Richard Burton: biography
In 2002, Richard Burton was included in the list of the greatest British in the history, as well as Sir Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, Princess Diana, John Lennon, and others. The seven-time Academy Award nominee, Richard Burton was the most prestigious and highly-paid actor in the 1960s.
Childhood and youth
Richard Walter Jenkins was born on November 10, 1925, in the Welsh village Pontrhydyfen into a large family. His father was a coal miner, and the mother Edith Maude Jenkins gave birth to 13 children. Richard was the twelfth kid. The mother died during the last childbirth when the boy was about two years old. The family lived in poverty and could scarcely make ends meet.
The would-be actor’s childhood can hardly be called easy. The father spent what he earned on alcohol and gambling. Richard’s elder sister Cecilia and her husband Elfed James who also worked as a coal miner took care of the little boy. Later, Richard remembered his sister’s attention thankfully and said:
“She felt all tragedies except her own.”
Cecilia took the mother’s place for the younger brother. The elder brother Ifor also contributed to the artist’s upbringing: he instilled the love of rugby in the boy.
At five, Richard started attending the Eastern Primary School in Neath Port Talbot. Three years later, he transferred to another school. The future star showed the love of art in his childhood; he had a beautiful voice and loved the English and Welsh literature.
As a teenager, Richard earned his living independently. In 1943, he became the Oxford student and planned to serve in the Air Force. Still, the career of a pilot did not work out. In comparison, the young man was noticed at the theater at once.
Richard’s school teacher Philip Burton became a significant figure in Jenkins’s life. It was his second name that the young man took as a part of his stage name. The teacher noticed the talented student and encouraged his passion for theater. Philip helped the boy improve his speech and talk without an accent; he also inspired him to read.
In 1948, Richard Burton debuted in the movie The Last Days of Dolwyn. Before, the actor had been working on the radio for a long time and also played at the theater.
The drama My Cousin Rachel was the young actor’s Hollywood debut in 1952. The movie proved to be one of Henry Koster’s most successful projects.
Later, the movie brought the actor the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor nomination.
Millions of viewers loved Burton, and his filmography was increasing year by year. He participated in the iconic movies which became the Hollywood classical works: Look Back in Anger, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Equus, 1984, and The Taming of the Shrew.
Richard Burton was nominated for the Academy Award seven times, but he never received the long-awaited prize. In 1970, the king of the western John Wayne gained his prize and noticed Richard had none. He whispered to Richard that Burton deserved the award.
The personal life of the talented and handsome actor was as rich as his filmography. The man was married five times: Sybil Williams, Susan Hunt, Sally Hay, and Elizabeth Taylor (twice).
Sybil Williams gave birth to two of Burton’s daughters, Kate and Jessica.
The affair between Richard and Elizabeth Taylor was one of the most scandalous and widely-discussed news. The whole world was watching the story of the star couple, and the actors did not keep its details secret.
Burton’s partner in the movie Cleopatra (and a dozen other works) became his great love. Richard went to work on the movie and took his family; Elizabeth was married to Eddie Fisher. Still, nothing could prevent the romance from developing.
Elizabeth and Richard married in March 1964. At that moment, Burton was the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, and Elizabeth was the queen of cinematography.
Their life was like a fairy tale: luxurious yachts, antiquities, real estate property. The actors gave each other expensive presents. Their fans watched the emotional couple for ten years. Eventually, they divorced. Although Elizabeth and Richard remarried in a while, they lived together for less than a year. In their interviews, the stars confessed they loved each other but could not coexist.
The actor passed away early. According to his biographers, Richard became alcohol-dependent in his youth, and the habit transformed into addiction later. Besides, the artist was a smoker.
The actor was 58 when he died suddenly. It happened in Céligny, Geneva, Switzerland, where he had a house. Richard was buried in a red suit with a book of Dylan Thomas’s poems.
- 1953 – The Desert Rats
- 1955 – Prince of Players
- 1959 – Look Back in Anger
- 1962 – The Longest Day
- 1963 – Cleopatra
- 1964 – The Night of the Iguana
- 1967 – Doctor Faustus
- 1972 – Bluebeard
- 1977 – Exorcist II: The Heretic
- 1978 – The Wild Geese