Richard Burton

Actor

A standout for his commanding stage presence and voice, Richard Burton was the youngest of 12 children born to a poor Welsh miner. By winning a scholarship to Oxford, Burton was able to escape his poverty scarred upbringing and launch career on stage and screen.

By 1949, Burton was starring on stage opposite such luminaries as John Gielgud in ?The Lady?s Not For Burning,? already making a name for himself on the London theater circuit. Despite hitting all his marks on stage, Burton floundered onscreen. Initially too theatrical for the big screen, a string of Burton films with Twentieth Century Fox fizzled at the box-office. Billed as the heir apparent to Laurence Olivier, Burton?s few successes during the early part of his film career in the 1950?s were largely limited to ?The Robe,? (1953), and his poignant, humanistic portrayal of Jimmy Porter in ?Look Back in Anger,? (1959).

In 1961, following a well-received Broadway run in the musical ?Camelot,? Burton was signed on to the grossly over budgeted film ?Cleopatra,? (1963). Burton?s ensuing affair with Elizabeth Taylor made international headlines and Burton a household name. During the scandal, Laurence Olivier cabled Burton ?Make up your mind, dear heart. Do you want to be a great actor or a household word?? Burton answered ?Both.? Suddenly a hot property, Burton was paired with Taylor in any number of quick buck projects, among them ?The VIPS,? (1963), ?The Sandpiper,? (1965), and ?Boom!? (1968). The one fine exception was ?Who?s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?? (1966), which did garner Burton one of the seven Oscar nominations scattered over the course of his film career, and Taylor a Best Actress Oscar.

The marriage, breakup and remarriage between Burton and Taylor, coupled with a series of schlock pictures Burton signed on for at the height of his notoriety, quickly eroded his credibility as an actor. As Burton himself once said ?I?ve done the most awful rubbish in order to have somewhere to go in the morning.? There were redeeming performances along the way, most notably ?Equus,? (1977) and a final gem of a performance in ?1984,? (1984). Richard Burton passed away that same year from a brain hemorrhage.




Appearances in the BDE Catalog:


Cast in Alice in Wonderland

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