South West Wales

Richard Burton-Elizabeth Taylor love story endures

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Cleopatra
Image caption Burton and Taylor were married to other people when they met on the set of Cleopatra

The turbulent romance between Richard Burton and Dame Elizabeth Taylor continues to captivate almost 35 years after their marriage ended for a second time.

Reports from Hollywood suggest plans are afoot for a film about their relationship which is already interesting A-list stars such as Catherine Zeta-Jones, Angelina Jolie and Russell Crowe.

A book by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger - entitled Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century - is said to be the basis for the film.

It is far from the first time such a film has been suggested, but the stardust from Burton and Taylor's relationship continues to glitter even now.

It was a love story played out in the public eye, right from when the miner's son from Pontrhydyfen, near Port Talbot, met the art dealer's daughter on the set of the 1962 film Cleopatra.

They were denounced by the Vatican at the time as both were still married to other partners.

Burton biographer Paul Ferris said the love affair immediately captured the public imagination.

"It's got the ingredients of two people who found one another, who met in romantic circumstances on the film set of Cleopatra, and then had an affair that causes a lot of suffering to other people," he said.

"It was high profile, they were both high-profile people, so the media gave them a lot of attention.

"I can think of love stories more interesting than that but they were people with reputations and it happened in a public sort of way."

Burton twice married Taylor, but Mr Ferris believes there may have been other motives in Burton's mind when they initially got together.

"He was an actor and actors are always greedy for publicity. He clearly fancied her, but fancied her as part of his whole public persona," he said.

"He had a perfectly decent little Welsh wife. He meets Elizabeth Taylor and it seems to fit in with his image of himself."

Burton's niece Sian Owen, who lives in Pontrhydyfen, remembers the happiness and excitement of the relationship taking off.

"I was there from the age of about 13 when they were first together and I thought it was the most wonderful romance ever," she said.

"I saw it through all those good times at the start."

Image caption Their love story was played out in the public eye from the start, said Burton biographer Paul Ferris

Ms Owen is convinced the pair continued to love each other through all their ups and downs, and said they kept in touch regularly even after they had split up.

"It's Uncle Richard's picture that she's got next to her bed. It was love," she said.

"Even though she [Taylor] will say 'I've been married a couple of times', she says no-one will come close to Richard."

Earlier this summer, Taylor made love letters written by Burton public for the first time.

She said she was keeping only one letter private, which the actor wrote days before he died in 1984, asking her for another chance.

In one letter, he wrote to her: "You are probably the best actress in the world, which, combined with your extraordinary beauty, makes you unique."

They had eventually split up and married different people.

Ms Owen also has firm ideas about who might be able to play such a challenging role as Burton.

"I saw Russell Crowe in a film and he reminded me so much of Uncle Richard," she said.

"The other one I think could play him is Daniel Craig - he has the ruggedness in his acting and face."

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