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Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor

Quick Facts

Him: Richard Burton, Welsh actor

Her: Elizabeth Taylor, American actress

Setting: United States, mid-20th century


Background

In a world fascinated with the next Hollywood power couple and the intimate details of every star, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were possibly the first couple to drive the paparazzi mad. Explosive and passionate, their on again, off again relationship was perfect fodder for the tabloids, but driven by a deep affection so intense the two of them seemed unable to get a hold of it.


Story

Seated beside a pool, Richard Burton was immediately awestruck by a 21-year-old brunette who took off her sunglasses and made eye contact from the other side. The young Elizabeth Taylor, made quite the impression on the Welsh-born actor, yet it would be nearly a decade before they met again. Cast together for the movie Cleopatra, the two began a torrid affair that would fill the tabloids for the rest of his life.

Both married at the time, Burton for 14 years and Taylor on her fourth husband, the flirtation was subtle at first. He would poke fun at her, giving her a hard time about her fame and her weight, though nonetheless feeling she was “marvelous” from head to toe. When the time came for a scene involving an intimate kiss, their lips locked well beyond the time required by the director. After several attempts to get them to quit, he finally asked, “Does it interest you that it’s time for lunch?”


The set became their playground, as both ignored their vows until Burton called it off. When the two were finally separated from their respective spouses, Hollywood’s scandalous new “it” couple hopped a plane to Montreal to get married. Riding a wave of popularity thanks to all the gossip, they starred in several movies together, but not without incident – heavy drinking and loud arguments were often part of their work on set.

In 1973, after more than eight years together, Taylor called off the marriage when Burton began seeing his co-star Nathalie Delon. They eventually remarried, divorced again and, after six years apart, settled in together by her 50th birthday in 1982. Acting like young lovers all over again, the two were almost always together. One summer afternoon, he sat down to write her a love note detailing his desire to come home to her once again and dropped it in the mail.

The next day, he took a fall during a bar fight and suffered a massive brain hemorrhage, dying while under the knife in emergency surgery. The letter arrived after Burton’s funeral and Taylor, grief-stricken, kept it at her bedside for the rest of her life.


Reputation

Hollywood has produced more than its fair share of famous love stories over the years, but this may be the one that takes the cake regardless of what came before and has come after. The combination of dashing leading man and gorgeous woman is always one to draw attention, but this relationship had a volatility that made it even more fascinating. The characters’ flaws – heavy drinking and infidelity – was matched only by the sweetness of romance in the end, which is why it will be talked about as long as movies are made.



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