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Passion & Waste—Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton

The hand of fame touches people in different ways. It liberates some, imprisons others. Some react by becoming free of pettiness, selfishness and deceit. Others react by becoming prisoners of self-love, victims of irresponsibility. There are no better examples of this contrast than President and Mrs. Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the two most talked-about couples in the world today. Whatever they do makes headlines—and the headlines they make are as different as the lives each couple leads.

The Kennedys live for each other, not for the ecstasy of being “in love.” Still, their love glows—brightly, quietly—a light of inspiration.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton live for Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Theirs is the fire of passion, living for its own blaze and burning those who happen to come too near.

How does one couple—why does one couple—let the hand of fame lead them to service and taste, while the other lets it take them into shame and waste? The answer is the subject of an unusual four-page Photoplay report. These timely articles, written by world-famous authors Fannie Hurst and Hedda Hopper, are must reading for every intelligent person.



Elizabeth Taylor has a record in the game of love and passion that easily makes her world champion. At thirty-two, she has had four husbands, countless romances, and a public and passionate affair that has scandalized the world. She has steered her sex toboggan down a dangerous run, taking curves with reckless abandon, playing in luck all the way. Husbands have stepped aside at her whim and even obligingly helped hurry a divorce when time was of the essence. She shed her second husband, Michael Wilding, one day, married Mike Todd the next. With Eddie Fisher, the entire wife-switch took exactly twenty-seven minutes—twelve for his uncontested divorce from Debbie Reynolds, and fifteen minutes for the marriage ceremony that united him with Liz.

Nothing, no one, seems to be able to slow down Liz. The road she’s traveled has had many obstacles, but she manages to reduce them to small bumps as she keeps going at her fast, furious pace.

Surprisingly, love-loving Liz was slow to learn the facts of life. When she first heard about the birds and the bees, she didn’t get the message. She was a big star by the time she caught on to what sex was all about, and she began to make up for lost time. If anyone had suggested that she’d be the world’s Queen of Hearts even before she hit thirty, I’d have certainly said they were crazy.

The Taylors (Francis, wife Sara, son Howard and daughter Elizabeth), came to California after England and Germany went to war. Taylor busied himself with his art gallery and Liz and Howard were left to their mother’s devices. Hollywood was catnip to Sara Taylor who’d been an actress in New York, and she set to work to get her youngsters into motion pictures. Wild with excitement, she told me: “It’s almost impossible to believe that I’m in the film capital with my children!” Howard defeated her by shaving off his hair just before a mama-arranged screen test was to take place. But obedient little Liz, raised in the British tradition that children should be seen and not heard, was put under contract at U-I when she was eight. But she never got a chance to act. Dan Kelly, U-I casting director, told his bosses: “The kid’s no good. Her eyes are too old; she doesn’t have the face of a child.”

Next, Liz went to M-G-M to be trained. She made her first picture with Lassie. She was a star at twelve with “National Velvet.” Sara Taylor was at her elbow telling her what to do and say and screening the boys who wanted to be friends. Mama’s constant watching was so successful that when Liz attended her first premiere at fifteen, the studio had to dig up an escort for her. It broke the ice. After that, the males flocked around in such numbers, her bosses were kept busy beating them off.

She met Glenn Davis at a Malibu beach party and it was love at first sight for both. (Beaches must make Liz romantic; she fell in love with Bill Pawley on the beach at Star Island on Biscayne Bay, and who can forget those sensational candid camera shots of Liz and Dick Burton on the beach at Ischia?) Glenn Davis was an all-American football star and Liz wore a little gold football he gave her on a chain around her neck while he was in the service. But Uncle Sam kept him away too long. By the time Glenn was flying home, bringing her a ruby and diamond miniature of his class ring to make the engagement official, she was in love with William Pawley, Jr. Said Liz at the time, explaining, “Glenn and I were never officially engaged, it was more like going steady. It was just romantic.”

He doesn’t like ice cream

She and Glenn were scheduled to attend an Academy Award ceremony together the night he got home, and, at her mother’s request, I prevailed on Liz to go through with it. She and Glenn sat directly behind me—a silent, miserable pair who smiled dutifully when cameras pointed at them. The next day, Glenn left on a fishing trip with his father, and Liz announced they were quits. Glenn married Terry Moore a short time later—but their marriage was a flop.

Bill Pawley, Jr., had all the romantic ingredients. He was rich, the son of an ex-Ambassador, a pilot and war hero who’d flown the Hump for three years, and an all-round sportsman. On top of all this, he was tall, dark, blue-eyed and handsome. When Liz was describing him to me she said doubtfully, “But he’s so conservative.” Pawley disliked Hollywood and ice cream and wouldn’t go out dancing to be stared at and photographed—so they stayed home. After he went back to Florida, the boys who’d been hanging around waiting for a chance with Liz. took her dining and dancing. When she went to visit the Pawleys in Florida, Bill gave her an emerald ring and an engagement was formally announced. At the time she broke it she said: “Bill was so jealous.”

Nicky Hilton, the twenty-two-year-old son of millionaire Conrad Hilton, went on the wagon when he met her. They were married in the Catholic Church—the Beverly Hills Church of the Good Shepherd. M-G-M gave her a Helen Rose wedding gown, Conrad Hilton gave them a European honeymoon, and Nick gave his bride a block of Hilton Hotel stock. They took off for Europe without taking time to count a ton of presents. Everyone said: “This is for keeps!” But all the bride saw of the old world was gambling casinos. And while Nicky was busy gambling, his beautiful bride was left to her own devices. Within a month she knew the marriage was a failure. She told me: “After I married Nicky, I fell off my pink cloud with a thud.” During the divorce, I asked her what became of the hotel stock he’d given her for a wedding present. “I don’t know,” she said without concern. “I never saw it.”

She became the loveliest divorcee in the world and began a life of high adventure. She had a little apartment in Westwood and every bachelor for miles around tried to make the grade. Stanley Donen lived nearby and proved most successful at drying her tears. He was in process of getting a divorce, and when things began to look serious, Liz was sent to England to make “Ivanhoe.” Later, in speaking to me about Donen, she grouped him with Monty Clift, Jimmy Dean and other “close friends.”

She was nineteen when she met Michael Wilding. He was double her age and in the midst of a romance with another girl. That didn’t stop Liz. She proposed to him and wouldn’t take no for an answer—even when he said he was too old for her. She became a close pal of Jean Simmons and Stewart Granger, and the four made merry in the big Bel Air house the Grangers rented from Marion Davies. On trips to Las Vegas, Liz wore a huge sapphire ring. Wilding stoutly denied they intended to marry. Liz said: “No matter what anyone says or thinks, I love this man and am going to marry him. I love him, I love him, I love him!” Liz phoned him daily until he agreed to marry her. Bobby soxers mobbed them after the civil wedding ceremony in a London registry office. Liz waved her orchids and shouted: “This is the beginning of a happy ending!”

They honeymooned in the Alps. Both were lazy and neither gave a hoot about working. But her films had made millions, so M-G-M got her back with a bigger and better contract by the sly trick of giving Mike a three-year acting deal. After she signed the contract, she broke the news that she was expecting a baby in a few months. Liz was surprised when her bosses weren’t jubilant. They put Mike to work and put Liz on suspension. For the first time in her life, money began to figure in the picture. That suspension cost her $150,000. She used up her savings of $45,000 because Mike had invested all his in a $75,000 home. They loved to go around barefoot much of the time, and they lived on a diet of divorce rumors, even though Liz had another child. Eventually, she brought Mike’s father over from London to share a $150,000 hilltop, home they had bought but had not paid for.

Barefoot “security”

When I arrived for an interview one day Mike sat by the pool barefoot and unshaven. He’d been turning down offers of work, and Liz was beginning to talk about “security” and was concerned, for the first time, about becoming a good actress. As Mike and I waited for Liz to dress—it took her about an hour—he regaled me with much information. Michael, Jr., was four and Chris, who was crawling around the floor with little on except a diaper, hadn’t yet had his first birthday.

“Liz never gets enough sleep,” Mike said. “She’s always sad when someone wakes her up. And she’s always late—late for everything. We keep missing planes. She never gets annoyed, she just waits for the next one. I’ve seen her spend hours over her makeup when we were going out to dine in some little dark hole of a restaurant. She can spend an hour getting her mouth just right. Her talent for tardiness is equalled only by her genius for forgetting things. She forgot to bring her divorce papers to England when we were married, so we had to cable for photostats.”

When she was working in “Giant,” gossips, scenting trouble in the marriage, were naming both Rock Hudson and James Dean in what they felt was a triangle in the making. There was no mention of Mike Todd, whom Liz had already met. When the break with Wilding was finally announced, Todd made his move. After a short time, he told her bluntly: “I want you to quit running around with other guys. I intend to marry you, and nobody else is going to lay a hand on you.” No man had ever cracked the whip before; Liz loved it.

Liz wasn’t the only one with unfinished love business. There was the matter of Marlene Dietrich and Evelyn Keyes with whom Todd was supposed to be having romances. When he told me with a perfectly straight face: “Liz is the only woman I’ve ever loved,” I asked: “What about Evelyn Keyes? Didn’t she invest six years of her life in that fond notion?” “Oh,” said Mike, “that’s different. Evelyn knows I’d never marry her—I told her so.” Evelyn came in by plane from Europe a couple of days after that, and I noticed he rushed down to the airport to meet her and, undoubtedly, to reaffirm his intent.

Like Liz, Mike Todd was no newcomer to love. I’ve often said the list of Todd’s female friends would just about circle the globe. His first wife died. Gypsy Rose Lee was once rumored to be the next Mrs. Todd. Mike talked Marlene Dietrich into doing a part in his picture, “Around The World in 80 Days,” without salary, and she looked after him like a mother.

Never once was that superb showman Todd unaware of the value of marrying the most beautiful woman in the world just before his picture was to be premiered. Liz was twenty-four and his sixth sense told him this beauty was a moon goddess, a sensuous, willing proselyte for his post-graduate course in the art of lovemaking. But he didn’t rely on moonlight and roses; he let diamonds, emeralds and rubies do the talking. He’d run up debts that totaled millions in the past and had cleared them all up. Liz’ engagement ring was a $92,000 diamond, so heavy she could hardly lift her hand. The first time she flew to New York with Mike Todd, her “dearest and best friend” Monty Clift had scarcely recuperated from a severe accident and needed sympathy, but Liz took off without a backward glance.

Avrum Hirsch Goldbogen didn’t ask Liz; he told her. When the Wilding divorce didn’t materialize with the haste he and Liz wanted, Todd sweet-talked Wilding into flying to Acapulco to speed up matters. The Mexican divorce came through on February 1, 1957. The next day, they were married at Miguel Aleman’s seaside villa near Acapulco. A Mexican rabbi was supposed to perform the ceremony, but he failed to show up. Mike shrugged, said it was too had, hut the show had to go on. Liza Todd was born six months and four days later (August 6, 1957). The attending obstetrician issued the following statement: “It was a premature baby, due in October.”

When Mike Todd, who’d come into her life like a comet, went out the same way in a fiery airplane crash, I was in Havana. I phoned Liz to ask if there was anything I could do for her, and if so, I’d be glad to fly home. She said everything was under control. Eddie Fisher, who’d been at their wedding with his wife Debbie Reynolds, was with Liz constantly. During her first weeks of widowhood. Debbie minded Liz’ children, while Eddie supplied Liz with the consolation.

No story for kids!

When I got home, Liz poured out a long, garbled story of her life and times with Mike. Her two children by Mike Wilding were there, and Liz kept sending them out of the room. It was no story for their tender ears.

Mike Todd. Jr., and Liz had business conferences about the estate. When one of these took Liz to the East Coast, I happened to be traveling on the same plane. Arthur Loew, Jr., figured in the picture in those days, too. Madly in love with her. he’d come to the airport to see her off that night. He looked as sad as an abandoned puppy—but kept a stiff upper lip with all those news cameras focused on him. That night Liz sat up talking with me until dawn. Mike’s wedding ring was on her finger. She held her hand out to me and said, “They’ll have to cut off my finger before I’ll remove this ring.”

The Hollywood press always knows more than it tells, and there was a sort of conspiracy of silence regarding Liz, Eddie Fisher and Arthur Loew. Jr. Liz’ youngsters were staying at Arthur’s house when she made a second trip to New York. She and Eddie were bolder this time, they took in the popular night spots. East Coast papers reported it. When the two spent Labor Day weekend. 1958, at Grossinger’s (the scene of Eddie’s marriage to Debbie Reynolds), the widow Todd’s tears were well dried out. Their week-end “stay” violated good taste and convention, and someone phoned Debbie to ask if she knew her husband and Liz were together. The sky fell in. Shocked and irate, Debbie talked off the top of her head and headlines blazed on both coasts. Later, Debbie learned to say “no comment”—to the relief of industry leaders, who realized a star was going down the drain.

Eddie returned to Beverly Hills alone, trying to run along the top of the fence which divides public scandal from safe ground. The job was too much for his social talents. His nerves were ragged from trying to pacify Debbie and keep an amicable footing with the reporters camping outside his front door. A few days later, Liz stepped off the plane at Los Angeles International airport, smiled her dazzling smile, said: “All I have to say is hello!”—and drove away.

Within days, all hell broke loose. The scandal became an industry affair with three top box-office personalities involved.

Debbie proved amenable; she had her children to consider and her career. Eventually, she brought suit for divorce in the Los Angeles courts, and everyone heaved a sigh of relief—they thought time would write the big fadeout.

But Liz had made up her mind to be Mrs. Eddie Fisher, and the year’s wait for a final California decree was out of the question. So Eddie filed for a Nevada divorce which requires only six weeks. Liz became a Jewess, and twelve minutes after Eddie’s divorce, they were married in Las Vegas in a Hebrew ceremony under a chupah, or canopy of carnations and lilies. Eddie wore the little white satin skull cap or yamulka, and the rabbi gave them the traditional seven blessings which, as events proved, they needed. Liz, a dream in moss green chiffon, carried green orchids. Mike Todd, Jr., was Eddie’s best man. A news announcement said the bride would break the tradition of wearing the something old and something new. It wasn’t much of a departure, Liz had tossed old customs over her shoulder a long time before. Her father and mother were at the ceremony. At its conclusion, Sara Taylor said: “They looked like two angels!”

Eddie had gotten his divorce at a closed hearing, giving secret testimony as to his reasons. Everyone was on pins and needles wondering if he’d be turned down. Another judge described the divorce as “a disgrace.” Leaving the courtroom Eddie muttered: “If the public only knew the truth, the real reason for the split up.” The public thought they knew, and future events proved them right. To prove he was a citizen of Nevada, Eddie joined a Temple in Nevada, made a will to be probated in Nevada, registered his car in Nevada and bought Liz a $68,000 Nevada pink cottage overlooking a golf course. Two hours later, they flew out of the state and were en route to Europe, regaling themselves with ham sandwiches.

A pass for the milkman

When Liz signed a million-dollar contract to make “Cleopatra” for 20th, Eddie wasn’t singing so you’d notice it. He went along to carry suitcases, take care of tickets, mind the dogs and children, etc., etc. In England, they settled down to a three-month stay at Englefield Green, a fifteen-room house, surrounded by a stone wall topped with coils of barbed wire with extra long, sharp spikes, and guarded around the clock by police. It looked like the wall Hitler threw up to guard fortress Europa. Visitors carried passes issued by the Fishers listing name, occupation, height, color of hair and eyes and weight—even the milkman had to have one. A reporter told me: “It was easier to get into the Kremlin.” Liz gave out a couple of interviews in which she said: “All I want is to become a housewife and mother.” When a reporter said: “That’s what you told us eighteen months ago,” Eddie gave a signal, guards moved in—end of interview. “Are you still on your honeymoon?” a British correspondent asked. “We expect to be on our honeymoon for thirty or forty years,” said Liz.

Eddie facetiously added: “Give or take a little either way—in years, I mean.”

Eddie put that barbed wire fence around the wrong house; it should have ringed the villa on the Appian Way, the $3,000-a-week nest from which Richard Burton tossed him out. But Eddie’s crystal ball didn’t tell him that Burton would move in. Another actor, Steve Boyd, was to play Mark Antony, before England’s fogs, smogs, bogs and brutal rains laid Cleopatra low. No bona fide queen ever got more headlines than Liz as she battled for life against double pneumonia.

By the time she returned to “Cleopatra” the second time, it was being filmed in sunny Italy. Liz had grown plump from lazying around in the sun at the Beverly Hills Hotel and eating everything in sight. She had a tracheotomy scar, an Oscar (given belatedly by a sentimental Hollywood), and Eddie Fisher had a new role—a sort of court jester. On the sets, he screened everyone who tried to approach the goddess of the Nile, and sat, between takes, on a small chair near her throne to protect her. The inevitable third man showed up and Burton soon relegated Eddie to the role of family friend.

Italy’s paparazzi have telephoto lenses and soon the world was flooded with candid camera shots of Liz and Dick loving it up. Liz was getting threats, so guards were put on the sets and at the gates of the villa. Eddie was put out to grass with a couple of singing engagements. He was in Portugal when Liz was hospitalized in Rome after what press agents described as “an attack of poisoning from eating beans.” She was in a coma six hours. The illness followed a duly-reported series of fights. Liz had shouted at lover-boy Burton in a cafe and stalked out. The cameras caught a confused Burton, his mouth wide open in surprise. Again, when they were spending a weekend at a seaside spot, they quarreled. Liz jumped into her car and drove back to Rome alone. The word “barbiturates” crept into press dispatches. Fisher flew in from Portugal, but Burton, who had been summoned back from Paris, reached her side first. It was a fine kettle of fish from then on until Eddie winged back to New York to spend a couple of days in a sanitarium.

A studio had gone broke making the most expensive picture of all time. It had to be finished—personal problems or no. Burton persuaded his wife Sybil to stay out of the way, but sent telegrams in Welsh assuring her of his undying devotion, foolishly thinking reporters couldn’t translate them. Then he and Liz luxuriated on the beach at Ischia, Liz wearing such sketchy bikinis that, in some poses, she appeared to be nude. Mark Antony and Cleo waxed bronze and healthy; Burton lost his sleek warrior look, and Liz’ seams were about ready to burst. Never a girl for a cracker and cup of bouillon, she goes in for chili beans and beer, pasta and champagne, and the picnic basket was always at hand. In New York, Eddie Fisher looked ghastly. He said he wanted no money from Liz. He just wanted to forget the whole thing. He just wanted to sing and see his little children again.

Liz, who’s had everything life can give and who’s gotten anything and everything she’s ever wanted, now wanted to become Mrs. Richard Burton. But someone was rocking her boat. A Welsh girl named Sybil. Last name—Burton.

Not a famous beauty, Sybil is an opponent to be reckoned with. An actress at the Old Vic when she met Burton, she gave up her career to become his wife and the mother of his two daughters. She had successfully weathered so many of her husband’s romances with his leading ladies, folks were convinced no one could take her husband away from her.

Then along came Elizabeth Rosemont Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher.

When the scandal was at its hottest in Rome, Sybil stoutly maintained there was “nothing to it,” her husband would return when “Cleopatra” was finished. A few years before, Sybil had gone through a bad stretch when her passion-loving spouse nested with a young star of the theater. When the final curtain went down, Burton scurried home to Sybil.

As Sybil predicted, Burton did go home. But he didn’t stay. He shipped out to London to make “The V.I.P.s.” The leading lady? Liz. For the film, she got her usual million and fringe benefits; Burton got another year of notoriety, undoubtedly boosting his take-home pay.

For living quarters, the lovers luxuriated in lavish, adjacent suites at London’s Dorchester Hotel. Sybil sat it out at the Burton home in Switzerland, with an occasional jaunt to London. If Burton would sneak out to see his wife and daughters, many a lamp would fly when he returned to the Dorchester that night.

When “The V.I.P.s” finished shooting, Burton bounced right into “Beckett.” Liz, never one to hang around a movie set, especially when she wasn’t getting a million for it, turned up almost daily to watch Dickie go through his paces. She even donned a blond wig to do a walk-on part, for free.

Eventually, the inevitable announcement came: “Sybil and Richard Burton have agreed to a legal separation. Divorce has not been considered or discussed.”

Sybil left London and settled down in New York City. Burton’s brothers and sisters got into the act, too, giving their staunch support to Sybil. But after Lizzy rounded them all up for posh London lunches, the Burton clan wasn’t so sure Liz was so bad. And Sybil, back in New York, said nothing except: “No divorce is contemplated.”

But Liz couldn’t hear her all the way over in London.

When Burton signed to do “Night of the Iguana,” with Deborah Kerr and Ava Gardner in Mexico, the Burton hank account was bulging. Some suspected he was working like a horse to get the money to pay off Sybil. Others felt the tight-fisted Welshman wouldn’t divorce Sybil because he wouldn’t part with the money. In the midst of this speculation, a London reporter said Burton had told him he was in love with Liz and was going to marry her. The next day, hard-drinking Dickie calmly admitted he’d said it, but that it was all a joke. He wasn’t going to marry her. Liz, for the first time in her life, was caught with egg on her face. She wiped it off— and followed Burton to Mexico.

Liz was supposed to make a film in Hollywood while Dickie was in Mexico, but she waved her bejeweled hand and had her film postponed till February, 1964. She had to go to Mexico to keep an eye on lover boy. The “Iguana” location site is hellish, remote and hot. It would take days and dollars to bring in those chili beans she’s so fond of—but she dallied after him anyway.

Eddie Fisher once said he wouldn’t “stand in the lady’s way,” if she wanted a divorce. Friends now wonder if he’ll stick to that. Recently, to prove he could still “cut the mustard,” Eddie stepped way out of bounds and stole a pretty-faced German model named Renata Boeck from wealthy ex-actor Robert Evans, one of the few people who stood by Eddie when leagues were turning against him.

And where will it all end—this story that reads like a dime-store novel? If Liz has her way, she will become Mrs. Richard Burton. I do not believe she will have her way. I find it hard to believe anything except that Liz has been taken for a ride by Burton, that he has no intention of marrying her.

If there is a wedding this year, only one person in the world will be more surprised than I—and that’s Burton himself. Marriage is a joke to him. What he has had with Liz is not love, hut a thing of passion and waste. Their marriage would be no better.



Liz appears with Burton currently in 20th’s “Cleopatra” and M-G-M’s “The V.I.P.s.”


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