Together in Film: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton
Everyone knows they were married and divorced twice. Their on-again, off-again relationship has provided food for the tabloids even to this day. But most people don’t know how many movies Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton made together. Their 12 movies were made between 1963 and 1973. All their movies together were made either directly before or during their first marriage.
- Cleopatra – 1963
- The V.I.P.s – 1963
- The Sandpiper – 1965
- Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – 1966
- The Comedians – 1967
- The Taming of the Shrew – 1967
- Doctor Faustus – 1967
- Boom! – 1968
- Anne of the Thousand Days – 1969
- Under Milk Wood – 1971
- Hammersmith is Out – 1972
- Divorce His; Divorce Hers – 1973
It’s a stretch to include Anne of the Thousand Days in the list of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton’s movies: most people don’t even know that Taylor was in this one! She made a brief and uncredited cameo appearance at the ball early on in the film. For the most part this movie was a showpiece only for Burton.
Most of the movies Liz and Dick made together (The Comedians, Boom!, Hammersmith is Out, etc) are mediocre examples of the entertainment norms of the 1960s and 70s. Under Milk Wood and Doctor Faustus may have a bit of a cult following depending on isolated interests. But for the most part, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s movies together come down to the big three: Cleopatra, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and The Taming of the Shrew.
Cleopatra – 1963
It’s colossal; it’s gorgeous to look at; and it’s a terrible film! Even Taylor despised the finished project as she felt the story had been edited out and the movie turned into her own personal fashion show.
Cleopatra, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, stars Liz Taylor in the title role, with Burton as Marc Antony and Rex Harrison as Julius Caesar. The filming was a long journey of ups and downs and cast changes which eventually resulted in bringing Taylor and Burton together for the first time – both onscreen and in real life.
Was Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Taylor and Burton's best movie?
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – 1966
This movie showcases what is arguably Elizabeth Taylor’s best performance; many people consider Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? one of the finest films of the ‘60s. Let’s be honest: it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But it sure is fun to watch the then recently married Taylor and Burton challenging the censors with the amount of language and thematic content that is in this movie.
The Taming of the Shrew – 1967
Director Franco Zeffirelli said that The Taming of the Shrew was one of his favorite movies. Burton’s background in theater made him ideal for playing Petruchio. Liz Taylor may have seemed like an odd choice for playing Katharina; but this is one of those movies which, in all aspects, simply works. It’s probably not quite what Shakespeare had in mind (the screenwriters cut out quite a bit of the play). However, this film has beautiful costumes, a great supporting cast (York, Hordern, Spinetti), and is truly entertaining. Above all, it is a treat to watch Taylor and Burton simply having a good time in a gorgeous movie.
Perhaps the great irony of it all is that the last movie Taylor and Burton appeared in together was titled Divorce His; Divorce Hers (1973). The couple had been married on March 15, 1964. They divorced in June of 1974. They remarried 16 months later, but this attempt did not last even for a year. They divorced a second time and never appeared onscreen together again.