Inside Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s self-destructive affair that nearly cost her his life
The undeniable chemistry between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor while filming “Cleopatra” was just the beginning of one of Hollywood’s greatest real love stories of all time.
Liz Taylor knew what she was getting into when she decided to hug Burton after their first kiss in a scene from “Cleopatra”. The spark between them was so obvious that it quickly became the topic of everyone’s conversation. She knew her reputation as a womanizer, but she couldn’t help but se:
“When you’re in love and lusting like that, you just have to grab it with both hands and weather the storm.”
She was one of the most important Hollywood stars of her time, and he was the Shakespearean actor of her generation. What was supposed to be just an onscreen love story turned into a real romance.
They had met a decade before the filming of “Cleopatra” and it was not love at first sight. In 1952, they met at a party, and Burton was already well known in the social circle as a womanizer. At the time, Taylor had decided not to “be a cut in his belt.”
Well, maybe not at that time. Ten years later, they reunited to embody the iconic “Cleopatra”. Taylor played the Egyptian Queen and Burton, her lover, Mark Antony.
The all-consuming relationship was intense from the start. When they got together for the shoot, she was married to Eddie Fisher and he was married to Sybil Christopher.
At the start of production, she had confessed to her then-husband about his affair with Burton, who showed up drunk and at the uninvited social event the couple were throwing. After an altercation between the three, Burton and Taylor kissed in front of Fisher.
Of his eight marriages, Richard Burton was perhaps the one that had the hypnotic effect on Taylor, and this is the most extreme relationship of all, both in a good way and in a bad way.
Everything about this couple was intense – drinking, partying, loving and fighting. However, there is a limit to everything. Their marriage never worked out, despite the intensity of the feelings.
It wasn’t for lack of trying either. The duo turned 13 into a tumultuous relationship that included 11 years of marriage, divorce, remarriage and a year later a second divorce.
The author of the memoir “My Life in Focus, A Photographer’s Journey with Elizabeth Taylor and the Hollywood Jet Set” and Taylor’s close friend Gianni Bozzacchi revealed that their passion was so strong it was at the same time destructive. .
Their relationship was fueled by drama coming from both sides. Taylor had a strong tendency to self-destruct which would lead her to match Burton’s volatility. The actress has attempted suicide twice, including one in front of Burton.
Taylor and Burton weren’t shy about yelling at each other and fighting, and things got physical at times. In one episode, according to to studio head Spyros Skouras, Taylor has already been injured:
“Two black eyes, his nose was out of shape and it took him 22 days to recover enough to resume filming.”
The romance-drama dynamic fueled headlines at the time and brought the duo to worldwide attention. Their penchant for excess has taken many forms.
She was obsessed with jewelry, so Burton continued to overbid Aristotle Onassis to buy the world’s most expensive diamond for his wife, the 69.42-carat Krupp diamond, known as the Taylor-Burton diamond. Their follies continued on designer clothes, yachts and private jets.
Gianni revealed that the love of “the world’s most important couple” is very real, but very fragile. According to him, they didn’t have much privacy and their extravagant lifestyle and numerous feuds made them the favorite couple of the paparazzi at the time.
Burton’s alcoholism and compulsive seduction has led him to flirt with virtually every woman he has met, including his friends’ wives and even younger ones. In one of his many letters to Taylor, this a written after another betrayal:
“I know I am a terrible liar sometimes, but please believe that I have never betrayed in word or deed the physical you or the mental you. I just love you too much.
After more than a decade of a high-profile self-defeating relationship, Taylor filed for divorce in 1974, claiming that she “had tried everything she could.”
Even after the petition, Burton continued to write her letters, sometimes almost daily, even going so far as to threaten to kill herself if she did not want to respond; while at the same time he would find himself engaged in several affairs.
Among his mistresses, one was an 18-year-old waitress, mother of three, whose husband threatened to kill Burton, and the other was Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia.
They met a year later to discuss the divorce settlement, but ended up with tears in each other’s arms. They remarried but the second attempt did not last long. Despite their deep love for each other, the issues they went through in the 11 years of marriage were still there.
The second union didn’t last a full year, and Burton got into an affair with tall, blonde Suzy Hunt. He saw in Hunt an opportunity for a whole new beginning, away from the drama, drunkenness and destructive relationship he had with Taylor.
He married Hunt three weeks after the divorce, and Taylor ended up marrying Republican Senator John Warner. Even after years of separation, the two would eventually meet, quickly igniting the spark between them.
Burton eventually quit drinking with the help of his two former wives, first Suzy, then his next wife Sally. However, on a night out with John Hurt in 1984, he fell from the wagon which resulted in a brain hemorrhage. He died two days later, at the age of 58.
Even after marrying her seventh husband, Elizabeth Taylor admitted that she never stopped loving Burton. According to at Closer Weekly, she even kept a photo of him on her nightstand decades after his death.