Monday, February 14, 2011

Great On Screen Couples: Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton

As I write this post, I just learned Liz has been admitted to a hospital for congestive heart failure, so I may get a little emotional as I write. I pray everything turns out fine for her and she will be home soon. Now onto my post about her and Richard Burton, one of the most well known and fiery couples both onscreen and off. They were married and divorced...twice! And they made 11 films together, some of them being instant classics. Their relationship was turbulent to say the least but they were magic on camera, producing some of the best acting on film ever. Their performances in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? should be shown in acting school as a primer to show how it's done. Liz and Dick put on quite the show in real life and on film. It's ironic their film together was the massive and troubled Cleopatra, which turned out to be one disaster after another. Production delays, Liz getting sick, directors being fired then rehired, etc. But it's where Liz and Dick met and fell in love and married 2 years later, and their history would go on for the next 15 years. While Cleopatra may have been a financial disaster and almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox, the pair would go on to make 10 more films, including the star-studded drama The V.I.P.s (1963) co-starring Maggie Smith, Orson Welles, Rod Taylor, and Margaret Rutherford. It's ironic because Liz and Dick play an unhappily married couple. Shades of things to come maybe?

The two would reunite the following year for the gorgeously filmed The Sandpiper. It's noted that the cinematography stands out more than the couple. It is a very beautiful film, that had Big Sur, California as it's setting. And while The Sandpiper is not one of their best films, it is still engaging to watch Liz as a single mom falling in love with a married headmaster of an Episcopal school (Burton).

Their masterpiece Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? came out the following year and brought Liz her second Best Actress Oscar. She gives one of the best film performances I have ever seen as Martha, the frumpy wife of a New England college professor (Burton). Liz gained 30 pounds and used no make-up to turn herself into a 50ish housewife who tends to drink a lot and scream at her husband. Dick gets to deliver some of his best acting as well and the pair's volatile on screen relationship on full display brought more attention to their off screen relationship.

Another volatile on screen relationship beckoned with 1967's The Taming Of The Shrew with Liz and Dick playing Shakespeare's Kate and Petruchio. A perfect fit for this combustible pair. It would be one of their last great films. They would make several more films including Boom!, The Comedians, and Hammersmith Is Out, but their best work had already came and went. Still 11 films, 2 marriages, and so much drama that could fill a dozen novels and several soap operas assures us we will never forget Liz and Dick.
Below are my top 5 Liz and Dick movies:
1. Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf (1963)
2. The Taming Of The Shrew (1967)
3. The Sandpiper (1965)
4. The V.I.P.s (1963)
5. Cleopatra (1963)


  1. Monty, what a wonderful tribute to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. My favorite Liz and Dick, film performance is... Cleopatra (1963).

    Get well soon, Liz.

  2. Monty,
    I knew Liz wasn't doing very well. Sad. She is one of our last "movie stars." What a beauty. My favorite is "The Sandpiper." They were both so beautiful in that film, add the scenery, the song, "The Shadow of Your Smile," and it was perfect.


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