1925 - 1984 (58 years)
Has one ancestor and 3 descendants in this family tree.
||Richard Burton |
||19 Nov 1925
||Pontrhydyfen, South Wales
||5 Aug 1984
||29 Mar 2002 |
- Through much of his early career Richard Burton was dogged by the label "promising actor." Several brilliant performances, particularly in British stage productions of Shakespeare, seemed to confirm that promise. But during most of the rest of his life, critics complained the promise went unfulfilled. One thing everyone agreed on, however, was the extraordinary quality of his voice.
Burton was a miner's son and the 12th of 13 children. In secondary school he came under the influence of teacher Phillip Burton, who helped the young man lose his Welsh accent and get into Oxford at age 16. Burton also made his stage debut at this time in Emlyn Williams's Druid's Rest (1943), taking on the surname of his mentor. With his performance in Christopher Fry's play The Lady's Not for Burning (1949), Burton had his big breakthrough. A series of minor films followed, of which the first, THE LAST DAYS OF DOLWYN (1949), written and directed by Emlyn Williams, was the best.
Burton made his film breakthrough in 1952 with the Hollywood production, MY COUSIN RACHEL. A financial and critical success, it earned him his first of seven Oscar nominations (though Burton never won an Academy Award). His screen career continued to build with THE DESERT RATS (1953) and THE ROBE (1953), the first Cinemascope feature. The films that followed were not successful, although many feel his performance as the seething Jimmy Porter in John Osborne's LOOK BACK IN ANGER (1958) was one of Burton's best.
Burton's career revived in 1960 with a triumphant return to the stage as King Arthur in the Lerner & Loewe Broadway hit, Camelot. While the musical was still running, he made the fateful decision to play Mark Antony in 20th Century-Fox's spectacular production of CLEOPATRA (1963). The film launched him to international stardom, as well as marking the beginning of his tempestuous, highly publicized relationship with costar Elizabeth Taylor.
Unfortunately, the off-screen chemistry between the two rarely showed up in the films they made together. With the exception of WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (1966) and THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (1967), these tended to range from the lackluster (DR. FAUSTUS, 1968, THE COMEDIANS, 1967) to the downright soapy (THE SANDPIPER, 1965, BOOM!, 1968). Burton appeared in three fine films without Taylor during this decade—BECKET (1964), THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA (1964) and THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD (1965)—as well as making American theatrical history in 1964 by playing the longest consecutive run of Hamlet.
When Burton's film career hit another low ebb, he returned to Broadway in 1976 to take over the role of Dr. Dysart in Equus. The 1977 screen version garnered him another Oscar nomination but was not a box-office hit. He never did a much-awaited production of King Lear but toured a revival of Camelot in 1980 and 1981. With Taylor, he appeared in a 1983 stage production of Private Lives which was soundly trounced by the critics. His last film role was as O'Brien in a remake of George Orwell's 1984 (1984).
When Burton died he left four ex-wives and the legend of a great talent wasted. It was, however, a life fully lived and not without its share of real triumphs. Daughter Kate Burton is a respected stage actress.