How could I let the month of love pass without a post on the greatest love story of the 20th Century?
Liz and Dick. Taylor and Burton. The Battling Burtons.
Well, I just can’t.
And besides, yesterday was her birthday. She turned 79!!!!
The first time Richard Burton met Elizabeth Taylor, he wasn’t impressed, and she thought he was “moody, sullen, and rude.”
He mentioned to a friend that night that he thought “she was so dark, she probably shaves.”
She told someone that his pock marked face added to his ruggedness, and he “could have been handsome.”
Could have been handsome? Mildred Carson just rolled over in her grave.
Their second meeting was on a movie set in Rome. They had been cast as the “most famous lovers of all time”, Marc Anthony and Cleopatra.
20th Century Fox had been after Taylor to play Cleo for years, time was a wastin’ and Fox knew if they were going to make the move with her, it had to be soon.
Elizabeth, married to Eddie Fisher at the time, was in Paris. Spyrous Skouras, the head of Fox called once again, badgering Taylor to play the Queen of the Nile. She didn’t want the part, and casually said, “Tell, him I’ll do it for a million dollars.”
He said yes.
The rest is history.
Fox went backrupt as the cost of Taylor’s salary rose to $7 million (equal to $47 million in today’s economy) due to production delays and other problems. According to “Forbes Magazine” it remains most expensive movie ever made when adjusted for inflation. Other publications and the like place it third. If made today, it would cost over $300 million.
The major outcome of the film was the furious love affair of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Both married to others at the onset, it was le scandale, the gossip columnists’ dream come true and it created the paparazzi.
I know, I’ve talked about all of this before.
Burton and Taylor started an affair while in Rome, Eddie got pissed and went back to New York, Sybil Burton played the wronged woman to the hilt, the Pope condemned them, calling Taylor “a sexual vagrant” and “an itinerant homewrecker”, and one US Congressman demanded that they be declared Persona Non Grata, and refused entry into the US. She was from the who are you kidding not so scandal free state of Georgia.
Well, now, aren’t we judemental?
(Author hangs head in shame.)
But, it was a mess, and it was all anyone ever talked about!
Nevertheless, when Burton landed on the set, usually hung-over or still drunk from the night before, Taylor was the one made him hot coffee and got him ready for the shoot.
Their chemistry developed and the movie rushes were heating UP the screen.
Taylor/Fisher marriage was still there, but the cracks in their relationship were showing. Burton’s wife, Sybil was also an actor. The romance of the century became the scandal of the year next 2 decades.
There was always drama; Fisher once threatened Burton with a pistol and Taylor took an overdoes of sleeping pills. The paparazzi followed them everywhere.
Finally Sybil Burton consented to the divorce.
They married the first time, yes, the first time, on March 15, 1964.
Their marriage was passionate, played out in the press, and littered with continual drinking, quarrels and even physical fights. Years of headline making gifts, trips, parties, art, films, and fights kept the tabloids in business. They were easy targets, and they were a smorgasbord of news for gossip hungry readers.
They divorced on my 22nd birthday, June 26, 1974.
I was crushed.
They remarried in October of 1975 somewhere in Africa. But, alas, the greatest love affair of the 20th Century was not to be, they divorced again in July of 1976.
In the book Furious Love, the authors point out that neither of them realized during the romance and marriage just how unrealistic their lives were. Taylor, while filming a scene set in Las Vegas grocery, was appalled at the price of meat, and asked, “How do other people eat?”
Burton died at 58. That paparazzi hounded Elizabeth even to his gravesite.
The trips, the yachts, the furs, diamonds, travel, and lifestyle were all normal – to them.
Their passion – was most certainly not!
Dame Elizabeth, what’s not to love?