Screen Lovers/Real Lovers
Ambassadors of Love.
Rome, Switzerland, London, New York City, Montreal, Santa Monica, Puerto Vallarta, Portofino, Italy, Monte Carlo, Sardinia, Budapest, Botswana, Africa. These were a handful of settings cited in the movie in which this romance flourished. Competitors beware. Additional stats are also daunting. Richard garnered seven Academy Award nominations, Elizabeth won two. They also earned astounding fees at the time.
The truth can walk.
Who knows if it is true or not, that Richard Burton fell madly in love with Elizabeth Taylor, who had already established a reputation for multiple marriages by the time a Shakespearean "Mark Anthony" stepped into her life. It is nice to see, if only on the screen and not in real life, a man pursue a woman with such long-enduring intensity. It is a credit to the male sex, actually, which is so often criticized for hypocrisy and lack of commitment. Subject matter relating to classical Hollywood has been popular of late. Recently, HBO came out with a biopic of Hitchcock making Psycho (1960). Baby-boomers well remember the gossip of their mothers and fathers (mostly mothers, maybe) centering on big-name romances and whether or not the couple stayed together or broke up. Did he really raise his voice at the hotel, as was averred? Did she really throw something at him, as became the talk of the town? It is all good as far as I'm concerned.
I like the fact that Richard wrote to Elizabeth. That is how Liz and Dick (2012) begins. This is a class act. Also, I seem to remember, first-hand, however fuzzily, when Elizabeth and Richard were together, broke up, re-united, and then broke up again. I was not into it at the time. But looking back, I think I missed out -- if only on something for movie buffs. The movie emphasizes that to his last dying day, Richard tried to fix it up, whatever it was. And whatever it was, it could not have been something truly broken. It is the nature of this strange beast that successes and failures are sometimes indistinguishable. I don't get it. The human heart, insofar as it relates to romantic love, defies analysis. I'm actually paraphrasing the German philologist, Friedrich Nietzsche. From memory, too. If things were so easy and long-lasting, downhill skiing all day and night, then a tempestuous love affair it is not. And this, if nothing else, was exactly that.
Henry and June (1990) exists in counterpoint, as do many another entanglement. The third party, Anais Nin, explored the sensual offerings of Paris along with Mr. Miller. Both she and Miller wrote explicitly. Their half-novelistic, half-journalistic reportage was indeed a shock to the book world, but more importantly, they had a thing for one another. An extra-marital thing, I might add. And not one that excluded the Mrs. In reality, the Nin-Miller relationship might actually have been as sweeping and godly as Taylor-Burton, though it was always mired in the shadowy underworld of illicit sex. And besides, they were writers not actors, not relentlessly pursued by paparazzi. And then, also, there is the fact that I am not well educated in love stories. Which is to say, that I don't follow the latest buzz, sink at night into the Harlequin Universe, or keep up with the chick flicks. But I probably should, since I respect those who chase after these sorts of dreams rather than give way to more practical longings -- such as re-financing a mortgage. Why fall into the fiscal pit from which no one has ever emerged unscathed when your heart is still beating?
The War of the Roses (1989) also came to mind as I watched Lindsay Lohan's rendition of Elizabeth Taylor. Maybe there was something to the casting: one child actress channeling another. Every once in a while one hears about two senior citizens who met long ago and were married in two weeks' time, then stayed the course sixty years thereafter. Or, how about those rare couples who were married for decades and claim to have never had a single argument? Companions, an obsolescent term, have also had parallel accomplishments in this glory-bound field of enterprise. They also stay together, tethered to one another, despite whatever temptations or adversities there might have been. These was not the Roses, of course. But how did Elizabeth and Richard manage to prevail against so much bad-mouthing, for their insults toward one another are actually documented and easy to research for those so inclined.
Which is another point -- the idea of prolonging a deeply felt affair in the midst of so much publicity. Generally speaking, scrutiny and its microscopic eye will destroy the better qualities of humankind. Computerization is diabolical. Today, almost everyone is at least a part-time voyeur. If you are not staring at a screen, then you are probably only temporarily away from the spy-crazed cyberworld. Nevertheless, a tried and true method to triumph over the evil that puts our best characteristics into traction is through love. Our religious will say Amen to this, only they are not exactly speaking of the same Merriam-Webster listing for the word or term. But common ground, overlapping betwixt and between, is plentiful.
Wither Goest Thou?
Cynics and Sinners
It seems as though one has to choose, and though the choices are seemingly divergent, to either sneer at or fully embrace the passionate, we might well end up in the same place reserved for assorted losers in Dante's Inferno. During the Vietnam War, flower children tried to emphasize love over all, but they wound up smoking weed. After that, they upped the ante to sugar cubes and . . . well, that was the explanation from pop-psychology that does not do justice to a lost era. As to what really happened to the sixties, they turned into the seventies -- and disco.
Music and Lyrics by Donovan
Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1972)
In 1972, there was this: St. Francis and St. Clare, whose history harkens back to the 1200s. It is something to think about anyways. Maybe there is a better place, an afterworld, and a higher love that does not exclude a man and a woman, though it entail a number of restraints and provisos. I'm not sure how I got here from where I began except through the endless tunnel of free associations. But I take my hat off to this affair de coeur, too. As well as Zeffirelli.
In the public eye.
Him and Her, Her and Him
Remember this one? If you are old enough and acquainted with New York City you do. Every single day the New York Post reported on this marriage. It told what she did -- jogging a lot of the time -- and what he did, none of which I can call to mind. The marriage was a newsworthy event, but this paper, often enough thoroughly enjoyable, never claimed to practice ethics. The world is starved for entertainment, sure enough, but the Post hit on a malicious praxis that would only blossom and prove fruitful in the future. Reporters could simply take pictures and write up stories and then, after the fact, check the bottom line. If there were buyers, it would not matter in the least what it was about. The point is, who knows to what extent publicity either made this marriage, broke it up, or both. But it played a prominent role. Reports began with Day 1 and went on from there. All the way to nowhere....
Movies, books, articles, and hearsay
Liz and Dick was not a blockbuster. But its subject matter hardly escaped notice. While writing up this homage and/or piece of nostalgia, I was made aware of just how much publicity their affair drummed up. The amount of books, video, audio, and print matter in magazine and journals, and simply random talk is staggering. They were not just an item or entity.
It seems unfair to write up a hub such as this and leave so many other prominent couples out of the picture.It kind of reminds me of They Shoot Horses, Don't They? either in book or film form. I can see in my mind's eye any number of couples on the dance floor, trying to remain on their feet, and survive the competition. Written in 1935, the novel comes straight from the Depression. It is a funny thing about words. Nowadays, depression comes straight from the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The movie is from 1969. Elizabeth and Richard married in the 1960s, then divorced in the 1970s. All of which only means whatever meaning one cares to bestow on the intersection of time and events. It might well be that love in all its plethora of shapes and forms is commensurate with insanity. But think of the opposite, which always has its inviolable reasons. War is utterly rational, a response to a wrong, acts of aggression for the sake of gain, or maybe, as has been coldly suggested, a way to thin and re-invigorate the population. Hawks get respect, too -- often rightfully so. As wars become untenable, terrorism takes up the slack. Ageless traditions having to do with hurting one another keep recycling. I'd like to think I am immune to these drumbeats. But they can be catchy. Ultimately, I choose to believe that the world does not belong to haters. It belongs, rather, to lovers, and in this high profile romance (Taylor-Burton), that could not have been the greatest ever, or the Platonic Form itself manifested in the flesh, there is much to admire.