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The gigantic scale of the film's troubled production, Taylor's bouts of illness and fluctuating weight, Burton's off-screen relationship with the actress, which he gave the sardonic nickname "Le Scandale" all generated enormous publicity; [] [p] Life magazine proclaimed it the "Most Talked About Movie Ever Made". According to Alpert, at their first meeting on the set while posing for their publicity photographs, Burton said, "Has anyone ever told you that you're a very pretty girl? All that changed when, in their first scene together, Burton was shaky and forgot his lines, and she soothed and helped him; it was at this instance, according to Taylor, that she fell for him.

Do you want to be a great actor or a household word? Burton replied "Both". Cleopatra was finally released on 11 June with a run time of minutes, to polarising reviews. The studio sued Burton and Taylor for allegedly damaging the film's prospects at the box office with their behaviour, but it proved unsuccessful. The film marked the beginning of a series of collaborations with Taylor, in addition to making Burton one of the Top 10 box office draws until Both Alpert and historian Alex von Tunzelmann noted Burton gave an effective, restrained performance, contrasting with co-actor and friend Peter O'Toole 's manic portrayal of Henry.

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During the production of Becket , Burton went to watch Gielgud perform in the stage adaptation of Thornton Wilder 's novel, The Ides of March. There he was confronted by Gielgud who asked what Burton planned to do as a part of the celebration of Shakespeare's quatercentenary. Burton told him he was approached by theatrical producer Alexander H.

Cohen to do Hamlet in New York City. Burton had accepted Cohen's offer under the condition that Gielgud would direct it, which he convened to him. Gielgud agreed and soon production began in January after Burton had completed his work in Becket and The Night of the Iguana.

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Unaccustomed to this freedom, the cast found it hard to select the appropriate clothes and wore different attire day by day. After the first performance in Toronto, Gielgud decreed that the actors must wear capes as he felt it "lacked colour". In addition to being the play's director, Gielgud appeared as the Ghost of Hamlet's father. His acting is a technician's marvel. His voice has gem-cutting precision. Burton helped Taylor make her stage debut in A Poetry Reading , a recitation of poems by the couple as well as anecdotes and quotes from the plays Burton had participated in thus far.

The idea was conceived by Burton as a benefit performance for his mentor Philip, whose conservatory, the American Musical and Dramatic Academy , had fallen short of funds. After Hamlet came to a close in August , Burton and Taylor continued making films together. The first film after their marriage, The Sandpiper , was poorly received but still became a commercially successful venture. Martin Ritt , the film's director and producer, wanted Burton's character to exhibit more anonymity, which meant no display of eloquent speeches or intense emotional moments.

Croce of Slant Magazine describing Burton's performance as more of "tragic patsy than swashbuckler" and believed his scenes with Werner "have sharp doses of suspicion, cynicism and sadness". Jack Lemmon was offered the role initially, but when he turned it down, Warner Bros. Instead, it proved to be what Alpert described as "the summit of both Richard's and Elizabeth's careers".

The film's script, adapted from Albee's play by Ernest Lehman , broke new ground for its raw language and harsh depiction of marriage. Kaufman observed Burton to be "utterly convincing as a man with a great lake of nausea in him, on which he sails with regret and compulsive amusement", and Taylor "does the best work of her career, sustained and urgent". Irving Wardle of The Times called it "University drama at its worst" while the American newspaper columnist John Crosby , in his review for The Observer , lauded Burton's speech where he asks God to be merciful, stating that: "It takes a great actor to deliver that speech without wringing a strangled sob of laughter out of one.

But Burton did it.

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He also co-produced the film with Taylor and Coghill; it was critically panned and was a box office failure. Zeffirelli recalled that Taylor, who had no prior experience performing in a Shakespeare play, "gave the more interesting performance because she invented the part from scratch". Of Burton, the director felt he was, to an extent, "affected by his knowledge of the classics".

Burton had an international box-office hit with The Wild Geese , an adventure tale about mercenaries in Africa. The film was a success in Europe but had only limited distribution in the United States owing to the collapse of the studio that distributed it. According to the film's director, Michael Radford , Paul Scofield was originally contracted to play the part, but had to withdraw due to a broken leg; Sean Connery, Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger were all approached before Burton was cast. He had "heard stories" about Burton's heavy drinking, which had concerned the producers.

After his death, Burton was replaced by Edward Fox , and the character changed to Faulkner's younger brother.


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Burton was married five times, twice consecutively to Taylor. Their first wedding was at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montreal. This marriage will last forever. She has wonderful eyes, but she has a double chin and an overdeveloped chest, and she's rather short in the leg. From until his death in Burton was married to make-up artist Sally Hay.

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As a result, he consulted with his lawyer, Aaron Frosch, who suggested he move to Switzerland where the tax payment was comparatively less. The injury left him paralysed from the neck down. His younger brother Graham Jenkins opined it may have been guilt over this that caused Burton to start drinking very heavily, particularly after Ifor died in In a February interview with his friend, David Lewin, he said he "tried" homosexuality.

He also suggested that perhaps all actors were latent homosexuals , and "we cover it up with drink ".

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Burton was a heavy smoker. In a December interview with Sir Ludovic Kennedy , Burton admitted he was smoking 60— cigarettes per day. In November , Burton was banned permanently from BBC productions for writing two newspaper articles questioning the sanity of Winston Churchill and others in power during World War II — Burton reported hating them "virulently" for the alleged promise to wipe out all Japanese people on the planet.

He admired Democratic Senator Robert F. Kennedy [ citation needed ] and once got into a sonnet-quoting contest with him.


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  • While filming in Yugoslavia he publicly proclaimed that he was a communist , saying he felt no contradiction between earning vast sums of money for films and holding left-wing views since "unlike capitalists, I don't exploit other people". Burton courted further controversy in when he wrote an unsolicited article for The Observer about his friend and fellow Welsh thespian Stanley Baker, who had recently died from pneumonia at the age of 48; the article upset Baker's widow with its depiction of her late husband as an uncultured womaniser.

    Melvyn Bragg, in the notes of his Richard Burton: A Life , says that Burton told Laurence Olivier around of his unfulfilled plans to make his own film of Macbeth with Elizabeth Taylor, knowing that this would hurt Olivier because he had failed to gain funding for his own cherished film version more than a decade earlier. On his religious views, Burton was an atheist, stating, "I wish I could believe in a God of some kind but I simply cannot. Burton admired and was inspired by the actor and dramatist Emlyn Williams. He employed his son, Brook Williams , as his personal assistant and adviser, and he was given small roles in some of the films in which Burton starred.

    Burton was an alcoholic who reportedly nearly died in from excess drinking. According to biographer Robert Sellers, "At the height of his boozing in the mids he was knocking back three to four bottles of hard liquor a day. Burton was allegedly inebriated while making the movie, and many of his scenes had to be filmed with him sitting or lying down due to his inability to stand upright. In some scenes, he appears to slur his words or speak incoherently. I was up there with John Barrymore and Robert Newton.

    The ghosts of them were looking over my shoulder.

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    Burton said that he turned to the bottle for solace "to burn up the flatness, the stale, empty, dull deadness that one feels when one goes offstage". The biography by Melvyn Bragg provides a detailed description of the many health issues that plagued Burton throughout his life. In his youth, Burton was a star athlete and well known for his athletic abilities and strength. By the age of 41, he had declined so far in health that by his own admission his arms were thin and weak. He suffered from bursitis , possibly aggravated by faulty treatment, arthritis , dermatitis , cirrhosis of the liver, and kidney disease, as well as developing, by his mid-forties, a pronounced limp.

    How much of this was due to his intake of alcohol is impossible to ascertain, according to Bragg, because of Burton's reluctance to be treated for alcohol addiction. In Burton spent six weeks in a clinic to recuperate from a period during which he had drunk three bottles of vodka a day.

    He was also a chain smoker, with an intake of between three and five packs a day for most of his adult life. Health issues continued to plague him until his death at the age of As early as March , he had been warned that his liver was enlarged, [] and he was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and kidney disease in April Burton was buried with a copy of Dylan Thomas' poems. The bulk of his estate consisted of real estate, investments in three countries and works of art.

    The bulk of his estate was bequeathed to his widow.


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    For his contributions to cinema, Burton was inducted posthumously into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in with a motion pictures star located at Hollywood Boulevard. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other people named Richard Burton, see Richard Burton disambiguation. Pontrhydyfen , Glamorgan , Wales. Sybil Williams m. Elizabeth Taylor m.