Richard Burton wrote more than 400,000 words on loose paper, desk diaries and pocketbooks, and these private musings of the famous actor from the Welsh Valleys, are now set to become food for the public domain, as they will be published in diary from this October. It must have been a brave decision on the part of Sally Burton, his last wife, who Burton married in 1983, a year before he died, as Burton extols his love for his former love – Elizabeth Taylor, many times. In the 60’s and 70’s, the Burton Taylor on and off turbulent romance was akin to royal status, with Burton lavishing Taylor with expensive diamonds and jewellery, despite their volatile relationship. They met in 1963 on the set of Cleopatra, which at the time was the most expensive film ever made, with Taylor already a global star. And such were the parts they played were filled with agony, lust and longing, so this spilled out onto their real lives. They became part of the 60’s jet set with Burton famously buying Taylor her own private plane, a thing we have not even seen in today’s celebrity couples! The passion they aroused in each other was so intense, however, that their conflicts and arguments became as much a part of their relationship as their love for each other.
In Taylor, Burton had pretty much met his match, and no other woman would ever be able to live up to that; perhaps Sally Burton recognised this fact when she so altruistically decided to donate Burton’s diaries to Swansea University in 2005. For whatever reason she did, the nation will be undoubtably grateful to have an insight into this extraordinarily talented and vulnerable man. Burton loved Taylor so much that he actually married her twice, first from 1964 to 1974 and then again from 1975 to 1976, and it is probably because he felt this way about her, as he wrote back in November 1968, “I have been inordinately lucky all my life but the greatest luck of all has been Elizabeth. She has turned me into a model man but not a prig, she is a wildly exciting lover-mistress, she is shy and witty, she is nobody’s fool.” He also praised her acting skills, saying, “She is a brilliant actress, she is beautiful beyond the dreams of pornography, she can be arrogant and wilful, she is clement and loving. She is Sunday’s child, she can tolerate my impossibilities and my drunkenness, she is an ache in the stomach when I am away from her and she loves me.” A year later, still impossibly in love with her, he wrote, “I awoke this morning at about 7 o’clock. I stared at Elizabeth for a long time. I held her hand and kissed her very gently. Probably no woman sleeps with such childish beauty as my adorable difficult fractious intolerant wife.”
Burton’s diaries also allude to his secret shame that dogged him throughout his career, that he had given in to the allure of Hollywood for the money, when his should had used his talent for the stage work in London and not on Broadway. He wrote in August 1971, “My lack of interest in my own career, past present or future is almost total. All my life I think I have been secretly ashamed of being an actor and the older I get the more ashamed I get. And I think it resolves itself into a firm belief that the person who’s doing the acting is somebody else.” Richard Burton died at his home in August 1984 from a cerebral haemorrhage. The Richard Burton Diaries, edited by Professor Chris Williams, of Swansea University, will be published by Yale University Press in October. A great read for anyone who is interested, not only in the life of Richard Burton, but the times of that era in Hollywood and of one very special love affair, between one exceptional actor and a beautiful actress.
Source – BBC News