Richard Burton’s alcoholism behind collapse of 2nd marriage to Liz Taylor
London: Newly published private diaries of Richard Burton reveal his love for Elizabeth Taylor and how his heavy drinking put a strain on their second marriage.
Pages of the diaries, published by the Daily Mail, shed light into how Burton and Taylor reunited a year after the collapse of their first marriage in 1974 while on a holiday in South Africa in October 1975.
During their days in South Africa some people suggested Taylor and Burton to get married.
“I thought they were joking and said so. But E turned out to be serious. I told her that I was afraid! Literally afraid, at the moment, that marriage might horrifyingly end in divorce. Result: the latter half of the day a series of ½ joking, ½ bitter invective from E,” the paper quoted Burton as writing in his diary, Monday 6th 1974.
“We will, of course, get married again, if E so wishes, but [not] until I get over my fear — and since I am, at least, deliriously happy at the moment, why spoil it?” he wrote.
On Friday October 10th of that year they remarried, but Burton slowly and steadily became addicted to alcohol.
He wrote on Tuesday 21st October1975: “Drank enormously and cheated when E wasn’t looking. Don’t remember much except falling a lot and suggesting divorce. Can’t control my hands, so cannot write any more. Very silly. Booze!”
He even drank Vodka during breakfast time so Liz wouldn``t smell it when they kissed.
His diary page of Wednesday 22nd reads: “Having been so drunk yesterday, felt terrible in morning and was desperately ill. Went quietly at 9.30 to find a double brandy. Bar closed until 10. Asked for Fritz (manager). Reluctantly, he opened bar for me and suggested vodka as it wouldn’t be so smelly when E had morning kiss.”
Saturday 8th: Big pull-out from booze. Doctors all over me taking blood tests, intravenous feeding, etc. I look terrible and feel diabolical. Really must now never drink again except possibly a glass of wine with dinner.
Thursday 13th: Had Antabuse and then tried one small vodka. Antabuse works! V. sick. E very ashamed of me. Quite right, too.
Burton stopped keeping his diary at this point after 25th October. The following month, after spending some time in a London clinic, he flew with Elizabeth to Switzerland for Christmas. Their second marriage, however, was already failing.
Having become enchanted with Susan Hunt, the wife of Formula 1 world champion, James Hunt, he left Taylor behind when he flew to New York in early 1976 to star in Equus. Susan soon joined him. By February, Burton had told Taylor he wanted a divorce.
Richard and Susan married on August 21, 1976. Two months later, Elizabeth became engaged to U.S. Republican Senator John Warner, and they married that December.
But by 1981, Burton was drinking heavily again and his marriage to Susan was crumbling. They separated in February 1982. The following year, he embarked on a relationship with continuity editor Sally Hay.
That September, he agreed to star with Elizabeth Taylor in a Broadway production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives, by which time he has started writing his diary again.
Private Lives opened on Broadway on May 8, and was not a success.
Sally and Burton married in Las Vegas on July1983. Just over a year later, on August 5, 1984, Burton suffered a cerebral haemorrhage at his home in Switzerland and died in hospital later that day.
Taylor married and divorced once more, before her death in March last year from heart complications.