I honestly feel like even the wildest most outrageous (scandalous) super couples of today would have a hard time topping Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in their heyday.
Which makes them fun to read about. And also because for all the scandal and all the jewels and fighting it actually was a deep, true love that most people probably don’t ever get even if in the end it’s all consuming in destructive ways.
So Richard Taylor and Elizabeth Burton of course meet and fell in love on the set of Cleopatra (on its own the behind the scenes of that is a Hollywood story!) they were both married to other people at the time. She of course was actually married to Eddie Fisher at the time having famously torn apart his marriage to Debbie Reynolds.
And though Burton was a ladies man himself he had never considered leaving his wife and family but this time was different and the two couldn’t stay away from each other.
They married and it kickstarted nearly a decade of work and high living throughout the world. Seriously high living. It wasn’t just outbidding Onassis on jewels for Elizabeth vs. Jackie (and you seriously got to love the fact Elizabeth who was one of the highest paid actresses of her time already used to make it well known that she expected “gifts” (mostly jewelry) from directors and producers after filming as well) hobknobbing with royalty and at one point renting a separate yacht from the one they owned for their dogs to escape having to quarantine in Britain.
That being said amidst the high living the book does a good job of separately and together making you like and root for them. They were unfailingly generous people and very open-minded. Both fought drug and alcohol addictions. Richard Burton never got over the guilt of feeling as though he had abandon the stage (and some would argue Hollywood and the press never let him) and his family. Plus he, like Elizabeth, battled illness and injury on top of addiction their whole lives.
Elizabeth Taylor is fascinating in her own right her beauty was legendary and she realized she never had a normal childhood or life but it didn’t stop her from often easily being “one of the guys.” She could demand and receive jewels like it was her right and at the same time happily shovel snow from people’s driveways without being asked or do an entire films worth of extra’s make-up.
She was also an exceedingly loyal friend whose lifelong relationships and loses lead her to some ground breaking AIDS fundraising and charity work.
They also really enjoyed the physical aspects of their relationship which his letters and even some public quotes show and kind of made me like them more 🙂
So anyway Furious Love is one of my favorite classic Hollywood biographies doing a really good job of telling the story of two insanely complex, haunted, wild, rich, famous bigger than life people and somehow manages to make them real and down to Earth without ever losing any of the sheen.
I got the idea to reread this stuck in my head when it was announced Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins were shopping a Cleopatra movie and while the original movie is far from my favorite I don’t know how they could ever top it even with today’s idea of spectacle.