If you haven’t taken our Richard Burton quiz already, scroll back to Friday’s blog and please do so. It’s been mounted by your classic movie guys — Joe Morella and Frank Segers — in honor of the recent publication of The Richard Burton Diaries, edited by Chris Williams, Yale Univ. Press.
Our questions then and answers (part 1 today) are based on selections from the thousands of diary entries compiled by the actor from 1939 when he was 14 until his death in 1984. Most date from the mid Sixties when he turned 40, and was in the heady first days of marriage number one to Elizabeth Taylor.
In the interest of keeping things as concise as possible, we’ve decided to break our answers portion of the quiz into two parts, the second due tomorrow. So here we go:
Question: What was Burton’s reaction when he first saw Cleopatra, the disastrous 1963 costume epic which sank a studio but introduced him to Elizabeth Taylor? Did he 1) laugh uproariously; 2) express that he was ‘totally horrified’ 3) express indifference or 4) wax favorable to the film as a whole?
Answer: Cleopatra now is known as the costliest commercial flop in Hollywood history. Whatever its virtues (it was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, after all) it is remembered today for the Burton-Elizabeth Taylor on-and-off-set romantics and its extravagant cost (more than $44 million or about $320 million in today’s dollars). Burton’s reaction when he glimpsed the film was 3) indifference. Wrote Burton: My lack of interest in my own career past, present or future is almost total.
Question: What was Burton’s real name? 1) Thomas Shea; 2) Richard Jenkins; 3) Irving Rabinowitz; or 4) Richard Bloom?
Answer: 2) Richard Walter Jenkins, born Nov. 10, 1925 in Glamorgan, Wales. He was named after his coal miner father.
Question: Didn’t Burton squander a flourishing career as a Shakespearean actor for the easy buck of Hollywood? True or false.
Answer: False. Burton always rejected the conventional view of his career as an actor of “incredible potential who has lazed his talent away.” The theater was not his “first love” he would snap at those who asked. He claimed he loathed movie and stage work in general, viewing himself as an extraordinary lazy actor. Be that as it may, Burton was also an incredibly talented one.
Question: Isn’t Burton the most nominated leading actor never to have won an Academy Award? True or false.
Answer: False. Burton was nominated seven times but never won an Academy Award. In numerical order, actor received a best supporting actor nomination for 1952’s My Cousin Rachel. His best actor nominations were for 1953’s The Robe, 1964’s Becket, 1965’s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (Frank’s pick as his best film), 1966’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, 1969’s Anne of the Thousand Days and 1977’s Equus. Peter O’Toole, who recently announced his retirement from acting, was nominated eight times but never won.
Question: Twentieth Century Fox, the studio that financed and made Cleopatra, actually sued Burton claiming that his on-set affair with Taylor severely damaged the movie, the biggest single commercial flop in Hollywood history. True or false?
Answer: True. Fox mogul Darryl F. Zanuck launched litigation against both Burton and Taylor alleging that their affair hurt the movie’s commercial prospects. The suit was eventually dropped.
More answers tomorrow including one to this question — did his marriages to Taylor bankrupt him.