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Biography

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Overview (3)

Date of Birth 30 November 1904Mountain Ash, Glamorganshire, Wales, UK
Date of Death 28 January 1995Davenport, Florida, USA  (stroke)
Birth NamePhilip Henry Burton

Mini Bio (1)

The Welsh school teacher, B.B.C. radio performer and acting school headmaster became internationally known due to the success of his adopted son, Richard Burton, who was born Richard Jenkins into a poor coal miner's family and raised by his eldest sister after his mother died when he was less than two years old. Recognizing the high intelligence of the young man, Philip Burton - a childless bachelor - decided to mentor him. This was not an unusual arrangement in the Wales of the first half of the 20th Century. Men who had risen out of the working class and attended university were determined to give back to their community and help others escape the cycle of poverty that was the Welsh miner's life.

The young Richie Jenkins moved into Burton's boardinghouse, where Philip tutored him in the classics for two years, preparing him for the tests that would enable him to go to university. The two would pore over texts such as Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus (1967), and Burton would tutor his young ward on meaning, grammar, and how to act the part. The spoken and written word is very important to the Welsh, and though Philip - unlike Richie Jenkins - could not speak Welsh, the two bonded over their Welsh love of language. Richie Jenkins felt so strongly about his mentor that he adopted his surname. (Philip, being less than 21 years older than Richard, was unable to legally adopt him, though they considered each other father and son.)

After World War Two, Philip Burton emigrated to the United States, where he helped open a school for the performing arts in New York City. He was instrumental in making his adopted son a success, even well into Richard Burton's adulthood. After director Moss Hart had a disabling heart attack while directing the 1960 Broadway musical Camelot (1967) (with Richard as King Arthur), Philip stepped in and worked out the kinks in the show, which made a successful debut.

Father and son were split apart by what Richard called "L'Affaire", his romance with co-star Elizabeth Taylor on the set of 'Cleopatra (1963)_. Philip adored Richard's wife Sybill, who was Welsh, and thought of Richard's children as his grandchildren, and treated them as such. He took Sybill's side during the divorce. However, when Richard began floundering under John Gielgud's direction during the initial staging of his 1964 _Hamlet (1964/I), Taylor was determined to effect a reconciliation as she knew and understood how much Richard was a creation of his step-father and how much he needed him.

Though the two hadn't spoken since the breakup of Richard's marriage, Taylor called Philip and told him that Richard was struggling. Father and son were reconciled (and Philip became fond of Taylor too), and under Philip's tutelage, Richard Burton ultimately presented a successful Hamlet that was the smash of the 1964 Broadway season.

Though father and son were kept apart by Richard's hectic work schedule, they remained close to Richard's death in 1984.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Trivia (3)

Also an actor, playwright and producer
A schoolteacher, he took in the 17-year old Richard Jenkins and groomed him for success. The two became so close, Burton attempted to adopt his 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 his adopted father and honored him by taking on his surname. Years later, when Philip met Elizabeth Taylor and she asked Philip 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." '
Is mentioned in the 1967 memoir of actor William Redfield, "Notes of an Actor". Redfield, who appeared as Guildernstern in the John Gielgud-directed stage version of Richard Burton Hamlet (1964), wrote that Gielgud had an encyclopedia knowledge of the play and could play any and all parts of it from memory for his cast as he directed the production, but he lacked the overall vision to bring the production together.

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