Skip to main content

Love etc

Burton, Taylor and a life of “glorious” excess

Burton and Taylor in 1965. API/Gamma-Rapho/Getty

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, “one of the most gloriously over-the-top Hollywood couples to have ever lived”, are the subject of a new, “delicious triumph” of a biography by Roger Lewis, says Hadley Freeman in The Sunday Times. “Want to know what Taylor’s favourite sexual position was? Or the one meal Burton cooked while he and Taylor were married? The weekly rent of the yacht they hired just for their dogs? Then Erotic Vagrancy is the book for you. (Respectively: from behind, boiled eggs and $2,400.)” The title comes from an “outraged statement” made by the Vatican when it became clear that Taylor and Burton – both married, but not yet to each other – were having an affair while filming Cleopatra in Italy. Burton’s reaction was typically brusque: “F*** it, let’s go to f***ing Alfredo’s and have some f***ing fettuccine.”

The book is full of interesting details, including how the parodically heterosexual Burton acted in so many gay roles. It prompted a “dated but revealing” quip from Peter O’Toole: “It looks as though you cornered the limp wrist market, duckie.” Burton and Taylor were obsessed with each other – “Bewitched by her c*** and her cunning,” he wrote in his diary – and others were obsessed with them too. Taylor once insisted the Michelin-starred chef Anton Mosimann make her roast beef and mashed potatoes at 2am, “and because she was Elizabeth Taylor, he did”. The couple’s two tumultuous marriages were anything but dull. As Lewis writes: “It was all money and anarchy.”

Erotic Vagrancy by Roger Lewis is available to buy here.