a tremendous delight to read and reread. You find yourself marvelling at his cleverness and recall.

We discover that he found the actual daily business of making movies a bore and that he sought other activities to stimulate his mind. He was a very well read man; devouring books almost at the same rate he did vodka and liking nothing better than hiding away from his family and his entourage with a good, or bad, novel. He also studied many languages including French, Italian, Spanish and Russian and liked to watch his weight with what he called “the drinking man’s diet.”

Below I have compiled my favourite Burton quotes from these diaries on subjects such as his darling Elizabeth Taylor, doctors, drinking, social occasions and attacking paparazzi. Please read on, these extracts are beautifully written and often hilarious in their spiteful observation. Who doesn’t love a witty put down? Continue reading

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“I don’t want to be that much in love ever again”

FURIOUS LOVE – ELIZABETH TAYLOR & RICHARD BURTON: THE MARRIAGE OF THE CENTURY                                   

BY SAM KASHNER & NANCY SCHOENBERGER

Until recently, what I knew of Elizabeth Taylor was that she had been married 8 times to 7 men and had been close to my childhood idol Michael Jackson. What I knew of Richard Burton was that he was Welsh, a great actor and a drunk. But my interest in this ultimate celebrity couple was only properly sparked earlier this year by articles I read in magazines and Sunday supplements and then from a film made for BBC4 starring Dominic West and Helena Bonham-Carter as Burton and Taylor.furious love

Furious Love is a great title for this book as that is exactly what their relationship was. The authors invite us to take up front row seats to the raging arguments between them and the gloriously lusty make-ups later. The now legendary movies, jewels, costumes, drink and far flung exotic locations make this an exciting, rich biography of the pair.

They had met in Rome in 1962 on the set of Cleopatra. Richard a great stage actor and notorious womaniser from Pontrhydyfen, Elizabeth a former child star and now leading lady. Both were already married but soon they fell into a wild affair with each other – this became known as Le Scandale and shook the entertainment world.

burton and taylor cleopatra

In this book, Kashner and Schoenberger drew on diaries, love letters, eye-witness accounts and recollections from their friends, colleagues and entourage. From these we see how together they made some of the best films of the 1960s and caused controversy and pandemonium amongst the paparazzi and their adoring fans wherever they went. Continue reading