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LawrenceA

Richard Burton: British Lion

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Richard Burton (1925-1984) is one of the most frustrating actors in screen history. One of the greatest talents in the modern history of the British stage, he consistently made terrible films. When he did occasionally appear in a superior film, he would almost undo the good will it afforded him by drunken displays and a penchant for making tabloid headlines, particularly during his tumultuous romances with Elizabeth Taylor. In my opinion, his is one of the greatest wastes of acting talent in the history of the screen, even more so than the oft mentioned Brando. His horrific alcoholism would send him to an early grave at age 58. At one point, he was diagnosed with an accumulation of alcohol crystals on his spinal column, nearly paralyzing him. It so damaged his skin (which was always plagued with various maladies) that he would take to wearing heavy make up in public during the last decade or so of his life.

 

He had one of the greatest voices in acting history, which contained a unique quality that has often been imitated over the years. He could be a master at underplaying a scene, or rage with the best of them. He performed what some at the time called the definitive performance of the title character in Shakespeare's Hamlet. He would play that role on Broadway in the US, as well, and have it filmed for posterity. He hated the result so much that he tried to have every copy destroyed (he failed). He made a few great films, another small handful of good ones, and a lot of bad ones. Whenever his name is mentioned anymore, it's usually in conjunction with that most famous of Hollywood marriages, the one with divorces and ridiculous diamonds and remarriages and more divorce. It's hard to recall, at times, that he could have been the greatest actor of his generation if the wine, women and song of life hadn't been such a powerful lure. But when he was focused, he was magnetic, and that voice could really roar like a lion.

 

 

richardburton.jpg

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As of this post, I have seen 31 of the 64 films of Richard Burton. Here are my favorites:

 

 

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold

Where Eagles Dare

Becket

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Look Back In Anger

The Night of the Iguana

Equus

The Desert Rats

1984

Bitter Victory

 

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I love Burton's voice.

 

His is a sad history and he was an excellent stage actor.

 

I know some people who are not Olivier movie fans sometimes say that if the stage performances are not filmed, how can we now know how great an actor a stage actor really was?

 

 

I recently saw Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe for the first time -

I saw it after Mike Nichols died.  I am glad I waited until I was nearly 40 to see it.  It was near impossible to get through.

 

The films of his I have seen most often are ones that deal with alcoholism.  this does not mean that they are bad films.  these just happen to be the films I have seen the most often:

 

 

The V.I.P.s

Night of the Iguana

Where Eagles Dare

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Re: The Desert Rats;

 

 

It has been a while since I have seen this movie.

 

I would love it to be paired with THE DESERT FOX.

 

James Mason makes a cameo as Rommel AKA The Desert Fox in the other movie.

 

It has also been a few years since I saw THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD.

 

That movie is my favourite Burton film.

 

 

The other movies I mentioned seem to be on TV the most often.

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Did you ever see Becket? It's one of my favorite films of 1964, and both Burton and co-star Peter O'Toole are terrific. I like historical films.

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I have not yet seen Beckett.  It has been on my list of to-see films for years.

 

I love some historical films and not others.  I love well made historical films and I am sure I would love Beckett.

 

But I can watch badly made musicals from the early talkies era and enjoy them.

 

I could NOT get through the Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant movie about Napoleon called The Pride and the Passion.  Turns out Sinatra could not either.

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Yes, British but my mother would want to emphasize that he was Welsh!  Now there's something for TCM to tackle ... St. David's day, March 1st.  Richard Burton, Ray Milland, Anthony Hopkins, Stanley Baker, Rachel Roberts, Catherine Zeta Jones, Hugh Griffith, Donald Houston, Desmond Llewelyn, Roger Livesay, Glynis & Mervyn Johns, Harry Secombe and Victor Spinetti to name a few.

Zulu (1964) would be a good film too as not only is it about a company of Welsh Engineers at Rorke's Drift but Burton is the narrator.

Here are some of my favourite Richard Burton films:

The Last Days of Dolwyn (1949) *Welsh

My Cousin Rachel (1952)

The Robe (1953)

Look Back In Anger (1959)

Becket (1964)

The Night of the Iguana (1964)

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965)

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

The Taming of the Shrew (1967)

Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

Staircase (1969) *this is a buried gem

Equus (1977)

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)

and of course...

Where Eagles Dare (1968)

For those who liked Under the Volcano (1984) they may also enjoy the CBC produced documentary feature which Burton narrates called, Volcano: An Inquiry Into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry (1976).  I believe it was a project close to Burton's heart.  He would have been an interesting choice to play the Consul in the dramatic version.

p.s.  ditto to The Desert Rats and Bitter Victory.

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STAIRCASE??????????????????????????????????

 

 

I don't believe eI have even heard of the movie!

 

 

 

Re: ancestry

 

 

My father wanted me to refer to myself as a Caucasian of Mediterainian Descent.

 

He was NOT HAPPY when I told him that if you were to combine my English, Welsh, Irish, and Scottish ancestry they made up 3/8th of my background and that combining Sweedish and Norwegian ancestry make up 1/4 of me.

 

 

 

(the remaining is French and German)

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Bogie, I love his narration in Zulu. He should have done more voice-over work.

 

I want to see Staircase. I've heard good things. I also haven't seen The Last Days of Dolwyn.

 

I also agree that the Welsh should get more recognition over here than they do, as a culture, So many good actors and actresses from there. The most anyone knows about them here is How Green Was My Valley.

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Other Burton films I have seen but have not been mentioned yet include:

 

Prince of Players (1955)

Alexander the Great (1956)

Sea Wife (1957)

The Longest Day (1962) I didn't mention this with my favorites because his role is so small.

Cleopatra (1963)

What's New Pussycat? (1965) (cameo)

The Sandpiper (1965)

Mooch Goes to Hollywood (1971) (voice only)

Divorce His, Divorce Hers (1973)

The Klansman (1974)

Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)

The Wild Geese (1978)

Absolution (1978)

Breakthrough (1978)

Ellis Island (1984)

 

 

I also have these taped, but have not watched yet:

 

Doctor Faustus (1967)

The Comedians (1967)

The Voyage (1974)

 

 

 

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I have seen THE COMEDIANS and I feel the need to warn you.

 

The title of the film is irony .  It is not a comedy and there is not a single line of dialogue that is funny.  It is actually a very depressing movie.

 

 

 

Other titles you mention:

 

Cleopatra  I have seen and again as you say, the behind the scenes events tend to overshadow this movie.

 

I have not yet seen the Claudette Colbert version.

 

I have seen Caesar and Cleopatra based upon the GBS play with Leigh as Cleopatra and Rains as Caesar and I have to say this is my favourite portrayal of Cleopatra that I have seen so far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I just checked my filemaker and I beat you by one, Lawrence.  I've seen 32 Burton films - if you include a TVM or two.

I haven't seen every one that you have listed but I have seen:

The Rains of Ranchipur (1955)

The V.I.P.'s (1963)

Boom! (1968)

Candy (1968)

Raid on Rommel (1971)

Divorce His: Divorce Hers (1973) TVM

Brief Encounter (1974) TVM - pretty good as I recall

Lovespell (1979)

Circle of Two (1981)

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I just checked my filemaker and I beat you by one, Lawrence.  I've seen 32 Burton films - if you include a TVM or two.

 

 

I always include TV movies, and limited mini-series (which are just extra-long movies). I'm a bit erratic when it comes to including voice-over work. Some lists have them, most don't. I'm not really worried about seeing the voice only films. I also leave out regular TV shows, and short films.

 

I've commented before about wanting to see Candy, since it's the one Brando film I haven't seen or have to see, and I also try and see James Coburn's films, as well as Burton. I noticed yesterday that it's coming out on Blu Ray in May, so maybe it will be shown in the future, or I can get the disc cheaply later in the year.

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For those who wish to see the sublime with the horrific (performance wise):

 

"Bluebeard" (1972)--Starring Richard Burton and Joey Heatherton; the audio is speeded up, so be warned.

 

JH, to RB: "I spit on you, darling!"

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Lawrence, that's a great summation of Burton's career, and thanks for posting a picture of the young handsome Burton, pre-Liz and before he was a hopeless alcoholic.

 

A superb actress to add to the list of great Welsh performers: Sian Phillips.

 

 

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I believe I was chatting with GregoryPeckFan and we were talking about Richard Burton. It had occurred to me that while I knew who he was, and thought he and Elizabeth Taylor made a good looking couple (tumultuous as well) that I had never seen one of his movies before. Well, TCM recently showed My Cousin Rachel (1952) with Olivia De Havilland and I enjoyed the movie very much!

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This is my first post as a new member on the site.

 

I haven't familiarized myself with much of Burton's filmography, but I remember his chilling performance as O'Brien in ​1984 ​very vividly. He was almost grandfatherly to John Hurt's Winston, even as the latter was being broken down physically and mentally. In my opinion, it makes his surrender in the end all the more tragic.

 

I have heard a lot of bad things said about The Klansman. Apparently, Burton's drinking was so severe he had to be rushed to the hospital to be cleaned out, and you could tell he was wasted in the final film. It's sad, really.

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This is my first post as a new member on the site.

 

I haven't familiarized myself with much of Burton's filmography, but I remember his chilling performance as O'Brien in ​1984 ​very vividly. He was almost grandfatherly to John Hurt's Winston, even as the latter was being broken down physically and mentally. In my opinion, it makes his surrender in the end all the more tragic.

 

I have heard a lot of bad things said about The Klansman. Apparently, Burton's drinking was so severe he had to be rushed to the hospital to be cleaned out, and you could tell he was wasted in the final film. It's sad, really.

 

 

Welcome to the TCM forum, Cinematic!

:)

 

Yes, it was very sad how Burton's health declined.

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