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Richard Burton Poster

Biography

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Overview (5)

Date of Birth 10 November 1925Pontrhydyfen, Wales, UK
Date of Death 5 August 1984Céligny, Geneva, Switzerland  (cerebral haemorrhage)
Birth NameRichard Walter Jenkins
Nicknames Rich
Dick
Height 5' 9½" (1.77 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Probably more frequently remembered for his turbulent personal life and multiple marriages, Richard Burton was nonetheless one of the great British actors of the post-WWII period.

Burton was born Richard Walter Jenkins in Pontrhydyfen, Wales, to Edith Maude (Thomas) and Richard Walter Jenkins, a coal miner. He received a scholarship to Oxford University to study acting and made his first stage appearance in the early 1940s.

His first film appearances were in non-descript movies such as Women of Dolwyn (1949), Waterfront Women (1950) and Green Grow the Rushes (1951). Then he started to get noticed by producers and audiences with his lead in My Cousin Rachel (1952), The Robe (1953) and Alexander the Great (1956), added to this he was also spending considerable time in stage productions, both in the UK and USA, often to splendid reviews.

The late 1950s was an exciting and inventive time in UK cinema, often referred to as the "British New Wave", and Burton was right in the thick of things, and showcased a sensational performance in Look Back in Anger (1959). He also appeared with a cavalcade of international stars in the WW2 magnum opus The Longest Day (1962), and then onto arguably his most "notorious" role as that of "Marc Antony" opposite Elizabeth Taylor in the hugely expensive Cleopatra (1963). This was, of course, the film that kick-started their fiery and passionate romance (plus two marriages), and the two of them appeared in several productions over the next few years including The V.I.P.s (1963), The Sandpiper (1965), the dynamic Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and The Taming of the Shrew (1967). However, Burton was often better when he was off on his own giving higher caliber performances, such as those in Becket (1964), the brilliant thriller The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965) and alongside Clint Eastwood in the actioner Where Eagles Dare (1968).

His audience appeal began to decline somewhat during the early 1970s as fans turned to younger, more virile male stars, however Burton was superb in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), he put on a reasonable show in Raid on Rommel (1971), was over the top in Bluebeard (1972), and wildly miscast in the ludicrous The Assassination of Trotsky (1972).

By 1975, quality male lead roles were definitely going to other stars, and Burton found himself appearing in some movies of dubious quality, just to pay the bills, including Klansman (1974), Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) and The Medusa Touch (1978). However in 1978, he appeared with fellow UK acting icons Richard Harris and Roger Moore in The Wild Geese (1978) about mercenaries in South Africa, and whilst the film had a modest initial run, over the past twenty five years it has picked up quite a cult following!

His two last great performances were as the sinister "O'Brien" in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), and in the TV mini series Ellis Island (1984). He passed away on August 5th, 1984 in Celigny, Switzerland from a cerebral hemorrhage.

Burton was an avid fan of Shakespeare, poetry and reading, having once said "home is where the books are".

- IMDb Mini Biography By: firehouse44@hotmail.com

Spouse (5)

Sally Hay (3 July 1983 - 5 August 1984) (his death)
Susan Hunt (21 August 1976 - 1982) (divorced)
Elizabeth Taylor (10 October 1975 - 1 August 1976) (remarried/redivorced)
Elizabeth Taylor (15 March 1964 - 26 June 1974) (divorced) (1 child)
Sybil Williams (5 February 1949 - 5 December 1963) (divorced) (2 children)

Trade Mark (2)

Frequently played self-loathing characters, particularly in his later career.
Gravelly voice

Trivia (90)

He took his professional name from his schoolmaster and tutor, Philip Burton, who took the 17-year old Richard Jenkins and groomed him for success, both academically and as an actor. The two became so close, Burton attempted to adopt him as his son, but was prevented from doing so as he was too young, under the law. Nevertheless, Jenkins, who became known to the world as Richard Burton, considered Philip Burton his adopted father and honored him by taking on his surname. Years later, when Philip Burton met Elizabeth Taylor and she asked Philip Burton how he came to adopt her soon-to-be fifth (and later sixth) husband, Richard piped up, "He didn't adopt me! I adopted him!".
Father of Kate Burton.
Interred at Protestant Churchyard, Céligny, Switzerland.
He once shared the record with Peter O'Toole for the most Oscar acting nominations (7) without a single win. In 2007, that record was broken, when O'Toole was nominated and lost yet again for the film Venus (2006).
Spoke Cymraeg (Welsh-language) as mother tongue.
He died on Sunday, August 5, 1984, less than a week before he was due to begin shooting Wild Geese II (1985), a sequel to his successful mercenary thriller The Wild Geese (1978), made in 1978. He was the only actor returning for the film and, as Colonel Allen Faulkner, would have led a team of crack mercenaries to spring aged Nazi Rudolf Hess from Spandau Prison in Berlin. Burton's death caused huge problems for producer Euan Lloyd, the man behind the original The Wild Geese (1978) and its follow-up, Wild Geese II (1985). With the rest of the cast (Scott Glenn, Barbara Carrera and Laurence Olivier (playing Hess)) in place, Euan Lloyd had just a handful of days to find a replacement for Burton. He selected British actor Edward Fox, who joined the cast as Alex Faulkner, Burton's brother. Burton's no-show in the film was explained by one character telling Edward Fox that they'd heard his famous warrior brother had died. The film was dedicated to Burton's memory.
He made his stage debut at Maesteg Town Hall in Wales.
Suffered from acute insomnia.
The twelfth of thirteen children, he insisted that his way out of an impoverished Welsh childhood was due not to acting, but to books; he read one a day.
Had two daughters by his first wife, Sybil Williams. Actress Kate Burton (born 1957) and Jessica (born 1961), who was diagnosed as profoundly autistic and would eventually be institutionalized.
He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1970 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to drama. He collected this award on his 45th birthday with his older sister Cis, who raised him as a child, and his wife Elizabeth Taylor.
Grandfather of Morgan Ritchie.
Burton received the first retrospective of his work since his death during Bradford Film Festival 2002 - almost 18 years after his death on Sunday, August 5, 1984. Twelve films were screened, among them Look Back in Anger (1959), Becket (1964), Equus (1977) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), his final picture. The festival, which christened its Burton season Lion of the Welsh, also featured a strand on legendary unfinished films that included a clip of Burton in Laughter in the Dark (1969), a movie from which he was allegedly fired by director Tony Richardson. The picture, based on the novel by Vladimir Nabokov, was shut down and eventually made with Nicol Williamson in Burton's role.
Was a drinking partner of Richard Harris and Peter O'Toole until Peter O'Toole was forced to give up drinking after surgery in 1976.
Died shortly after the filming of Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) was completed. He was in terrible health during filming from years of alcoholism and heavy smoking, and had to wear a neck brace during rehearsals.
He taught William Shakespeare to future actress Catherine Oxenberg when she was 13 and 14 years old.
He once bought a complete set of "The Everyman Library" for Elizabeth Taylor as a present.
He was on a flight to California from Mexico, when he ran into a young man interested in acting. Burton encouraged him to pursue it full time during their conversation. That young man was Kevin Costner, who promptly left his marketing job to pursue an acting career.
During World War II, he was admitted to Exeter College, Oxford to take the "University Short Course" for six months as a Royal Air Force cadet. While at Oxford in 1943-1944, he was a member of the Oxford University Dramatic Society. Cadets were promised that they could return to Oxford to complete their education after the war, but he did not, instead becoming a professional actor after being demobilized in 1947. Almost thirty years later, he was invited back to Oxford to teach poetry to undergraduates for a semester.
His mother died when he was two-years old. He was taken in and raised by his older sister, Cis, and her husband in the same Port Talbot, Wales, neighborhood where fellow Welshman Anthony Hopkins later lived in as a child. "I shone in the reflection of her green-eyed, black-haired gypsy beauty," Burton said of his sister/surrogate mother.
He, Ray Milland, Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones all were born within a 10-mile radius in south-western Wales.
His movie contracts contained a clause that he did not have to work on the 1st of March, St David's Day, the day honoring the patron saint of Wales.
Had to turn down the lead role of the British Consul in John Huston's adaptation of Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano (1984) as he was appearing in a touring production of Noel Coward's "Private Lives" co-starring with Elizabeth Taylor. The role was subsequently played by Albert Finney, who won an Oscar nomination as Best Actor.
Was the best man at Laurence Olivier's marriage to Joan Plowright in New York City on March 17, 1961. Both were appearing on Broadway at the time, he in "Camelot" and Laurence Olivier in "Becket".
Was famous for his high intelligence and for being incredibly well-read. Burton was widely admired for his command and understanding of English poetry, which he taught for a term at Oxford University in the early 1970s.
His friend Laurence Olivier tried to interest him in taking over the National Theatre after his imminent retirement from the post. He declined, feeling that the board of directors had treated the great Laurence Olivier shabbily.
He once got into a contest with Robert F. Kennedy, whom he greatly admired, in which they tried to out-do the other by quoting William Shakespeare's sonnets. Both were word-perfect, and Burton was forced to "win" the contest by quoting one of the sonnets backwards.
Was a great fan of baseball, which he followed avidly when he was in America. Burton thought Pulitzer Prize-winning baseball columnist Red Smith was a brilliant writer. Burton played softball with a team from the Broadway theatre in the 1980s, despite crippling bursitis in his shoulder.
Won Broadway's 1961 Tony Award as Best Actor (Musical) for "Camelot" as well as a Special Award in 1976. He was also twice nominated for Tony Awards as Best Actor (Dramatic): for "Time Remembered" (1954) and for "Hamlet" (1964).
He and his then wife Elizabeth Taylor were very close friends with the famous president of Yugoslavia (Serbia), Marshall Josip Broz Tito. They spent many vacations with him at his villa on the Yugoslavian Adriatic coast line as well as being a frequent guest at his mansion in Belgrade. He later played his close friend in the 1972 Yugoslavian film The Battle of Sutjeska (1973) (The Fifth Offensive).
He was engaged to Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia (Serbia & Montenegro) between the time of his two marriages to Elizabeth Taylor. Princess Elizabeth is the mother of Catherine Oxenberg whom he later coached on acting.
In 1961 he won a Tony Award for playing King Arthur in the original production of Lerner & Loewe's (Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe) Broadway musical "Camelot". When the film was in pre-production in the mid-1960s Burton turned down an attractive offer to reprise the role and Richard Harris was cast as The Once & Future King. Burton subsequently appeared in the 1980 Broadway revival of the musical, which played a total of 56 performances on the Great White Way before the production went on the road. During the road tour, Burton was replaced by Richard Harris as he was debilitated by crippling bursitis of the shoulder which eventually prevented him from handling a sword. Pain-killers did not help so he dropped out of the show and he was once again "replaced" by Richard Harris in the role.
Was nominated for a 1958 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for "Time Remembered". Three years later he won a 1961 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for "Camelot", and three years after that, he was again nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his 1964 "Hamlet", which was directed by his mentor John Gielgud. Burton also received a Special Tony Award in 1976 after appearing as a replacement in "Equus". Like his friends Laurence Olivier and Peter O'Toole, Burton was an unique and utterly electrifying stage actor whom commanded the rapt attention of his audience.
Won the 1951 Theatre World Award for "The Lady's Not For Burning".
Since Elizabeth Taylor was unable to have children, she and Richard adopted a German girl as their daughter, legally naming her Maria Burton. She was born in Germany c. 1964 with a deformed jaw that was fixed while she was still a baby.
He and Elizabeth Taylor starred together in 11 movies: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966); The V.I.P.s (1963); Under Milk Wood (1972); The Taming of the Shrew (1967); The Sandpiper (1965); Hammersmith Is Out (1972); Doctor Faustus (1967); Divorce His - Divorce Hers (1973); The Comedians (1967); Cleopatra (1963) and Boom! (1968).
He was forced to drop out of the Los Angeles run of "Camelot" in 1981 due to crippling back pain, most likely caused by his chronic bursitis. Doctors at the hospital couldn't understand how he had managed to entertain live audiences night after night. At first they couldn't operate because Burton was three stone underweight, so he had to remain in bed to build up his strength. His backbone was rebuilt in a delicate operation that could easily have left him paralyzed for life if something had gone wrong. Burton called his friend Richard Harris to replace him as King Arthur, and then returned to his home in Switzerland to recover.
Circa 1970, Burton's fellow Celt (and cinema superstar) Sean Connery, who had received excellent reviews for his portrayal of the doomed king in a 1960 Canadian television version of "Macbeth", hoped to launch a big-screen version of the Scottish play. Sean Connery's plans were foiled when Roman Polanski's version went into production for Hugh M. Hefner's Playboy Productions. Burton, who had won a reputation as the best "Hamlet" of his generation, was also interested in launching a film version of "Macbeth" at the same time. He had just had a great cinema success in the period piece Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), for which he won his sixth and penultimate Oscar nomination, and he told his friend Sir Laurence Olivier that he wanted to make a movie of "Macbeth" with himself as the eponymous king and his wife Elizabeth Taylor as Lady Macbeth. Burton's plans came to naught for the same reason as Sean Connery's did. A decade earlier, Sir Laurence Olivier - the greatest "Macbeth" of the 20th Century - had also failed to bring the play to the big screen. The future Lord Laurence Olivier had hoped to film his own version of the play in the late 1950s, but the failure of his movie Richard III (1955) to make back its money frustrated his plans. Producer Michael Todd, Elizabeth Taylor's third husband, told Laurence Olivier in 1958 that he likely would produce the film with Laurence Olivier as "Macbeth" and Laurence Olivier's real-life wife, Vivien Leigh, as his Lady, but that hope died in the plane crash that claimed Michael Todd's life. Thus, the famous "Macbeth" curse adversely affected three of the greatest actors of the 20th Century.
Won a Grammy in the "Best Recording for Children" category for "The Little Prince" (featuring Jonathan Winters and Billy Simpson).
His 1964 performance of "Hamlet" is the longest run of the play in Broadway history with 137 performances. It broke the record held by John Gielgud, who played the part for 132 performances and who directed Burton's Broadway production.
The producers of the film Equus (1977), who envisioned either Marlon Brando or Jack Nicholson in the role of the psychiatrist "Martin Dysart" in the film version, would only consider Burton for the role if he agreed to undertake a screen-test of sorts by playing the role on Broadway. Though considered one of the most brilliant theatre actors of his generation, Burton had not been on the professional stage in a dozen years (though he had appeared in an Oxford Undergradate Dramatic Society production of Doctor Faustus (which subsequently was filmed as Doctor Faustus (1967)) in 1966. Having suffered a slew of failures since 1970 that had undermined his bankability as a movie star, Burton agreed to take on the grueling role for a 12-week run. Though he was scheduled for his Broadway debut on a Sunday, he took over a Saturday matinée for the departing Anthony Perkins (who had received excellent notices after taking over for Anthony Hopkins, Burton's fellow Welshman who had grown up in his neighborhood in Wales and who had won a 1975 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actor in a Play for originating Dysart on Broadway). The film producers frankly were worried that Burton's alcoholism, which had nearly killed him during the production of Klansman (1974), had not only destroyed his powers as an actor but his stamina also. Their fears were borne out the first night when a nervous Burton stumbled during the matinée. However, by Sunday's show, with the vultures out to see a great actor brought low, Burton wowed the audience with a brilliant performance. Burton astounded theatre-goers and the critics, winning himself a Special Tony Award and the role in the film. (His run was extended another two weeks due to demand to see the legendary thespian and hell-raiser and easily could have gone on for many more weeks had Burton chosen to remain with the play.) Burton's career was recharged. The momentum of Burton's professional renaissance nearly brought him an Academy Award in 1978, but sadly, it was reckoned that the performance caught on film by director Sidney Lumet was only a pale shadow of the genius that had been on show on Broadway. (Ironically, this was the charge that had plagued Burton in his early career, that the talent, the genius, did not come through the lens to be caught on film. Burton himself said he did not learn to act on film until he co-starred with Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra (1963).) Reverting to his 1970s habit of poor film choices, such as Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) and The Medusa Touch (1978) tarnished Burton's newly burnished lustre too and Richard Dreyfuss beat him for the Oscar in his seventh (and last) Oscar nomination. Although he worked steadily until his death, Burton's post-Equus (1977) career never gained any real traction and he never again was a bankable star.
In addition to being honored with a Special Tony Award in 1976 for his triumphant return to Broadway after 12 years in Equus (1977), he was nominated three times for a Tony, winning once, in 1961 for Best Actor in a Musical for "Camelot". His other nominations were in 1958 (for Best Actor in Play) for "Time Remembered" and in 1964 (for Best Actor in Play) for Hamlet (1964).
After his second wife Elizabeth Taylor's close friend Montgomery Clift died before shooting began on Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), Burton briefly considered taking over the vacated role of the closeted homosexual Major Weldon Penderton that had been slated for Montgomery Clift. Though Burton would later play homosexual parts in Staircase (1969) and Villain (1971), it was thought that he would not be a good fit for the role of an American soldier. The part subsequently went to Marlon Brando, who gave what critics now believe was one of his greatest performances. Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor became friends, giving Burton a chance to socialize with America's greatest actor.
Was actively pursued for the role of "The Pilot" in the proposed film of The Little Prince (1974). Burton had had a huge success on Broadway with Lerner & Lowe's (Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe) Camelot (1967), but had turned down that film as he did The Little Prince (1974). The role of "The Pilot" subsequently was played by Richard Kiley.
According to Melvyn Bragg's biography (that was based on Burton's own diaries) in 1959, he turned down an offer of $350,000 (approximately $2.25 million in 2005 terms) to star as "Christ" in Nicholas Ray's remake of King of Kings (1961) due to superstition. A Welsh-Irish drunkard had read the palms of Burton and some friends, including Dylan Thomas, who were performing poetry on B.B.C. Radio's "Third Programme" and were waiting for show-time in a local pub. The drunk predicted the friends' deaths, which in the case of Dylan Thomas, was accurate. After two other friends died within their prescribed time frames, Burton (who had been told he would die at the age of 33) decided to take the year 1959 off so as not to tempt fate. Although he thought Nicholas Ray might make a good film and was keen to shoot on location in Spain, Burton, who already was a millionaire and did not need the money, turned the offer down. For the same reason, he also turned down the role played by Audie Murphy in John Huston's The Unforgiven (1960), which was shot in Durango, Mexico.
Planned on going back to the stage to appear in William Shakespeare's "Richard III" and "King Lear". His staging of "Richard III" would have been based on the ideas of his step-father, Philip Burton, to bring together all of William Shakespeare's dramatization of Richard, Duke of Glouster (later Richard III) from the "Henry VI" trilogy. Burton had planned on visiting his step-father in Florida in early 1985 to work on the project.
Loved to do crossword puzzles and was dismayed that American newspapers' crosswords were more geared towards encyclopedic information rather than puns and wordplay.
At the time of his death in 1984, he was slated to reprise his role as Colonel Allen Faulkner in Wild Geese II (1985) and had signed on to star as the English journalist Thomas Fowler in a remake of Graham Greene's The Quiet American (1958). Wild Geese II (1985) went ahead with Edward Fox taking over his part (the film is dedicated to Burton), but the production of "The Quiet American" was canceled.
According to his long-time friend Brook Williams, the son of the man who had given Burton his first professional break Emlyn Williams, Burton turned down a role in The Sea Wolves: The Last Charge of the Calcutta Light Horse in 1980, which reunited The Wild Geese (1978) director Andrew V. McLaglen, screenwriter Reginald Rose and co-star Roger Moore. The Wild Geese (1978) had been a big hit (Burton was always popular and a box office draw in military roles) and Andrew V. McLaglen had directed Burton's post-The Wild Geese (1978) film Breakthrough (1979), but Burton turned it down. Brook Williams believed that Burton's third wife, Susan Hunt, didn't want Burton away on a lark with his old friends (and drinking companions) as he was in frail health and battling alcoholism at the time.
His divorce from third wife Susan Hunt, whom he was married to from 1976 to 1982, entailed a settlement of $1 million (approximately $2 million in 2005 terms) and a house he owned in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (his first house in Puerto Vallarta was lost to second wife Elizabeth Taylor during his first divorce from her).
Frankly told the press that he appeared in the movies Breakthrough (1979), Circle of Two (1981) and Lovespell (1981) (generally considered by critics to be three of his worse films, all of them critical and box office disasters that eroded the reputation he had recently fought back to reclaim with his appearance on stage and screen in Equus (1977)) for the money. Burton, who had effectively been cleaned out financially by his two divorces from second wife Elizabeth Taylor, was paid $750,000 for each picture (approximately $2.25 million in 2005 terms). Conversely, he was willing to appear in Absolution (1978) at the same time for one-sixth his fee as he believed in the project very strongly.
Burton and Warren Mitchell were Royal Air Force cadets together at Oxford in 1944. In the years 1944-1947, when both were demobilized, they were stationed together at times in Canada and back in England. Later, they appeared together in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965).
In 1969, Richard Burton bought his second wife Elizabeth Taylor one of the world's largest diamonds from the jeweller Cartier after losing an auction for the 69-carat, pear-shaped stone to the jeweller, which was won with a $1 million bid. Aristotle Onassis also failed in his bid to win the diamond, which he intended to give his wife Jacqueline Kennedy. The rough diamond that would yield the prized stone weighed 244 carats and was found in 1966 at South Africa's Premier mine. Harry Winston cut and polished the diamond, which was put up for auction in 1969. Burton purchased the diamond from Cartier the next day for $1,069,000 (approximately $6 million in 2005 dollars) to give to Elizabeth Taylor. The small premium Cartier charged Burton was in recognition of the great publicity the jewellery garnered from selling the stone, which was dubbed the "Burton-Cartier Diamond", to the then-"world's most famous couple". Ten years later, the twice-divorced-from-Burton Elizabeth Taylor herself auctioned off the "Burton-Taylor Diamond" to fund a hospital in Botswana. The last recorded sale of the "Burton-Taylor Diamond" was in 1979 for nearly $3,000,000 to an anonymous buyer in Saudi Arabia. The ring was the centre of the classic Here's Lucy (1968) episode "Lucy Meets the Burtons" in 1970, in which Lucy Carter, played by Lucille Ball, gets the famous ring stuck on her finger. The actual ring was used and the episode was the highest rated episode of the very popular series.
Marlon Brando became quite friendly with Burton's wife Elizabeth Taylor while shooting Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967). Marlon Brando agreed to pick up her Best Actress Award for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) from the New York Film Critics Circle. When Marlon Brando made his appearance at the NYFCC Award ceremony at Sardi's on January 29, 1967, he hectored the critics, querying them as to why they hadn't recognized Elizabeth Taylor before. He then flew to Dahomey, Africa where Elizabeth Taylor was shooting The Comedians (1967) with Burton to personally deliver the award, a development Burton thought odd. Later in the 1960s, Marlon Brando' socialised with the Burtons, visiting them on their famous yacht the Kalizma, while they plied the Mediterreanean. Marlon Brando's ex-wife Anna Kashfi, in her book "Brando for Breakfast" (1979), claimed that Marlon Brando and Burton got into a fist-fight aboard the yacht, probably over Elizabeth Taylor, but nothing of the incident appears in Burton's voluminous diaries. In his diaries, Burton found Marlon Brando to be quite intelligent but believed he suffered, like Elizabeth Taylor did, from becoming too famous too early in his life and believed their affinity for one another was based on this. (Both Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando would later befriend Michael Jackson, another superstar-cum-legend who had become too famous too soon.) Burton recognized Marlon Brando as a great actor, but felt he would have been more suited to silent films due to the deficiency in his voice (the famous "mumble"). As a silent film star, Burton believed Marlon Brando would have been the greatest motion picture actor ever.
According to Burton's diaries, when he and Elizabeth Taylor appeared on the Here's Lucy (1968) (episode: "Lucy Meets the Burtons"), he was appalled by the tedium of shooting the show. He found Lucille Ball's meticulous professionalism to be ludicrous as he felt it was out of place on a TV show. Lucy was entirely focused on making the show work, and Burton -- who thought it would be a lark -- didn't have any fun on the set. He was quite impressed by Ball's co-star Gale Gordon, but was dismayed that Lucy, personally, directed him to play his "part" -- which was himself, after all -- very broad so that he was shouting. When he did shout, she told him that he was finally playing comedy as it should be played. The episode featured Lucy meeting Burton, who was fleeing the press and hid in her office, and then Liz, and putting on Liz's 69-carat, pear-shaped stone diamond, which became stuck to her her finger.
Recorded his sessions for the Jeff Wayne's musical version of "The War of the Worlds" in two afternoon sessions in New York between film making.
Following the release of The Robe (1953), his first Hollywood production, the critics would accuse Burton of being a wooden film actor, a charge that would stay with him throughout his career. It was not until The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965) that critics would be unanimous in their praise of his performance, yet after an excellent five years his mastery of film technique had seemingly deserted him and much of his later work, such as Villain (1971) and Equus (1977), would be dismissed by many as overacting.
In November 1974, Burton was asked to write an article about Sir Winston Churchill for "The New York Times". Since Burton had just played the wartime leader in The Gathering Storm (1974), the newspaper expected a laudatory piece. Instead they were presented with a rant about Churchill the right-wing politician, whom Burton wrote, "to know him is to hate him".
He was a close friend of fellow Welsh actor Sir Stanley Baker from childhood, and provided the narration for Baker's epic film Zulu (1964).
He had smoked since he was eight, reaching five packs of cigarettes a day in middle age.
An article Burton wrote in memory of his longtime friend, Sir Stanley Baker, following the actor's death in June 1976, caused so much offence that Baker's widow, Lady Ellen Martin, considered suing Burton. However, shortly afterwards, she recalled standing near the tree where Baker's ashes had been scattered and hearing his voice saying, "You know what Rich is like when he's in his cups".
While starring as King Arthur in the musical "Camelot" in 1961, Burton told his co-star Julie Andrews that she was his only leading lady he had not slept with.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) ran over schedule, causing Burton to pull out of Robbery (1967), which instead went to Stanley Baker.
He refused to attend his father's funeral in 1957.
He was a close friend of Humphrey Bogart.
While filming Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), he suffered from a terrible pain in his neck and had to wear a neck brace during rehearsals. He had to wear heavy make up in the film, since the director felt he looked twenty years older than his age. He minimized his famous voice for the part of O'Brien, although he had great difficulty remembering the lines and would sometimes require nearly forty takes to get a scene right. The result was one of his most critically acclaimed performances, and well as his most underplayed.
While playing Dr. Dysart in "Equus" on Broadway in 1976, Burton was so impressed by co-star Peter Firth that he offered to play the Friar with Firth as Romeo. Firth did play Romeo on stage, but Burton was not cast.
Underwent treatment for alcoholism at a clinic in America after filming Klansman (1974).
Met with Josip Broz Tito, whom he greatly admired, before starring in The Battle of Sutjeska (1973).
Producer Dino De Laurentiis wanted Burton to play Napoleon Bonaparte in Waterloo (1970), but the role went to Rod Steiger instead.
After being forced to drop out of the touring production of "Camelot" in April 1981 in order to undergo major spinal surgery - during which his entire spinal column was found to be coated in crystallized alcohol - Burton contemplated retiring completely from acting, but later agreed to star in Wagner (1983).
Was offered the role of Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons (1966), but he turned the part down. Paul Scofield, who went on to win a Best Actor Oscar for his performance, was cast instead.
In the last seven years of his life he constantly resisted offers to play Lear on stage, instead preferring to make films like Absolution (1978).
He would often tell interviewers that he had played Hamlet on the London stage when he was 23. He was in fact nearly 28 at the time.
In 1981 he accepted a contract reported to be worth nearly $1 million over three years to use his voice in a series of commercials for an American magazine, "Geo".
His younger brother Graham Jenkins worked for the BBC and was responsible for getting Burton the job of narrating the Royal Wedding of 'Prince Charles' and Princess Diana for BBC Radio on 29 July 1981. There had been some concern that Burton would say something controversial, given his past attacks on Churchill. However, as it turned out he made only one mistake during the five hour broadcast.
Was named "The Worst Actor of All Time" in Harry Medved and Michael Medved's 1980 book "The Golden Turkey Awards", beating out Victor Mature, John Agar, and Tony Curtis. In so naming Burton, the Medveds cited the preponderance of big-budget film flops he starred in, and the overall squandering of his acting potential for much of his career. Previously, Burton's The Assassination of Trotsky (1972) had been listed among "The Fifty Worst Films of All Time" in the 1978 book of the same name by Harry Medved and Randy Lowell.
Was at one point going to star in The Public Eye (1972) with Elizabeth Taylor.
Like almost all Welshmen, where the game is more a national religion than a sport, Burton played rugby. He continued to play well into his early career, mainly at wing-forward. He only hung up his boots when contractual obligations to film and theatre producers forced him to do so.
According to his biography "And God Created Burton", he was a notorious womanizer; during his marriage to Sybil Williams he had affairs with Claire Bloom, Jean Simmons, Maggie McNamara, Lee Remick, Lana Turner and Mary Ure, and during his marriage to Elizabeth Taylor he had affairs with Geneviève Bujold, Nathalie Delon and Raquel Welch.
Is reported to have lost his virginity in 1944 whilst attending Oxford University to a mature student.
His attack on Sir Winston Churchill in 1974 was widely thought to have been occasioned by the fact that he was, at the time, engaged to Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia - who was, of course, a princess in exile. She blamed Churchill and other western leaders for giving away her country to the Communists at the end of World War II. Burton's engagement to her was soon broken off and, in later years, he played the Yugoslav Communist leader Josip Broz Tito.
He was well-known for his many acts of extraordinary generosity. For example, during the filming of crowd scenes for "Wagner", he noted that one of the extras would, during breaks in shooting, be in constant floods of tears. He discreetly inquired the reason for this and was told that she was newly-widowed and penniless and had taken the job as an extra in a desperate bid to raise money to pay her mortgage. That same week, she found that her mortgage had been paid off in full by Burton, to whom she had never even spoken.
Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on March 1, 2013 at 6336 Hollywood Boulevard, next to Elizabeth Taylor's star.
Had a brother Ivor.
Guy Masterson was his great nephew.
He was passionate about books and was a voracious reader.
According to his listing in Quinlan's Film Stars published 2000 the film Lovespell aka Tristan and Isolte was made in 1979 and was unreleased.
Although his death was sudden, it was not much of a surprise to those who knew him. Burton's health had been declining for several years prior to his death, and he suffered from constant and severe neck pain. He had been warned that his liver was enlarged as early as March 1970, and had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and kidney disease in April 1981 due to alcoholism. He had a brush with death in 1974 during the shooting of The Klansman (1974) when he nearly drank himself to death. Burton was dried out at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
Has appeared in six films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: The Robe (1953), The Longest Day (1962), Cleopatra (1963), Becket (1964), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and Anne of the Thousand Days (1969).

Personal Quotes (71)

When I played drunks I had to remain sober because I didn't know how to play them when I was drunk.
[replying to a cable from Laurence Olivier at the height of the Cleopatra (1963) scandal: "Make up your mind, dear heart. Do you want to be a great actor or a household word?"] Both.
I've done the most awful rubbish in order to have somewhere to go in the morning.
My father considered that anyone who went to chapel and didn't drink alcohol was not to be tolerated. I grew up in that belief.
[in 1963, about adultery] The minute you start fiddling around outside the idea of monogamy, nothing satisfies anymore.
I've played the lot: a homosexual, a sadistic gangster, kings, princes, a saint, the lot. All that's left is a Carry On film. My last ambition.
I have to think hard to name an interesting man who does not drink.
My father said all actors were homosexuals. That is nonsense, of course. But perhaps most actors are latent homosexuals and we cover it with drink. I was a homosexual once, but not for long. But I tried it. It didn't work so I gave it up. (1975)
I rather like my reputation, actually, that of a spoiled genius from the Welsh gutter, a drunk, a womanizer; it's rather an attractive image.
You may be as vicious about me as you please. You will only do me justice.
[asked why he refused to see his performance in Cleopatra (1963)] Well, I don't want to kill myself.
The only thing in life is language. Not love. Not anything else.
All I wanted to do was to live, pick up a new Jag, and act at the Old Vic.
All great art comes from people who are either ugly or have a terrible inferiority complex. I know no one who is beautiful and produces art.
[about Elizabeth Taylor] Elizabeth has great worries about becoming a cripple because her feet sometimes have no feeling in them. She asked if I would stop loving her if she had to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. I told her that I didn't care if her legs, bum and bosoms fell off and her teeth turned yellow. And she went bald. I love that woman so much sometimes that I cannot believe my luck. She has given me so much.
[about his love of reading] Home is where the books are.
[about being hired to play Marc Antony opposite Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra (1963)] Well, I suppose I must don a breastplate once more to play opposite Miss Tits.
[on Elizabeth Taylor] I might run from her for a thousand years and she is still my baby child. Our love is so furious that we burn each other out.
[on Elizabeth Taylor] At thirty-four she is an extremely beautiful woman, lavishly endowed by nature with a few flaws in the masterpiece: She has an insipid double chin, her legs are too short and she has a slight potbelly. She has a wonderful bosom, though.
A man that hoards up riches and enjoys them not, is like an ass that carries gold and eats thistles.
Richard Burton is now my epitaph, my cross, my title, my image. I have achieved a kind of diabolical fame. It has nothing to do with my talents as an actor. That counts for little now. I am the diabolically famous Richard Burton.
An actor is something less than a man, while an actress is something more than a woman.
Certainly most movie executives were making love to the starlets. But then, so were most of us actors.
[in 1974] I was up to, I'm told, because, of course, you don't remember if you drink that much, about two-and-a-half to three bottles of hard liquor a day. Fascinating idea, of course, drink on that scale. It's rather nice to have gone through it and to have survived.
[on Elizabeth Taylor] The most astonishingly self-contained, pulchritudinous, remote, removed, inaccessible woman I had ever seen.
[on Frankie Howerd] If I had his talent, I'd drop Shakespeare tomorrow.
[on Staircase (1969)] I believe in this film absolutely. It is a kick against the system.
[in 1962] And I'm too old. I'm now thirty-six. And I look about 5'2". I'm 5'10" but I look smaller. It's because I'm so wide or my head's too big or something.
[on Elizabeth Taylor] I love her, not for her breasts, her buttocks or her knees but for her mind. It is inscrutable. She is like a poem.
[on Sophia Loren] She is as beautiful as an erotic dream. Tall and extremely large-bosomed. Tremendously long legs. They go up to her shoulders, practically. Beautiful brown eyes, set in a marvelously vulpine, almost satanic, face.
[in 1984] I still smoke too much. I think it gives my voice an edge.
(on Julie Andrews, his co-star in "Camelot"] Every man I know who knows her is a little bit in love with her.
I almost replaced Sean Connery as James Bond in Thunderball (1965). This was before Sean played Bond. My friend, the Irish producer Kevin McClory, wanted me. Kevin worked for Michael Todd on Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) and I was impressed with his Irish rebelliousness. We Welsh have that, too, but not quite like the Irish, who transfuse it into their blood on the same day they are born. McClory promised [Alfred Hitchcock] would direct and I had great hopes for the project. It fell through, of course - and later Kevin made a bloody fortune, when Sean was Bond. I wonder sometimes how it might all have turned out. [Ian Fleming] was big on me for the role. Stewart Granger was next in line.
I'm a reader, you know. I was corrupted by Faust. And [William Shakespeare]. And Marcel Proust]. And ]Ernest Hemingway]. But mostly I was corrupted by Dylan Thomas. Most people see me as a rake, womanizer, boozer and purchaser of large baubles. I'm all those things depending on the prism and the light. But mostly I'm a reader. Give me Agatha Christie for an hour and I'm happy as a clam. The house in Celigny some day will cave in under its own weight from the books. I hope I'm there when it does. One hundred six years old. Investigating the newest thriller from [John le Carré] or a new play from Tennessee Williams.
I played a sex-drenched doctor in The Bramble Bush (1960). It was the worst picture I ever made, if you don't count Ice Palace (1960). That one was based upon a very weak novel by Edna Ferber. Both pictures for Warner Brothers. Jack L. Warner told the press I had no sex appeal. Then Elizabeth came along. All changed after that. Suddenly, Eddie Fisher didn't have sex appeal. And I did. It's a crazy world for a Welsh coal miner's son born in November 1925.
Albert Finney is the greatest actor in the world. Then Peter O'Toole. [Marlon Brando]. [Laurence Olivier] and [John Gielgud] belong to another time and place. They're immortal, but remote from the rest of us. Sean Connery is vastly underrated. I would like to do a play with Michael Caine, whom I respect. I like Alan Bates. Frank Finlay is a hard man to follow in the second act. Unbeatable self-discipline.
[on Alexander the Great (1956)] I knew all epics are crap but I felt this one could be different. How could I have been so wrong?
God put me on this earth to raise sheer hell.
Once you have a drink problem, you always have one. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. But, er, I'm not quite sure whether I am one or not. I think I'm within striking distance of being one. (1977)
The unfortunate thing is that everyone wants me to play a prince or a king ... I'm always wearing a nightdress or a short skirt or something odd. I don't want to do them, I don't like them, I hate getting made up for them, I hate my hair being curled in the mornings, I hate tights, I hate boots, I hate everything. I'd like to be in a lounge suit, I'd like to be a sort of Welsh Rex Harrison and do nothing except lounge against a bar with a gin and tonic in my hand. (1963)
I am the son of a Welsh miner and one would expect me to be at my happiest playing peasants, people of the earth. But in actual fact I'm much happier playing princes and kings. Now whether this is a kind of sublimation of what I would like to be, or something like that, I don't know, but certainly I'm never really very comfortable playing people from the working class. (1967)
If you're going to make rubbish, be the best rubbish in it. I keep telling Larry Olivier that. I chided Olivier for playing a minor role in an epic like Spartacus (1960), which he's just done. Larry had a dressing room half the size of Tony Curtis' in that film. And he got about half Curtis' money. Well, that's ridiculous. You've got to swank in Hollywood. When I go there I demand two Cadillacs - one for my family - and the best dressing room in the studio. Of course I'm not worth it, but it impresses them.
Rubbish ... tastelessly sentimental and badly acted by me. - On The Robe (1953)
As the seventh son of a Welsh miner I knew hardship first hand. I come from the lower depths of the working class. It's true that I now earn one and a quarter of a million dollars per picture, and it sounds strange to say that at heart I am a Communist, but there is no contradiction because I don't exploit others.
It seems fairly ridiculous for someone of forty-five or fifty to be learning words written by other people, most of which are bad, to make a few dollars.
I'm not dedicated, I never was. In a sense I'm totally alienated from the craft that I employ so superficially and successfully. (1970)
I get increasingly disenchanted with acting ... as the years totter past I find it ludicrous, learning some idiot's lines in the small hours of the night so I can stay a millionaire. (1972)
One big picture is worth ten small ones. The actor who is fortunate enough to get two or possibly three big subjects a year benefits from their long runs. He's never absent long from public view.
My real interest in life is the theatre, and I think I've shot my bolt in London as far as the classical roles are concerned. I've played all the parts I think I can play, and one or two that I should have given a miss. But there is nothing left until I'm older and can play parts like Lear. (1957)
Actors go through cycles - remarkable, weird cycles. There was one period from 1956 to 1961 or so when I couldn't do anything right. My voice went foul, my luck was bad, I chose badly. I thought I had lost what I had, and I nearly retired right then and there.
I've been in trouble all my life, I've done the most unutterable rubbish, all because of money. I didn't need it - I've never needed money, even as a child, though I came from a very poor family. But there have been times when the lure of the zeros was simply too great.
As Lee Marvin says, who gives a shit? We're born, we come staggering out the womb, we come searching for death. My father was a Welsh miner, a remarkable man. Tough, powerful. Obese. Short. I come from an enormous family - thirteen children. My eldest sister was having a baby. I didn't understand it. I said, 'Will she be all right? Will she live?' My father - he was massively drunk - was worried too. 'Never mind,' he said, 'we're all dying.' He talked like an angel. 'Even your growing pains are reaching into oblivion.'
Last Tango in Paris [Last Tango in Paris (1972)] so absolutely revolted and embarrassed me that I didn't know where to look ... I said, 'I'm sorry, I can't stand it, I have to go. It did not turn me on, it turned me off. For a month I was asexual.
My friends are not actors, they are scientists, they are writers. My real gift is writing.
You can't be at the mercy of fate, you've got to invest so you don't ever need to work again.
The Robe (1953) was lousy, but an almighty hit. I was dull as ditchwater and an almighty flop. My next film, Prince of Players (1955), was Hollywood's first turkey in CinemaScope - when CinemaScope was new and hotter than a pistol. If I'd been able to buttonhole a couple of relatives and persuade a few of the deluded girls I'd done favours for, I'd still have struggled to rustle up nine lost souls to form a fan club.
I have a fair choice of women myself if I wish. But I don't wish it. Since Elizabeth, I have seen two. I've a fundamental and basic loyalty. Next year I'll be fifty and I've only been married twice. Yes, I betrayed them both a couple of times, but not mentally, only physically. You see, I may fall in love and it may last six months, but then the affair breaks up. (1974)
None of my films has done me any good. I know all epics are awful, but I thought Alexander the Great (1956) might be the first good one. I was wrong. They cut it about - played down to the audience. I say if the audience doesn't understand, let 'em stay ignorant.
Although I like to be thought of as a tough rugby-playing Welsh miner's son, able to take on the world, the reality is that this image is just superficial. I am the reverse of what people think.
I drank too much, smoked too much and made love too much.
I have always felt that the camera hasn't liked me. I'm a stage animal. I have to be big and loud, and the camera needs you to be small and naturalistic and subtle; much more naturalistic. I'm as subtle as a buffalo stampede.
Marlon Brando has yet to learn to speak. He should have been born two generations before and acted in silent films.
I got away from the valley and proceeded to drink myself to death elsewhere.
You haven't heard the real beauty of the Bible until you have heard it in Welsh.
Mark Antony is one of the great roles because it combines some of the best dialogue Shakespeare ever wrote and action; Antony was a man of action.
Shakespeare [is] the best way to learn English.
Generally if you mention the word Shakespeare in Hollywood, everybody leaves the room.
Everywhere you go, there's somewhere shoving a chair under your bum, and if you take out a cigarette there are eighty-four people jumping up to light it and tell you how wonderful you are. And you know it's not true.
[on Marlon Brando, November, 1966]: He is a genuinely good man, I suspect, and he is intelligent. He has depth. It's no accident that he is such a compelling actor. He puts on acts, of course, and pretends to be vaguer than he is. Very little misses him, as I've noticed.
[on Marlon Brando, July, 1970]: He really is a smugly pompous little bastard and is cavalier about everybody except Black Panthers and Indians.
[on Genevieve Bujold]: I'd hate to be her next director or leading man. I think she firmly believes herself to be the legitimate heir to Rachelle or Bernhardt or Duse. She has all the power of a gnat. A dying one. I could whisper louder than her screams.

Salary (27)

My Cousin Rachel (1952) $50,000
Alexander the Great (1956) $100,000
Look Back in Anger (1959) $100,000
Ice Palace (1960) $125,000
The Bramble Bush (1960) $125,000
The Longest Day (1962) $30,000
The V.I.P.s (1963) $500,000
Cleopatra (1963) $250,000
The Night of the Iguana (1964) $500,000
The Sandpiper (1965) $500,000 + % of gross
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965) $750,000
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) $750,000 + % of gross
The Comedians (1967) $750,000
Boom (1968) $1,000,000 + % of gross
Where Eagles Dare (1968) $1,000,000 plus percentage of gross
Candy (1968) $50 .000 plus points
Staircase (1969) $1,250,000 + % of gross
Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) $1 m plus percentage of gross
Raid on Rommel (1971) $1,000,000
Brief Encounter (1974) $600,000
Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) $1,000,000
Equus (1977) $500,000
The Medusa Touch (1978) $500,000
Absolution (1978) $125,000
Circle of Two (1981) $750,000
Lovespell (1981) $750,000
Wagner (1983) $1,000,000

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