Richard Burton

Richard Burton

Marlon Brando became quite friendly with Burton's wife Elizabeth Taylor while shooting Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967). Marlon Brando agreed to pick up her Best Actress Award for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) from the New York Film Critics Circle. When Marlon Brando made his appearance at the NYFCC Award ceremony at Sardi's on January 29, 1967, he hectored the critics, querying them as to why they hadn't recognized Elizabeth Taylor before. He then flew to Dahomey, Africa where Elizabeth Taylor was shooting The Comedians (1967) with Burton to personally deliver the award, a development Burton thought odd. Later in the 1960s, Marlon Brando' socialised with the Burtons, visiting them on their famous yacht the Kalizma, while they plied the Mediterreanean. Marlon Brando's ex-wife Anna Kashfi, in her book "Brando for Breakfast" (1979

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) ran over schedule, causing Burton to pull out of Robbery (1967), which instead went to Stanley Baker.

According to Melvyn Bragg's biography (that was based on Burton's own diaries) in 1959, he turned down an offer of $350,000 (approximately $2.25 million in 2005 terms) to star as "Christ" in Nicholas Ray's remake of King of Kings (1961) due to superstition. A Welsh-Irish drunkard had read the palms of Burton and some friends, including Dylan Thomas, who were performing poetry on B.B.C. Radio's "Third Programme" and were waiting for show-time in a local pub. The drunk predicted the friends' deaths, which in the case of Dylan Thomas, was accurate. After two other friends died within their prescribed time frames, Burton (who had been told he would die at the age of 33) decided to take the year 1959 off so as not to tempt fate. Although he thought Nicholas Ray might make a good film and was keen to shoot on location in Spain, Burton, who already was a millionaire and did not need the money, turned the offer down. For the same reason, he also turned down the role played by Audie Murphy in John Huston

According to Burton's diaries, when he and Elizabeth Taylor appeared on the "Here's Lucy" (1968) (episode: "Lucy Meets the Burtons"), he was appalled by the tedium of shooting the show. He found Lucille Ball's meticulous professionalism to be ludicrous as he felt it was out of place on a TV show. Lucy was entirely focused on making the show work, and Burton -- who thought it would be a lark -- didn't have any fun on the set. He was quite impressed by Ball's co-star Gale Gordon, but was dismayed that Lucy, personally, directed him to play his "part" -- which was himself, after all -- very broad so that he was shouting. When he did shout, she told him that he was finally playing comedy as it should be played. The episode featured Lucy meeting Burton, who was fleeing the press and hid in her office, and then Liz, and putting on Liz's 69-carat, pear-shaped stone diamond, which became stuck to her her finger.

According to his biography "And God Created Burton", he was a notorious womanizer; during his marriage to Sybil Williams he had affairs with Claire Bloom, Jean Simmons, Maggie McNamara, Lee Remick, Lana Turner and Mary Ure, and during his marriage to Elizabeth Taylor he had affairs with Geneviève Bujold, Nathalie Delon and Raquel Welch.

According to his long-time friend Brook Williams, the son of the man who had given Burton his first professional break Emlyn Williams, Burton turned down a role in The Sea Wolves: The Last Charge of the Calcutta Light Horse in 1980, which reunited The Wild Geese (1978) director Andrew V. McLaglen, screenwriter Reginald Rose and co-star Roger Moore. The Wild Geese (1978) had been a big hit (Burton was always popular and a box office draw in military roles) and Andrew V. McLaglen had directed Burton's post-The Wild Geese (1978) film Breakthrough (1979), but Burton turned it down. Brook Williams believed that Burton's third wife, Susan Hunt, didn't want Burton away on a lark with his old friends (and drinking companions) as he was in frail health and battling alcoholism at the time.

After being forced to drop out of the touring production of "Camelot" in April 1981 in order to undergo major spinal surgery - during which his entire spinal column was found to be coated in crystallized alcohol - Burton contemplated retiring completely from acting, but later agreed to star in "Wagner" (1983).

After his second wife Elizabeth Taylor's close friend Montgomery Clift died before shooting began on Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), Burton briefly considered taking over the vacated role of the closeted homosexual Major Weldon Penderton that had been slated for Montgomery Clift. Though Burton would later play homosexual parts in Staircase (1969) and Villain (1971), it was thought that he would not be a good fit for the role of an American soldier. The part subsequently went to Marlon Brando, who gave what critics now believe was one of his greatest performances. Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor became friends, giving Burton a chance to socialize with America's greatest actor.

An article Burton wrote in memory of his longtime friend, Sir Stanley Baker, following the actor's death in June 1976, caused so much offence that Baker's widow, Lady Ellen Martin, considered suing Burton. However, shortly afterwards, she recalled standing near the tree where Baker's ashes had been scattered and hearing his voice saying, "You know what Rich is like when he's in his cups".

At the time of his death in 1984, he was slated to reprise his role as Colonel Allen Faulkner in Wild Geese II (1985) and had signed on to star as the English journalist Thomas Fowler in a remake of Graham Greene's The Quiet American (1958). Wild Geese II (1985) went ahead with Edward Fox taking over his part (the film is dedicated to Burton), but the production of "The Quiet American" was canceled.

Burton and Warren Mitchell were Royal Air Force cadets together at Oxford in 1944. Upon meeting Burton, Warren Mitchell, who was Jewish, was enraged by Burton's contention that Jews controlled London's commercial theatre. Warren Mitchell admonished him, saying they were fighting a war against that sort of thing. Though he first thought Burton was very anti-semitic (Burton later became renowned for being ANTI-anti-semitic, taking pride in the fact that one of his fore-bearers likely was Jewish; his second wife Elizabeth Taylor was a convert to Judaism, and his beloved step-daughter Liza Todd Burton, the natural daughter of Elizabeth Taylor and third husband Michael Todd, was Jewish), Warren Mitchell and Burton became friends after they got to know one another. In the years 1944-47, when both were demobilized, they were stationed together at times in Canada and back in England. Later, they appeared together in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965).

Burton received the first retrospective of his work since his death during Bradford Film Festival 2002 - almost 18 years after his death on Sunday, August 5, 1984. Twelve films were screened, among them Look Back in Anger (1959), Becket (1964), Equus (1977) and 1984 (1984), his final picture. The festival, which christened its Burton season Lion of the Welsh, also featured a strand on legendary unfinished films that included a clip of Burton in Laughter in the Dark (1969), a movie from which he was allegedly fired by director Tony Richardson. The picture, based on the novel by Vladimir Nabokov, was shut down and eventually made with Nicol Williamson in Burton's role.

Circa 1970, Burton's fellow Celt (and cinema superstar) Sean Connery, who had received excellent reviews for his portrayal of the doomed king in a 1960 Canadian television version of "Macbeth", hoped to launch a big-screen version of the Scottish play. Sean Connery's plans were foiled when Roman Polanski's version went into production for Hugh M. Hefner's Playboy Productions. Burton, who had won a reputation as the best "Hamlet" of his generation, was also interested in launching a film version of "Macbeth" at the same time. He had just had a great cinema success in the period piece Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), for which he won his sixth and penultimate Oscar nomination, and he told his friend Sir Laurence Olivier that he wanted to make a movie of "Macbeth" with himself as the eponymous king and his wife Elizabeth Taylor as Lady Macbeth. Burton's plans came to naught for the same reason as Sean Connery's did. A decade earlier, Sir Laure

Died shortly after the filming of 1984 (1984) was completed. He was in terrible health during filming from years of alcoholism and heavy smoking, and had to wear a neck brace during rehearsals.

During World War II, he was admitted to Exeter College, Oxford to take the "University Short Course" for six months as a Royal Air Force cadet. While at Oxford in 1943-1944, he was a member of the Oxford University Dramatic Society. Cadets were promised that they could return to Oxford to complete their education after the war, but he did not, instead becoming a professional actor after being demobilized in 1947. Almost thirty years later, he was invited back to Oxford to teach poetry to undergraduates for a semester.

Father of Kate Burton.

Following the release of The Robe (1953), his first Hollywood production, the critics would accuse Burton of being a wooden film actor, a charge that would stay with him throughout his career. It was not until The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965) that critics would be unanimous in their praise of his performance, yet after an excellent five years his mastery of film technique had seemingly deserted him and much of his later work, such as Villain (1971) and Equus (1977), would be dismissed by many as overacting.

Frankly told the press that he appeared in the movies Breakthrough (1979), Circle of Two (1981) and Lovespell (1981) (generally considered by critics to be three of his worse films, all of them critical and box office disasters that eroded the reputation he had recently fought back to reclaim with his appearance on stage and screen in Equus (1977)) for the money. Burton, who had effectively been cleaned out financially by his two divorces from second wife Elizabeth Taylor, was paid $750,000 for each picture (approximately $2.25 million in 2005 terms). Conversely, he was willing to appear in Absolution (1978) at the same time for one-sixth his fee as he believed in the project very strongly.

Grandfather of Morgan Ritchie.

Had to turn down the lead role of the British Consul in John Huston's adaptation of Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano (1984) as he was appearing in a touring production of Noel Coward's "Private Lives" co-starring with Elizabeth Taylor. The role was subsequently played by Albert Finney, who won an Oscar nomination as Best Actor.