Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton
A Love Writ in Water
In 1964, three of the greatest interpreters of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” converged to mutually star in the film, “Becket”- Peter O’Toole, Sir John Gielgud, and Richard Burton.
During the first week of shooting, the three acting greats dined together on the film’s set. Although usually known for his Victorian sense of propriety, Sir John impishly presented before his two co-stars a question much like the ancient Greek deity of Discord, Eris rolling an apple before the feet of the three goddesses Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena that read “To The Fairest”.
Gielgud asked Burton and O’Toole which of the two actors was more famous.
Richard Burton immediately replied that clearly he was, given Time Magazine had recently dubbed him “The Demi-Atlas of this Earth”.
To which Peter O’Toole countered that Burton was only half-famous with Elizabeth Taylor bearing the brunt of his remaining notoriety.
Years later, towards the end of his not so long lived life, Richard Burton was asked by a friend what the epitaph on his grave should read. Without pausing, the actor quoted the English Romantic poet John Keats saying, “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.”
Apt words said by a person whose birth occurred while the Sun was placed in the element of Water in the sign of Scorpio. A phrase which could just as easily been applied if the epitaph included both himself and the love of his life, fellow Water sign, Elizabeth Taylor.
There’s an old astrological adage that at first glance sounds almost dimwitted for its obviousness, but its meaning holds far more of a profound significance: “Water Reflects.” Should a person born beneath the element of Water experience inner doubt or question their self-worth, quite often they’ll “reflect” the strongest aspects of their surroundings. This mirroring effect of the Water sign could take the form of imitating another in closest vicinity with the strongest ego or by the Watery person “reflecting” the traits of their overall environment should they stand out substantially more than any one person’s personality traits.
The love affair between actors Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton was notoriously well known in part because at its tempestuous core were two Water signs desperately trying to find their own sense of self within each other’s famous reflection.
Why else would a former couple of romantic renown double marry each other?
Natalie Wood & Robert Wagner. Melanie Griffith & Don Johnson. Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera. Colleen Dewhurst and George C. Scott.
The celebrity couples listed above all share a common theme – each was married, each was dissolved through divorce, then officially reunited through the institution of marriage once again.
For a celebrity couple to return being married especially after experiencing the devastation of divorce together creates an atmosphere that is highly complex, since a double marriage is certainly not something intentionally planned by either partner. The Taylor – Burton union was the first celebrity relationship of its kind in the Modern Era which not only ushered in the “Age of the Papparazzi” but also became internationally well-known for its on-again/off again quality due to being a double marriage that ended up double divorced.
Taylor and Burton’s relationship was a Water signed union based in unreality. Their uber-romantic, hyper-dramatic love affair became famous for its shockingly expensive life style and exorbitant displays of affection that were based in anything but realism. The setting of where the infamous union began is unto itself legendary for its lavish, over the top sense of unreality. The two Water signs first met in 1962 on the set of a particular film both actors were starring in together. A film that would end up being the catalyst which brought about the near bankruptcy and eventual demise of its parent film company, 20th Century Fox entitled “Cleopatra”.
“Cleopatra” , known for being one of the most expensive films ever made. Pictured above: Elizabeth Taylor in the title role arrives in Rome from Egypt in the 1963 classic.
Initially given a $2 million budget, with its numerous delays and massive changes of entourage between England and Rome, the filming of the Roman/Egyptian epic racked up a final tally of production costs totaling a staggering $44 million ($342 million when translated to today’s standard), making “Cleopatra” one of the most expensive films ever made.
The set of the most expensive film ever made was the meeting place for the couple with the most expensive lifestyle ever witnessed – Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra and Richard Burton as Mark Antony in the 1963 film, “Cleopatra”.
At its astrological core, the basis of the element of Water is human emotion. Most assume the greatest theatrical personalities born beneath that element are dramatically memorable due to growing up in environments where one’s emotions are freely expressed, when in fact the opposite applies. Neither Taylor nor Burton are exceptions to this Watery rule.
A 12 year old Elizabeth Taylor achieves early fame alongside Mickey Rooney in 1944’s “National Velvet”
Elizabeth Taylor was a child star who gained international fame by the age of 12 with her starring role in the 1944 film, “National Velvet”. Despite her early success, Taylor was a finished product of the Hollywood studio system where as a child and into her teen years she was given an extremely limited, rudimentary education provided by whichever studio she was contracted with at any given time. As a girl, Taylor longed to be around other children and eventually grew to despise her education through the Hollywood Studio System which lasted well into her late teens:
“One of the few times I’ve ever really been happy in my life was when I was a kid before I started acting. As I got more famous—after National Velvet, when I was 12—I still wanted to be part of their lives, but I think in a way they began to regard me as a sort of an oddity, a freak. I hated school—because it wasn’t school. I wanted terribly to be with kids. At 16…. after about 15 minutes I’d leave class to play a passionate love scene as Robert Taylor’s wife.” – Elizabeth Taylor
Where his Water signed wife was singled out and preened to be a star during her youth, as a child Richard Burton was almost completely overlooked during his early years in Pontrhydyfen, a town located in the Welsh speaking coal mining section of Wales. The Scorpio was born Richard Jenkins and was the 12th child in his family. At the age of only a year and a half, Richard’s mother died while giving birth to her 13th baby. By force of necessity he was taken in and raised by one of his eldest sisters and her husband, considering young Richard’s father would go off on drinking sprees and disappear for weeks at a time.
During much of his childhood Richard Jenkins went unnoticed . It wasn’t until his elementary years that the boy’s dramatic potential was observed by his schoolmaster, a man named Philip Burton. Burton not only encouraged and trained young Richard in dramatics, proper elocution and vocal production (his biological father never approved of his chosen profession), the educator eventually adopted the boy with Richard taking his teacher’s surname as both his legal and stage last name.
Returning once more to the place where Taylor and Burton made each other’s better romantic acquaintance, the set of “the most expensive film ever made”, Cleopatra, the two already married Water signs threw caution to the wind by mirroring the historic love affair they were enacting and dove head first into the deepest waters of their own emotionally volatile love affair.
It’s no exaggeration to say the world was against them.
From the film’s beginning, the violet eyed vixen was a risky choice to play the Egyptian Queen, given Liz was on her 4th marriage that unto itself, was scandalous. Taylor had lost Husband #3, fellow Water sign, Cancerian Mike Todd in a plane crash a few years earlier and when this occurred the best friend of the deceased, singer Eddie Fisher, rushed to her side to console the newly widowed Pisces. …eventually rushing into her bedroom as well.
Despite Fisher already being betrothed to America’s sweetheart, the perpetually perky Debbie Reynolds, as well as the two couples being double dating friends, Fisher left his wife for Taylor and the actress’ reputation for being a home wrecking hussy had officially begun.
All subsequently just before her affair with Burton began.
Not only did “Cleopatra”‘s producers frown upon their lead actors’ extramarital actions (one studio executive wired to another, “Taylor and Burton aren’t just playing lovers, they ARE lovers.”), the heads of 20th Century Fox sued Taylor and Burton for $50 million on the grounds of their “immoral behavior”.
“Le Scandal”, as the Taylor-Burton affair on the set of Cleopatra was dubbed, was condemned by both religious and government institutions, alike. The moral hysteria which swirled around their Watery tryst became so great, Robert Kennedy, who was then Attorney General of the United States at the time was asked by Congress to block both actors’ entry into the country on the grounds of their “undesirability”. And although not mentioned in name, the adulterous pair was condemned by the Vatican as “erotic vagrants”. Even John Glenn’s historic orbit around the Earth was pushed off the front page of numerous newspapers just so the latest tidbits of Le Scandal could be plastered before the eyes o the general public as a main headline.
Aware of the rest of the globe’s overt disapproval, Burton and Taylor still continued Le Scandal, allowing their affair to fully blossom. The astrological reasoning being the two Water signs literally couldn’t help themselves. “I love her to the point of pain.” Burton confessed in his diary.
“Burton and Taylor were addicted to more than alcohol. They were addicted to each other.” says William Ivory, script writer for the 2013 BBC production “Burton and Taylor”.
Pisces’ planetary ruler Neptune rules over addiction and Scorpio’s planetary ruler Pluto oversees urges of the taboo and uncontrollable kinds. Not only did the two Water signs reflect mirror images of themselves onto each other, the surface waters of the Taylor-Burton love affair reflected the atmosphere from which it had first begun, with the Watery couple living a lifestyle that was stratospherically beyond their means. While together, the two lived a life of unimaginable self-indulgence; spending without thinking as their Watery way of escaping the harsh judgments which the day to day world held against them.
The notorious pair lived, as Burton would later describe, as “doomed nomads”. True to their Watery element which has no defined form, the Scorpio Pisces couple never established roots for neither themselves as a married couple nor for their family by moving to and from the most expensive suites housed within the world’s greatest luxury hotels. The couple drew up monstrous bills for non-essentials, such as flowers along with unreality in liquid form (aka liquor). Whenever they felt especially rowdy, Burton and Taylor would pay for not just one luxury hotel suite, but three – for the floors above and below them, so their raucous cat fighting would disturb as few guests as possible. Much like how the sets, props, and costumes from the film where the Water signed lovers first met had to be re-routed with an entire entourage of a filming crew, the Scorpio Pisces couple reflected the same costly scenario by travelling as if they were medieval royalty, complete with children, a barn’s trove of animals, and a vast array of servants, assistants, and cooks.
Among pet lovers, Liz and Richard are legends. In February of 1968, the couple was told by British authorities their four dogs had to be placed in a six month pet quarantine before being allowed entrance into the country. Like flowing water, the Pisces Scorpio duo circumvented the problem by dishing out $2400 a week for a yacht to serve as a floating kennel on the River Thames for their two sets of Yorkies and Pekingese.
The Burtons check in on their quarantined dogs’ floating kennel stationed on the River Thames in London in February of 1968.
And what would the unrealistic mystique behind the Taylor Burton love union be without jewelry of the most extreme (and obscene)?
The Daddy Diamond of ’em all – The 69.42 carat Taylor-Burton Diamond
Driven to adorn the object of his deepest emotional affections, the Water signed husband showered his Water signed wife with jewels the likes of which came from a treasure chest buried leagues beneath the sea: the 33.19 carat Krupp Diamond, which Taylor wore daily, the 50 carat La Peregrina Pearl Burton purchased for Valentine’s Day 1969 that was formerly owned by Mary I of England, and the pies de resistance of Watery unreality, the 69.42 carat, pear-shaped rock writ bearing both their names dubbed the “Taylor-Burton Diamond”.
With love tokens like that, it’s no wonder Liz was known to have said the three greatest loves of her life were her deceased husband, Mike Todd, Richard Burton, and Jewelry, itself.
The acting couple made a number of motion pictures together throughout their relationship, most notably the film version of a most disturbing theatrical piece written by a playwright who was himself, ruled by the Watery planet of unreality, Piscean, Edward Albee. Burton and Taylor played the lead characters of George and Martha in the 1966 film adaptation of Albee’s stage play, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”.
The Water signed couple masterfully reflect the unrealistic dynamic of the lead characters in the film version of Edward Albee’s play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
The Water signed duo portrayed a couple that resides in a fantasy world of mutually made deception where they constantly yell at each other in full voice but never do the two dare to openly communicate about the grim reality of their highly dysfunctional relationship. Liz and Richard reflected George and Martha’s angst filled world of unreality so powerfully, both were nominated for Academy Awards with Taylor nabbing the Best Actress Oscar for 1967.
It’s hard for anyone living in the 21st century to imagine the effects a romance the likes shared by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton had on society, given their love union ushered in the Age of Paparazzi, where a lime-lighted couple’s every move is monitored and photographed. Much like how their romance which caused such a global frenzy is a hazy part of the past, never to be repeated, the Watery unreality which mirrored their tryst when it first began became acutely hazed over or downright denied within the memories of both Water signed lovers.
When later asked why each never viewed the final product of their performances in “Cleopatra”, Richard Burton born beneath the Water sign associated with Death confessed he refused to see it “because it will kill me and I’m not ready to go.” Elizabeth Taylor, born beneath the Water sign ruled by the planet which oversees film, unreality, and amnesia avoided the question altogether when she said: “I don’t really remember much about Cleopatra. There were a lot of other things going on . . .”
And then some.
*Brad Kronen’s book “Love in the Stars” published by Llewellyn Worldwide, Inc. is available for purchase at your local book seller or online at amazon.com at the link listed below.