Monday, March 17, 2014

When Liz got Dick

Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of the most notorious Hollywood marriage of all time: The wedlock of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who had fallen in love on the set of "Cleopatra." Here's the evidence, from the trailer of that 1963 film:

They were already married when they met while making the most expensive movie of all time (up to that point), she to singer Eddie Fisher and he to former actress Sybil Williams. Their romance burned up the pages of Photoplay and Modern Screen, magazines my mom used to read with a skeptical eye but great interest. The Vatican, which had less to worry about in those days, publicly condemned their affair.

This was true passion, at least for as long as these two people could sustain it. Their union would be the longest of her eight marriages and the longest of his five; they were so connected that, when they divorced in 1974, they immediately regretted the decision and married again in 1975. (That lasted just nine months, however.)

It's hard for us to realize, 50 years later, what a furor this love affair caused. Movie stars had been protected by studio publicists in Hollywood right up through the late 1950s. But as the contract system began to crumble, and stars were no longer studio "property," they were left to face gossip columnists and detractors without a studio shield.

Taylor and Burton went on to make 11 more movies together, if you count her cameos in "Doctor Faustus" and "Anne of the Thousand Days." Their screen pairings were seldom memorable, except for the love-hate relationship in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (Hmmmm....) Their last pairing came in the 1973 TV movie "Divorce His...Divorce Hers," a year before the two did indeed sever the knot. (Double hmmmmm....)

But whatever you think of "Cleopatra" as a movie, you can see that the two people in it really love each other. Old movie trailers used to proclaim that a cast "Burns up with the screen with passion!" For once, that was true.


Anonymous said...

"When Liz Got Dick"

That's pretty clever. I guess she did get Dick, didn't she, although I don't often see the word capitalized.

I'm surprised you were able to slip that one by the editors at the Observer.

Anonymous said...

Hot Dog!