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Richard Burton,Welsh and World Class Actor

Updated on November 6, 2018
ethel smith profile image

Eileen enjoys a variety of movies and likes to share reviews of those that impress her. She also loves British television comedy series.

In the 1963 epic film Burton starred as Anthony, alongside Taylor who played a beautiful Cleopatra.
In the 1963 epic film Burton starred as Anthony, alongside Taylor who played a beautiful Cleopatra.

The late Richard Burton, CBE, was a fine actor. He was world class and world famous but for more than his acting. As a hard living man Richard was one of many famous celebrities who have battled the booze. He was also famous as being one of Elizabeth Taylor's husbands.

Their love affair, at the time, was fast and furious. They starred together in blockbuster films such as Cleopatra, and had an on screen chemistry, among the tears and tantrums.

Taylor and Burton divorced and re-married each other, but the marriage still failed.

It seemed as if it was one of those cases of cannot live with you but cannot live without you.

To be or not to be, 1964 Shakespeare production

Richard Burton was born on November 10th, 1925, in Wales.

He died on August 5th, 1984. aged 58. It was in reality no age but this once famous hell-raiser had lived life to the full.

His often turbulent marriages to Elizabeth Taylor ultimately drew more press coverage than his acting work which is a shame as he was a fine actor.

With a booming, earthy yet soft voice there is and was no mistaking Richard Burton’s voice.

His hell-raising meant that he had drunk and smoked too much over the years - factors which will have taken their toll.

As a child in the sixties I well remember ofen seeing Burton on British TV screens.

He was married to his first wife Sybil, for around 14 years. The gossip of the day was that once Taylor had made a bee line for him his poor wife never stood a chance.

I do not know about that but I do know that, in her heyday Elizabeth Taylor was a stunning looking woman, appealing to many men.

Burton ended up being married five times in all but two of these marriages were to Taylor. Their first marriage lasted ten years but their second only nine months. It is usually a mistake to go back and this seems to have been true of this second marriage.

Burton however was no angel.

It was rumoured that Burton was a philanderer who would attempt to seduce his female co-stars or in fact any woman that he could. This in some ways is strange as there has also been gossip about Burton's sexuality. It would seem that he was bi-sexual to say the least.

Joan Collins, who was one of the women that Burton unsuccessfully pursued, says that when she challenged Burton about his behaviour, this is what was said:-

"Collins playfully told Burton that she believed he would sleep with a snake if he had the chance, to which Burton is alleged to have replied "only if it was wearing a skirt, darling".

But his personal life was also tinged with sadness.

His Mum died in childbirth when Richard was only two-years-old. He was from a large family and they obviously struggled without a Matriarchal figure.

Burton's father was a heavy drinking coal miner who often gambled and had a violent streak. No wonder Burton lived life to the excess once he was a man.

Richard left school and, after a spell in the RAF, and other work, he began acting. By the late 1940s his first film, The Last Days of Dolwyn, was released. By the early fifties Burton was also a Hollywood star.

More trauma was to follow, with the accident of his brother, Ifor.

Burton blamed himself for this accident. It appears that when Ifor died, it was the catalyst for Burton to begin drinking alcohol in unbelievable quantities.

By the 1970s Burton seemed to be acting in any old production as long as the money was right. His credibility as an actor began to fade.

He had an unexpected success as the very distinctive narrator on Jeff Wayne's musical masterpiece Ward Of The Worlds though.

Despite his fame, and early acclaim, winning an Oscar escaped him. He received various nominations but an award was not to be.

In 1984, when death came, Burton had seemed to be happily married to Sally Hay. He died, and is buried, in Switzerland, which had become their home.

Although Burton had many health problems the actual cause of death was a cerebral haemorrhage.

As a person who was proud of his Welsh heritage it is fitting that he was buried in a red suit, as a tribute to his Welsh roots.

A copy of the poems of fellow Welsh man, Dylan Thomas, was buried with him.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A young Burton with his favourite tipple thenWith actress Claire BloomHis final film
A young Burton with his favourite tipple then
A young Burton with his favourite tipple then
With actress Claire Bloom
With actress Claire Bloom
His final film
His final film

© 2010 Ethel Smith


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