Shelved Dolls: Rachel Roberts – About That Time She Masturbated A Dog

rachel roberts

I like to think that I was introduced to Rachel Roberts by Richard Burton. This is partly because I first came across a mention of her in one of Richard Burton’s letters, and partly because I have a very active fantasy life.


We’re really close, the Burtons and I.

The story I heard from Richard Burton in Furious Love was:

Rachel Roberts became stupendously drunk and uncontrollable. It would turn out to be an evening that even Tennessee Williams would have a hard time imagining. When she began abusing her husband Rex Harrison – “sexually, morally, physically, and in every other way,”  Tennnesee, certainly no prude, asked to leave.

Suddenly, Rachel dropped to the floor of the bar and started barking like a dog, exciting the real dogs – Elizabeth’s pekingese and Rachel’s basset hound. Thoroughly drunk, Rachel began masturbating her dog, “a lovely, sloppy old dog called Omar,”  . . . [stuff about how Richard felt about dogs] . . . Elizabeth and Richard tried talking sense to the intoxicated woman; she answered by turning on her husband and cursing his three former wives.”

So, obviously, this is a great person to know, yes?


Fortunately, all her journals are published, so it is almost as if we can all know her. Her journals are ours!

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    • mel

      I heard she took barbiturates and drank something caustic and it propelled her through a glass divider. Pretty sad way to go.

      • Jennifer Wright

        She actually took pills, and, because she was worried about throwing them up, then ate an English muffin. But yes, it was very sad.

    • Candace

      “Rex was known as “Sexy Rexy” as a result of his many love affairs, marriages and divorces”
      Wait, really? I’ve always thought he was called that because he was dreamy. Am I the only one?

      • Jennifer Wright

        I remember as a little girl thinking that I wanted a man just like Henry Higgins, and it is a relief to know I am not the only one who felt that.

    • Fabel

      After that headline, I’m glad to see you put the dog masturbation story on page 1. I thought I was going to have to wait!

    • randinewton


    • Sabrina

      That picture.

    • sbsn

      Not your best article. I stopped reading half way through.

      • Naomi Kashinsky

        Wow. How incredibly constructive.

    • robinrd

      Actually, Rachel Roberts has been friends, especially with Sybil, since 1951 when she, Sybil, and Richard were acting in a Shakespeare Festival in Stratford-opon-Avon. Rachel also appeared with Richard in two BBC plays before Cleopatra.

    • JJJ

      Jennifer, Though her life certainly seems a tragedy, her own making, of course… I fail to see any connection between her and the other “Shelved Dolls” you have chosen to write about. Other women have contributed somehow to society, historically…somehow, perhaps just being an infamous iconic, cult like figure….however, I cannot seem to find one ounce how this tragic washed up “actress” contributed to anything? Her journals seem the “feel sorry for myself” sort. Other than being Rex Harrison’s eccentric, alcoholic ex-wife (and a brief menial actress)…is there something that I missed? The juicer story would be that of Rex Harrison, as he was really the star, and makes one wonder what frame of mind he was really in when he chose to marry such a pathetic woman. She really wasn’t even beautiful, compared even to Burton’s ex Sybil.

      Sad that so many of the celebrity men of that era chose to marry such narcissistic selfish women…..makes one wonder about the men themselves.

      I have enjoyed reading your articles and hope there are more in the works, thank you for sharing!

    • PSG

      Reading the accounts of her behavior, are we -sure- there wasn’t an ample supply of drugs being ingested along with the alcohol?

    • Hunkel

      That’s Elizabeth and Mike Todd. You know that right?