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Richard Burton,Welsh and World Class Actor

Updated on April 8, 2014
ethel smith profile image

With a keen interest in British politics this writer is never afraid to share her opinion

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

A young Burton with his favourite tipple then
A young Burton with his favourite tipple then
With actress Claire Bloom
With actress Claire Bloom
Second time around
Second time around
His final film
His final film

Richard Burton was born on 10th November 1925 in Wales. He died on 5th August 1984 aged 58. It was 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. This is a shame as he was a fine actor. With a booming, earthy yet soft voice there was no mistaking Richard Burton.

His Hell-raising meant that he had drunk and smoked too much over the years and I guess these factors will have taken their toll.

As a child in the sixties I well remember seeing Burton on British TV screens often. He was married to Sybil, for around 14 years. My Mum said 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 know that, in her heyday, Taylor was a stunning looking woman and she appealed 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 9 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 he was a philanderer who would attempt to seduce his female co-stars. In fact any women 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".

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 who 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 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 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.

 

Comments

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    • By Lori profile image

      By Lori 

      5 years ago from USA

      Great Hub - ! I adore Richard Burton - he was a real actor, an artist and a MAN. Not all males are such men as he was. Elizabeth matched his acting ability. I loved the two of them together. I've read biographies on both of them, they were fascinating individuals.

    • profile image

      Nnamdi Nwobu 

      7 years ago

      where eagles dare

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      I think it is Clare Bloom but maybe you are right ?

    • profile image

      John 

      8 years ago

      Isn't photo 3 of Burton with Mary Ure?

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      I suppose Ann much depends upon your mind's eye view of Henry. For me Burton sits quite well in my imagination

    • profile image

      Ann 

      8 years ago

      I don't agree that Burton was a wooden actor but I didn't think he was believable as Henry VIII, he seemed much too small for one thing!

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Well I have to disagree Mark. I loved that film. Burton was maybe so much a part of the times which could be why I liked him. I always felt Liz was a rubbish actress who was just swept along with Burton.

      Still one man's meat as they say :)

    • profile image

      Mark 

      8 years ago

      Burton was a wooden film actor and an overacting ham who only copied Olivier. He was terribly miscast in that overlong and boring flop Anne of the Thousand Days.

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thanks Eileen and Tony. Creating this Hub about Richard Burton reminded me just what a fascinating man he was.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Burton had what is possibly the most beautiful speaking voice of any man recorded! I will always remember his Shakespearean roles in particular. I also have him on CD in the original cast recording of Thomas's "Under Milkwood" which is a great favourite of mine.

      Thanks for this interesting and informative Hub about a really great "voice" and actor.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 

      8 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      another brilliant hub,Richard Burton must have been one of the most male actors of his time. And teamed up with elizabeth, I don't think any could match that chemistry on screen.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I loved Richard Burton and suspected he lived live on the wild side. Good hub.

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thanks James you sweet talker

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      8 years ago from Chicago

      A beautiful piece about a remarkable man. Thank you very much for this pleasure. It couldn't have been better.

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thanks ladies. He was a brilliant actor and sexy hunk in his day. I loved Anne of a Thousand Days also.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      He was such a personality in every way, and that showed through in his actor. He was spellbinding and then especially with Liz Taylor. Such a shame they couldn't find happiness. They had so much. Thank you for your hub in which I learned a number of thing I didn't know.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      I loved Burton in Anne of a Thousand Days!

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