Classic films, glamour, and lavish parties are all integral elements of Hollywood's Golden Age. Among the era's many stars, few embody this romantic mysticism as well as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Each was a powerhouse actor in their own right - Taylor was one of the world's biggest starlets, and Burton was a renowned Shakespearean actor. Over the course of their careers, they made nearly a dozen movies together. Off screen, their love affair became one of the greatest romances in Hollywood history, and it all began in 1962 on the set of Cleopatra.
The film cost about $40 million to make ($350 million when adjusted for inflation), and its release marked the beginning of the end for “Old Hollywood” filmmaking. However, Cleopatra became famous for another reason - introducing “Liz and Dick.” Word of their coupling spread around the globe like wildfire, and the media had a field day covering every last detail of their romance. The world’s fascination with their affair overtook their status as actors, ushered in a new era of celebrity, and shifted audiences' focus away from the screen and into the personal lives of movie stars.
Their Relationship Suffered From Taylor’s Dependencies
Taylor dealt with a variety of health issues throughout her life, and she eventually came to rely on pills and alcohol to get through the day - especially where Burton’s womanizing was concerned. She often bragged about how she could drink more than Burton, and she would sometimes act out aggressively when inebriated.
During her marriage to Burton, her dependencies were exacerbated by the couple's hot-and-cold dynamic - they were usually either flirting or fighting. According to Ramon Castro, a former bartender who had waited on the couple, Taylor would spend most of her day drinking. He said:
She would come in almost every day at 10 in the morning and order a vodka collins or vodka martini. She would then switch to tequila. She appeared to have a hollow leg; she spent hours drinking at the bar but apparently experienced no discernible side effects.
Their On-Screen Roles Mirrored Their Real-Life Relationship
Over the course of their relationship, Burton and Taylor made 11 movies together. While few were huge successes, critics did notice that their characters often reflected their feelings toward one another at the time.
Their on-screen chemistry was always palpable, but as the years progressed, the couple's off-screen feuds became more frequent. Their marriage - and their careers - came to a boiling point with the duo's most famous film, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The 1966 film reflected their real-life dynamic: constantly ebbing and flowing between love and animosity. The role would earn Taylor her second Oscar, but her arguments with Burton were beginning to take their toll.
Despite Their Troubles, They Remained Close Friends The Rest Of Their Lives
After their second divorce, both went on to remarry. Taylor married a total of eight times throughout her life. Despite their disagreements, they never lost contact with each other. They even continued writing letters and would meet up sporadically.
When Burton passed from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1984, Taylor opted not to attend the funeral, though she allegedly visited his gravesite several days later to say her goodbyes. She said after his passing:
In my heart, I will always believe we would have been married a third and final time... from those first moments in Rome, we were always madly and powerfully in love.