The Richard Burton Diaries edited by Chris Williams – review

Richard Burton's diaries only sparkle occasionally, most notably when he's demolishing one of his illustrious contemporaries

Richard Burton died in August 1984 at the age of 58, shortly before the premiere of Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which he gave his best performance for more than a decade as Orwell's totalitarian apparatchik O'Brien. His diaries cover some 44 years, from his early second world war schooldays in south Wales to the spring of 1983. In May that year he appeared on Broadway in a poorly received production of Coward's Private Lives with his ex-wife Elizabeth Taylor, and on 3 July he married his fourth wife in a Las Vegas hotel. A hefty brick-sized book, it brings to mind the telegram Warner Brothers boss Jack L Warner sent to the director Mervyn LeRoy, who'd inquired whether he'd got around to reading Hervey Allen's blockbuster Anthony Adverse. "Read it?" Warner replied. "I can't even lift it."

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