Monday, September 27, 2010

Furious, Drunken, Obsessive Love

When Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were making the movie, Cleopatra, their days were filled with sex, booze, Roman villas and yachts off the Amalfi coast. How was your day at work?

In the new biography, Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and the Marriage of the Century, the authors paint of picture of a love affair like no other - the infamous coupling of the most famous movie stars on the planet. Their love, their lust, their wealth, their beauty - all on display for an international audience who couldn't get enough of "LizN'Dick."

The story starts in Rome (where else?) when the biggest box office star in the world, Elizabeth Taylor casts aside her new husband Eddie Fisher for her leading man, the Welsh-born Richard Burton. Soon, their indiscretions are captured by the hordes of Italian paparazzi, and Le Scandale as Burton named it, is plastered across every tabloid and screen in the world. Even the Pope notices: he condemns their love affair and denounces Taylor's "erotic vagrancy."

Once they divorce their respective spouses, his first, her fourth, the Burtons nestle into their home sweet home , or more accurately, homes. The Burtons like to spend money, but not pay taxes which means that can not spend too much time in either America or Great Britain, lest they pay their fair share. There are chateaus in Gstaad and Celigny, Switzerland, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, 685 acres in the Canary Islands, 10 acres in Ireland, long stays at the Dorchester Hotel in London and of course, their yacht.

They made many movies together, most notably Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Taylor won her second Oscar but Burton was rebuked for the award for a fifth time. (Richard Burton still holds the record for most Oscar nominations without a win - seven.)

They were so successful, when they contemplated going on a short hiatus in 1968, the industry broke out in a sweat; "nearly half of the U.S. film industry's income... came from pictures starring one of both of them." In fact, during the decade of their marriage, the Burtons would amass more that 615 million dollars in today's market, with the lion's share going to furs, diamonds, original works of art, clothes, travel, food, liquor, a yacht and their private jet. Take that Brad and Angelina!

In the end, however, alcohol and self-loathing trumped love and wealth. Burton drank openly when he worked, and he was one nasty drunk. Taylor was a bit better, but for all her professed love for Richard, she wouldn't stop drinking when he finally went on the wagon. They divorced. They remarried. They re-divorced. Then they married other people.

Years later, Liz N' Dick would appear in a stage version of Noel Coward's Private Lives, a play about formerly married people who run into each other on their respective honeymoons. Elizabeth believed that they would marry again, and Richard confessed to many that she was the love of his life but a third marriage was not to be. Burton dropped dead of a cerebral hemorrhage.

There is one new bit of information that Elizabeth Taylor, now 78 , told these biographers. Two days after Burton died, she received a love letter from him. She put it on her night table, where it has remained for the last 26 years.

1 comment:

Linda K. said...

What is it about these sensational celebrity biographies that captivate us so? Even though I'm not a big fan of Elizabeth Taylor, or her movies, I would definitely read this book, just as I would read any "People" magazine article about her. I think it's just so "off the wall" and such a stretch from our everyday life that we tend to lap it up. Love those celebrity bios!

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