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Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century Hardcover – June 15, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Life outdoes movie melodrama in this raucous, intimate, dual biography of Hollywood's ultimate It Couple. As told by journalist Kashner (Sinatraland) and biographer Schoenberger (Dangerous Muse: The Life of Caroline Blackwood), the romance between the glittering Tinseltown diva and the sonorous, self-loathing Shakespearean reprises their co-starring movie roles: it has the passion of Cleopatra (the Vatican condemned their on-set adultery as erotic vagrancy), the riotous merriment of The Taming of the Shrew, the poisonous marital fights of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and a cast of thousands of paparazzi and shrieking fans. The well-researched narrative—the authors make good use of Burton's engaging love letters and diary entries—offers juicy details of his epic alcoholism and her towering tantrums, and is fascinated with the jewelry pieces, like the Taj Mahal diamond that Taylor famously extracted from Burton as tribute or penance. But from the binges and bling emerges a revealing portrait of the magnetic qualities—her vulgar warmth, his soulful virility—that glued the couple together. Here is that rare love story that holds one's interest beyond the wedding—and a reminder, after the thin gruel of Brangelina, of what a feast celebrity can be. Photos. (June 1)
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From Bookmarks Magazine
Offering up "Brangelina" as the 21st century's lackluster answer to "Liz and Dick," critics likened the contemporary pair to I Love Lucy's Fred and Ethel Mertz. Those unfamiliar with "the brawling Burtons" will find juicy anecdotes in abundance here, but Furious Love rises above mere celebrity gossip by humanizing the mythic couple, taking readers deep into their A-list world of conspicuous consumption and private pain. Despite some repetitive, cliché-ridden prose, reviewers were still captivated by this powerful portrait of doomed love. Less successful, they noted, were the authors' attempts to connect Hollywood's emerging celebrity culture to the relationship, ceaselessly scrutinized by the tabloids. An "addictive page-turner" (Providence Journal), Furious Love is a behind-the-scenes tour of one of the most tempestuous romances of the 20th century.
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This is not to say they weren't fascinating people, for they were. They each had very good qualities. Richard was generous financially to a fault, as was Elizabeth. They both adored animals. They both I think tried to be good parents, but it was obvious to me that their children came a definite second to their love affair. They tried to help people, their families and others, even perfect strangers. I can't help wondering how they would have been had they both not been such astonishing boozers. The times Richard stopped drinking he not only felt better but did better; the same of Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the far shrewder of the pair however, when it came to money. In both their divorces she cleaned up nicely, which is one reason why Richard kept appearing in perfectly terrible films like Circle of Two - he was in desperate need of cash. And quite obviously neither of them could be alone. I felt rather sorry for Henry Wynberg, who Elizabeth dangled to make Richard jealous, as well as feeling sorry for Richard's Suzy Hunt, who it seems to me not only really loved him but tried desperately to keep him alive by managing his drinking. I completely agreed with the writer, as well as one of his daughters, that Richard's silly entourage were only too pleased to keep him boozing all the time.
I think in the end, their lack of things in common, and their subsequent outrageous boozing is what was Richard's and Elizabeth's downfall. They seemed to be like several other immature couples I've read about, who have to fight in order to have great sex. In my view, mature people don't need those artificial constructions. I've also read Richard's diaries, and his claim that he was never unfaithful to Elizabeth does not seem to be borne out by a very small passage where he talks about Genevieve Bujold; "the girl didn't mean that much anyway", or words to that effect. Hmmmm...
As to the famous last love letter he wrote to Elizabeth, which was received after his death - was there such a letter? I probably would have believed it had it been reprinted in Richard's own hand in the book. But it wasn't, and one wonders why not. After all, Elizabeth was generous with portions of Richard's other letters to her, so why not this one? It was reportedly buried with her. Maybe it was. Maybe it never existed, except in her imagination. We'll never know, of course.
All in all, a very fascinating read. Two people I would like to have conversed with - but two people I think very few people could have lived with for long.
I learned a lot about not only these two, but also about the many icons in the business of acting and production that I now want to know even more about.
If you loved reading the scandal sheets about this mega star couple, you will definitely love this book, and even if you didn't, you will still enjoy this tragic love story.
I would recommend this to anyone who likes biographies about Hollywood stars, and even those who want a background story of the way film making changed over the years from the time the Burtons met on the set of Cleopatra, until his death.