By Eric Kohanik,
They were both rogues when it came to love, romance and fidelity. And the romantic relationship that encompassed Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton became widely recognized as one of the most torrid, tempestuous and truly passionate love affairs of all time.
They would end up starring in 11 films together. In 1961, Taylor was married to her fourth husband, singer Eddie Fisher. Burton, meanwhile, had been married to his first wife, actress Sybil Williams, since 1949.
Although Burton’s marriage had been steadfast, he had a longstanding reputation for being a ladies’ man. It was no surprise, then, that he would cast his roving eye upon Taylor when they first met.
Taylor reportedly turned down his advances at first, insisting that she didn’t want to be just another notch on his belt. Her attitude changed, though, as they began working together on that 1963 film classic Cleopatra.
Production began in 1960 and the movie ended up taking two-and-a-half years to make, partially due to delays caused by bad weather in England and by a number of illnesses that befell Taylor during the first six months of filming. When production moved to Rome in 1961, producers recruited Burton to replace Stephen Boyd in the role of Mark Antony.
Although the relationship between Taylor and Burton was said to be somewhat icy at first, it didn’t take long for
them to become mesmerized by each other. They began an affair that raged with intensity — both on the set and off — and ended up making headlines around the world. Both of their marriages ended up disintegrating and, over the course of the 14 years that followed, Taylor and Burton would go through a high-profile, power-packed personal relationship filled with twists and turns that included courtship, marriage, divorce, a remarriage and a second divorce.
Through it all, though, their feelings for each other remained strong — and often tumultuous — providing lots of gossip and tabloid fodder along the way.
Taylor and Burton loved each other passionately. And they loved to live large, enjoying a life of excess filled with extravagances such as furs, yachts and jewelry — including a famous, pear-shaped, 69-carat diamond.
Taylor and Burton shared a passion for alcohol that was particularly strong as well. According to some sources, their relationship was actually very similar to that of Martha and George, the drunken, volatile couple they played in 1966’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Whenever Taylor and Burton would stay in hotels, they reportedly also rented the rooms located above and below their suite, so that any intense, booze-filled brawling wouldn’t be overheard by other hotel guests.
Over the course of her life, Taylor’s eight marriages raised lots of eyebrows. Throughout everything, though, her relationship with Burton continued to reign as the most memorable and most torrid love affair of all.
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