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

Which is . . . well, The Rachel Roberts Journals are so bizarre that they are almost certainly the best diary you will ever read. Masturbating a dog isn’t even the weirdest situation. With most people, say conservatively 90% of the world’s population, the dog thing would be the strangest. But not for Rachel Roberts, because she is free like a majestic lunatic butterfly.

Rachel met Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor for the first time when they were on the set of Cleopatra. It is funny that Elizabeth and Richard so thoroughly dominate that movie that you forget there were other people in it, although, of course, there were and one was Rex Harrison who played Julius Caesar. Look! Here is an exceedingly long preview, in which Rex Harrison is in many scenes!

It’s fine if you forgot. Honestly, I sometimes forget that Rex Harrison was in anything but My Fair Lady. The actress Rachel Roberts had recently become his 4th wife. (Rex was known as “Sexy Rexy” as a result of his many love affairs, marriages and divorces.) In an interview following the wedding, Rachel told a journalist, “Now, before I married Rex, if God had said to me, ‘Rachel, what would you like to be, apart from a great actress?’ I would have said a dazzling courtesan. Not a whore, not a hooker, you understand, but a lovely lady whom men adored. But after meeting Rex, all I wanted to be was the best, the most brilliant wife in the world.”

She said that in 1962. Sadly it was emphatically not destined to work out quite the way she imagined. Or, at least, not by the standards of what it meant to be a great wife in 1962; which, if you judge by Mad Men standards, mostly seemed to mean preparing some sort of roast with pineapple pieces stuck on by toothpicks.

Part of the problem was that Rachel, a lovely actress, was surprisingly insecure. She admitted that, shortly after arriving to visit her new husband on the set of Cleopatra, “Elizabeth Taylor gave a big party. I couldn’t go. I was too ashamed of my looks to attend.”

It’s not surprising that – perhaps intimidated by Elizabeth Taylor’s status as one of the most beautiful women in the world - she became friends with Richard Burton’s first wife, Sibyl. She claimed that Rachel always referred to Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor as “that man and his woman,” which maybe accounts for why Richard Burton doesn’t tell overly favorable stories about her.

But it is certainly true that she was really weird about dogs.

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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?