'Furious Love' Recounts Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton Romance

Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century

Written by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger, "Furious Love" takes a look at the life and love of Hollywood icons Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

Read an excerpt of the book below, and then head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.


The first time Richard Burton laid eyes on Elizabeth Taylor, he nearly laughed out loud.

It was 1953, and Burton had been plucked from the London stage where he was being hailed as the great successor to Sir John Gielgud and Sir Laurence Olivier, to make three dramas for 20th Century-Fox—My Cousin Rachel, The Robe, and The Desert Rats. He had swooped into Hollywood with his Welsh wife, Sybil, and had cut a swath through willing Hollywood wives, earning a reputation as an irresistible lover, a great raconteur, a rough and randy Welshman, a powerful drinker. At a party at Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons's house in Bel Air, the twenty-eight-year-old actor outdid himself in drinking and storytelling. It was the Welsh actor's first time in California, and his first visit to "a swank house," where he was agog at the suntanned beauties lounging around the largest swimming pool he had ever seen. The hot desert air was cooled by the sound of ice clinking in glasses, and Bloody Marys, boilermakers, and ice-cold beer kept the party well lubricated. "It had been a hell of a year," Burton would later write in his frank and colorful notebooks, his diary entries recorded for a possible autobiography. "Three big movies; drinking with Bogie; flirting with Garbo . . ." He recalled,

I was enjoying this small social triumph, but then a girl sitting on the other side of the pool lowered her book, took off her sunglasses and looked at me. She was so extraordinarily beautiful that I nearly laughed out loud . . . she was unquestioningly gorgeous . . . She was lavish. She was a dark unyielding largess. She was, in short, too bloody much, and not only that, she was totally ignoring me.

Well, not "totally." That cool look took in a man she considered, at the time, swaggering and vulgar. She would have none of it. Besides, she was a year into her second marriage, to English actor Michael Wilding, a close friend of the Grangers. (Elizabeth, for her part, would recall that first meeting as having taken place at her and Michael's home in the Hollywood Hills; in her memory, she was nineteen at the time.) But Burton was already, let's say, intrigued. Reliving that first glimpse of twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth Taylor, he later described her as "the most astonishingly self-contained, pulchritudinous, remote, removed, inaccessible woman I had ever seen. . . . Was she merely sullen? I thought not. There was no trace of sulkiness in that divine face." And later still: "Her breasts were apocalyptic, they would topple empires . . ." They would also topple Burton.

He would not meet her again for another nine years.

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