Today, accidental glimpses of a pair of international stars. One is Richard Burton, the other star you will have to identify (and no, it’s not Elizabeth Taylor). The two glimpses were discovered unexpectedly. (That’s the nature of the serendipitous.)

Both were found in books about other topics, and were accidental revelations — that is, unexpected information found on the way to finding something else entirely. Neither discovery is especially flattering to those involved, which makes them all the more rewarding.

First, while perusing Sophia Loren’s nicely illustrated 2014 memoir, Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow — My Life, we came across a photo-copy of a somewhat anguished letter to the Italian actress from Richard Burton.

He and she had recently costarred in director Vittoria DeSica’s 1974 romantic drama, The Voyage, and were communicating as friends.

At the time Burton was winding up his first, 10-year marriage to Elizabeth Taylor — they remarried later for the second and final time — and was openly taking his personal lumps. Writes Loren: he was trying to quit drinking, as well as to get over his love for his beautiful violet-eyed wife.

About a year later, Burton and Loren appeared in a tv version of director David Lean’s 1945 romantic masterpiece, Brief Encounter. It was during preparations for this picture that Burton wrote to Loren, expressing his eagerness about their meeting in England where the remake was filmed.

His letter states that the worst of his psychic angst had passed.

Wrote Burton: I’m completely recovered from my recent madness and have rarely felt so content. Elizabeth will never be out of my bones but she is, at last, out of my head. Such love as I had has turned to pity. She is an awful mess and there’s nothing I can do about it without destroying myself.

Interesting stuff given the then upcoming Taylor-Burton second marital go-around.

Second, we ask this question:  Is it true that “in stars, their temperament and impossible behavior are part of the appeal.  Their outrages please us”  ??

The quotation comes from a Burning the Days, a 1997 memoir written by the late novelist-screenwriter, James Salter, who once tried his hand at directing the 1969 movie Three, about college students summering in Europe. The picture’s female star, who had just finished making Italian director Luchino Visconti ‘s The Damned, was being difficult.

Without once mentioning her name in his memoir, Salter writes that her presence was necessary in the movie because it enabled us to get the money to make it. But the praise, such as it is, stops there.

I was to learn many things about her: that she chewed wads of gum, had dirty hair, and, according to the costume woman, wore clothes that smelled. Also that she was frequently late, never apologized, and was short-tempered and mean. 

She shared a hotel room with a vegetarian boyfriend, and in their room were soiled clothes piled in corners, paper bags of cookies, cornflakes and containers of yogurt. Midway through the shooting, the star demanded a doubling of her salary and that her boyfriend take over as the movie’s director.

I found it hard to suppress my loathing, wrote Salter.  When Three was released, it received scattered positive reviews although audiences thought otherwise. (Salter retains sole credit as director.)

The leading lady (then all of 23) remains an international name with some 117 credits in Hollywood and Europe under her belt, and thus we are treading carefully here. Author Salter did not name her. Nor will we. But astute readers will figure it out.



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