Shelved Dolls: Elizabeth Taylor – Her Romance With Richard Burton Sounds AWFUL

richard burton and elizabeth taylor

Well, the election is over. Now we can begin worrying about whether Lindsay Lohan is going to fuck up Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor‘s epic love story in the upcoming “biographical television film” Liz and Dick. I mean, this is all I am going to worry about for the next two weeks. Seriously.

I’ve been thinking about the couple a lot. Mostly because I saw Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf on Broadway last week and, while the play was beautifully performed, I could not stop feeling that Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor somehow owned those roles.  I do not feel that way about many other actors – though I suppose, it would be very disconcerting to see anyone but Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in a remake of Casablanca. Somehow, with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, I feel there is rather terrifying insight into how life was in the Burton household.

After all, wasn’t the anger and meanness shown between George and Martha also part of the Burton/Taylor dynamic? Loving one another and also attempting to destroy one another because they felt so many feelings and did not know what to do with them? As I explained to my boyfriend afterwards – the show was a perfect vehicle for Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor because they were those roles.

I mean, this:

But then, I thought, Jennifer, really, why do you think that? Because some voice-over has announced to you, “They drink, they fight, they fornicate?”

Maybe they were actually a pleasant couple, who had some fights, like every couple do, and the media just blew everything really, really out of proportion because they were incredibly famous. That would make sense, actually. So I read up about them.


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    • Courtney

      Is 36 considered “aging”? I think if a man opened a nightclub at 36 that would be perfectly normal and he might even be considered young-ish to do such a thing.

      • Jennifer Wright

        It was in the 70′s. Sybil was married at 20, and she was already divorced with children by then.

      • Courtney


    • Jaclyn

      It does sound kind of awful, but it was passionate, and she loved him because he wasn’t afraid of her. She was strong willed, successful, and very indulged and she did not want a man that she could control. From what I have read about them and Burton’s personal letters that were released after their deaths, it has always seemed to me that they were deeply in love, but always trying to out bluff each other.

    • LCT

      Oh God, that’s so sad. What a tragic love story. Quotes like Liz’s at the end always ruin me. Like that article in GQ or whatever a while ago on Michelle Williams! I was a wreck.

    • Candace

      This just makes me unhappy, because Ive been told a few times that I resemble young Elizabeth Taylor. Now I know they just meant I am a plump baby.

      • Elle

        LOL no, it must be such a compliment, she was devastatingly beautiful!

      • Paola

        But a goooolden baby, nonetheless!

    • Sabrina

      Ok, I started out thinking that they were awful and then ended thinking that they were beautiful. Also, Elizabeth Taylor is such a mega babe.

    • JennyWren

      Lord, I think we’ve all known a few couples like these two…you know, the ones that seemed relatively normal when you talked to them separately but always got into HUGE fights at parties that made everybody feel awkward, and then they storm off somewhere and 15 minutes later they’re having sex under the piled-up coats in someone’s bedroom. Or something…Anyway, I’m pretty sure they were fairly happy with all the drama. It’s not my bag, but some people do just enjoy their relationships to be on the torrid side.

      • JJJ

        That’s my marriage :P

    • Sarah

      They both sound like selfish and horrible people. I would have liked to hear more just about Elizabeth, and not so much Elizabeth and Richard…

      • Jennifer Wright

        (Secretly, this piece is really about Sybil Burton).

      • Sarah

        I see that a little…

      • Sarah

        I can see that…

      • Sarah

        Ugg accidentally replying to myself.

    • Dilemma

      Thankyou for writing about Elizabeth! I love her, crazy and all. Maybe I relate to her brand of instability, although without all the glamour. A lot of her life seemed so sad, but that lady was tough.

    • Greer

      Another great piece, Jennifer. I liked your observation that men who are full of themselves are really just men we enjoy conquering. Too true. In the end, she asked to be buried beside him, which I think summed up her deepest feelings. I thought “Butterfield 8″ was her best role. It once led me to try brushing my teeth with vodka. I wouldn’t recommend it.

    • Margaux

      True that they are both very horrible and narcissistic people, but I guess they were in love because they were two peas in a pod. Think about it, Richard says such bad things and abandons his “own children” while elizabeth is conceited and is not bothered by the prospect of herself stealing husbands and making them abandon their children and makes the men devote their entire lives to her. Oh sure, Elizabeth that isn’t much of a big deal. The two of you are perfectly deserving of love. I rest my case

    • correction

      Elizabeth isn’t buried next to Richard. His children did not request that Elizabeth stay away from the funeral, it was Richard’s widow Sally Hay Burton who asked this. He did not abandon his children, he was very involved in their lives and with Elizabeth’s children too. Burton’s family remained very fond of Elizabeth. Quite a poorly researched, poorly written piece of writing.

    • Terri

      Normally, I really love this series of articles, but I don’t think the author did justice to Elizabeth. She had her selfish moments, but she did plenty to apologize for and make up for them. She was a deeply loving and giving person. Richard did say some terrible things, but many of them were tongue-in-cheek. He was very bright and cared a lot for his biological and step-children. There’s a great biography of Elizabeth by J. Randy Taraborelli – I recommend it to anyone interested in the full story.