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The Richard Burton Diaries

The Richard Burton Diaries

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 704
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  • Book Info
    The Richard Burton Diaries
    Book Description:

    Irresistibly magnetic on stage, mesmerizing in movies, seven times an Academy Award nominee, Richard Burton rose from humble beginnings in Wales to become Hollywood's most highly paid actor and one of England's most admired Shakespearean performers. His epic romance with Elizabeth Taylor, his legendary drinking and story-telling, his dazzling purchases (enormous diamonds, a jet, homes on several continents), and his enormous talent kept him constantly in the public eye. Yet the man behind the celebrity façade carried a surprising burden of insecurity and struggled with the peculiar challenges of a life lived largely in the spotlight.

    This volume publishes Burton's extensive personal diaries in their entirety for the first time. His writings encompass many years-from 1939, when he was still a teenager, to 1983, the year before his death-and they reveal him in his most private moments, pondering his triumphs and demons, his loves and his heartbreaks. The diary entries appear in their original sequence, with annotations to clarify people, places, books, and events Burton mentions.

    From these hand-written pages emerges a multi-dimensional man, no mere flashy celebrity. While Burton touched shoulders with shining lights-among them Olivia de Havilland, John Gielgud, Claire Bloom, Laurence Olivier, John Huston, Dylan Thomas, and Edward Albee-he also played the real-life roles of supportive family man, father, husband, and highly intelligent observer. His diaries offer a rare and fresh perspective on his own life and career, and on the glamorous decades of the mid-twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19231-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. None)
    (pp. viii-ix)
    Chris Williams
    (pp. x-x)
    (pp. 1-22)
    Chris Williams

    This introduction to Richard Burton’s diaries performs a number of functions. First, it offers a sketch of the life of Richard Jenkins, later Richard Burton, from his birth in 1925 through to the beginning of what may be called the ‘diary years’, in 1965. During these first four decades Burton did keep two diaries which are reproduced in this volume: one in 1939/40, when he was still Richard Jenkins, and one in 1960, when he was married to his first wife, Sybil. Both are interesting, but neither offers anything in the way of a continuous narrative which might replace a...


    • 1939
      (pp. 23-24)

      10 SundayCassie died today. Graham came to sleep with me.¹

      18 MondayI am keeping notes ofRichard II.² I am keeping homework timetable.

      25 MondayWent down Mrs Pike’s for a party not bad had great fun playing darts.³

      26 TuesdayWent to another party down Mrs Davies. Had a ragtime band. Colin Wherle was there.⁴

      27 WednesdayWent to Cach in the evening andStranded in ParisandBulldog Drummond Secret Policewas there.⁵

      28 ThursdayWent to Regent to seeI Met a MurdererandExile Expressstarring Anna Sten.⁶ The first picture was very boring....

    • 1940
      (pp. 25-68)

      1 MondayI went up Cwmafan to Tom Henry’s. I had 2/6 today. Reached up there about 10.30 came home by 2.30. Played football in the Park.¹ Went to Regent to seeOklahoma Kidwith James Cagney and H. Bogart.²

      2 TuesdayRode Boyo Jenkins up town yesterday and he went to Lloyds.³ Went down the Library after.⁴ Played football, in the afternoon, it was a decent game. Stayed in to-night and listened toITMA.⁵ It’s very cold.⁶

      3 WednesdayWent shopping for Cis yesterday.⁷ I have got to have an interview with the Co-op committee tomorrow.⁸ Played football today....

    • 1960
      (pp. 69-76)

      Friday 1st, New YorkIn New York. I arrived on 29 December.

      Saturday 2ndRehearsal.Fifth Column.¹ We have begun without Max Schell.² He will arrive in two or three days. George Rose and Betsy Von Furstenberg are also with us.³ The director Frankenheimer is a typical American – a Jew, a genius type. He swears all the time, he curses and he’s always afraid.⁴

      Wednesday 20thI have seen the tape. I hate myself and my face in particular. I have spoken with Sybil in Geneva.⁵

      Thursday 21stTapeFifth Column. I made mischief between Max Schell and Sally...

    • 1965
      (pp. 77-90)

      1 FridayRecovered from crapulousness.

      ReadBritannicawith E.¹ She’s a good little girl. Picked up Sara last night in Palace Hotel swung her around and charmingly shouted ‘I hate Old Women.’²

      Putting J. Sullivan under some sort of contract.³ He and his future Daliah Lavi leave tomorrow.⁴

      2 SaturdaySara and Francis leaving tomorrow for London.⁵ Out to Park hotel for make-up dinner.⁶ Successful. Sara still harping on Francis’ heart condition in whispers looks and sometimes so directly and in the third person so that E said once: ‘You talk as if Daddy were not here.’

      3 SundayLunched...

    • 1966
      (pp. 91-151)

      Friday 18th, Rome¹ Lunched at home with Franco Zeffirelli, Alexandre de Paris, Irene Sharaff and Dick McWhorter.² Irene is a funny contradiction. And enormously concerned with her own dignity.

      After lunch […] we had a press conference. The usual stupid answers to the inevitable stupid questions. What a bore they are.

      Dinner at home alone and fried chicken. Must read script and original version ofShrewagain before Monday.³ De Sica coming to lunch tomorrow we think.⁴ We are to dine with Edward Albee on Sat (tomorrow) night.⁵ I hope he’s more articulate than the last time I met him...

    • 1967
      (pp. 152-188)

      Monday 9th, Cotonou¹ Last night we went to Glenville’s for cocktails.² Most of the people stood outside on the asphalt. It was warm but not oppressive. Alec was there playing the part either of a sweet saint or a great actor charming but removed from the ordinary run of common human beings.³ We arrived (deliberately) late and left after about an hour. We dined on cold ham, spring onions, radishes, cheese, bread (lovely long loaf) tomatoes.

      Gaston works like a dog. He charges around shopping answering telephones, preparing salad, filling thermoses, defleaing the dogs and watching us wherever we go,...

    • 1968
      (pp. 189-247)

      Tuesday 23rd, Fitzroy-Nuffield Hospital, London¹ I have just spent the two most horrible days of my adult life. There was nothing before, as I recall, no shame inflicted or received, no injustice done to me or by me, no disappointment professional or private that I could not think away in a quarter of an hour. But this is the first time where I’ve seen a loved one in screaming agony for two days, hallucinated by drugs, sometimes knowing who I was and sometimes not, a virago one minute an angel the next and felt completely helpless.

      Elizabeth had her uterus...

    • 1969
      (pp. 248-338)

      Saturday 4th, GstaadWe leave in a couple of hours for Geneva by helicopter and from there to Paris by Mystere. […] There are six of us travelling together – Mike, Chris, Sara, Caroline and the two of us. Simmy and John Gross, her intended are staying behind until she has to go to school in about five or six days. E tells me that the former hasn’t had a single bath since we arrived and only one hasty shower. Last night Simmy cooked us an Hawaiian dish which was delicious. Some sort of marinated steak and guacamole […]


    • 1970
      (pp. 339-418)

      Tuesday 24th, Puerto VallartaIt’s a long time since I wrote in this thing. I fell by the wayside at the Sinatra house.¹ It must be confessed that he is a very unhappy man – apart from his fundamental moroseness he was at the time plagued by writs etc. by the State of New Jersey […] about complicity with local gangsters. I believe Sinatra to be right that he was in no way implicated and we have read since that he finally appeared in New Jersey without the necessity of extradition or whatever they call it between state and state,...

    • 1971
      (pp. 419-560)

      Sunday 27th, GstaadFeel inordinately lazy and somewhat disappointed as the Tito treatment is not very good.¹ A series of loud bangs like any other old war film. I will attempt to get them to make it more Tito than guns and local partisan heroics, which, though probably true, have been seen in every Hollywood film ever made. If they do not I shall have to withdraw. I will still struggle away with learning Serbo-Croat. I find it fascinating. […]

      Monday 28thHave been up since seven. Two cups of coffee and it is now eight-thirty. Can’t get up steam...

    • 1972
      (pp. 561-591)

      Friday 28th, Phoenix¹ Yesterday we went to Sara’s house for lunch and for the last time, thank God. It was the first time for me to see the place in daylight and it could be a very pleasant little abode were some money and taste expended on it. Sara’s brother (80 next September) and his wife were there. He is a thin spare man with marvellous high Indian-looking cheek bones and Howard said of him: If you dip him in a barrel of salt water – clothes and all – then put him out in the sun to dry, he...

    • 1975
      (pp. 592-617)

      Friday 11thTaylors arrived from Leningrad.¹ […] E has dysentery and may have to go to England.² Career sounds perilous if absence prolonged. Filming chaotic she says.

      Monday 14thJane Swanson arrived with clothes and papers to sign. Became thoroughly sloshed. […]

      Tuesday 15th, CélignyBrook arrived.³ Very T and E by evening.⁴ Film (Jackpot) still hanging on. Personally have no hope.

      Wednesday 16th (78kg)⁵ Brook left. T and E again. Went to see Maria’s school. Welsh-speaking headmaster (Thomaster) seems efficient. Goes in next September together with friend Tournesol.⁶

      Thursday 17th, Céligny (78kg)Sunbathed. Biked.

      Friday 18thFasted all day....

    • 1980
      (pp. 618-642)

      Sunday 29th, New YorkToday, like a man dying of thirst I slaked and lapped and wallowed in theNew York Sunday Times. I haven’t read a newspaper since leaving Geneva to come here – i.e. for about two months! Neither has Susan. The only encroachment from the outside world, outside the world ofCamelotthe musical, and King Arthur in particular, has been the occasional late-late-night film. I only remember one of them, chiefly because of a remarkable piece of acting by Dickie Attenborough in Greene’sBrighton Rockyclept in CanadaLittle Scarface.¹ A rare picture of a shabby...

    • 1983
      (pp. 643-654)

      Monday 14thAwoke as right as rainbows. Saw Pierre Koessler re: burglar alarms.¹

      Very complicated. Quite clearly security firms are in collusion with insurance companies. Said I will think about. Have lived here for twenty-odd years with not a blade of grass stolen. Anyway nothing here to steal. TV set, two or three radios, a couple of typewriters, a cheap clock. Ah well. Phone Rene and Berenice Weibel. Dinner at La Réserve on Wednesday. Shall ask him about it. Sally very depressed all day.² Worried about Haiti, divorce, NY and attendant publicity she thinks.³ Poor thing. I went back to...

    (pp. 655-663)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 664-694)