Richard Burton: Loving Liz, Loving Wales
In this six part series, movie and travel expert, Gretchen Kelly explores the Burton trail in Wales, the actor's lifelong ties with Welsh culture and the love affair with his own land that extended into his love affair with Liz. Check this page each week for new entries and enter below for the chance to win a trip for two to Wales.
Long before Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins brought Wales to the front-pages of the world’s entertainment press, Richard Burton (born Richard Walter Jenkins in village of Pontrhydyfen, Neath Port Talbot) was the reigning prince of Welsh players-- a proud stag of a man with the panache of an Errol Flynn as well as a brooding core of molten coal more akin to actors of his own generation like Marlon Brando or Montgomery Clift...
Christopher Monger, who wrote the screenplay for the Lifetime Television drama, Liz and Dick, starring Lindsay Lohan and Grant Bowler, is an award-winning screenwriter whose credits include the Emmy-award-nominated HBO drama, Temple Grandin and the feature film, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain with Hugh Grant (set in Wales)...
In part one of our conversation with Liz and Dick’s screenwriter, Christopher Monger we talked about Monger’s Welsh identity (he was born in Tafts Well near Cardiff) and about creating Liz and Dick as fully fleshed out characters with a sense of history and place (in Burton’s case, this was Wales). We went on to discuss Monger’s identity as a Welsh transplant (as Burton was) in Los Angeles and what influence the screenwriter’s Welshness had on his work in film and TV...
“Dada was very proud of being Welsh and of his Welsh identity. He came of age in a time of great industrial change in South Wales which affected him profoundly. He spoke only Welsh with his family. He was obsessed with all sports, especially Welsh rugby, as a boy. He had an innate Welsh ear for reciting poetry and singing....this would serve him as an actor in later years. He considered himself a Welshman, first and foremost, to the end of his life...” - Kate Burton
Now that the buzz of publicity around the Lifetime film Liz & Dick has died down, critics are having their say pro or con. No matter how they feel about the film itself, the consensus is that it is time to reassess the real Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, their legacy and their legends.
A major part of the reassessment of Burton is the recent publication of The Richard Burton Diaries (Yale University Press).
After five weeks of trailing the legend that is Richard Burton back and forth from Hollywood to Pontrhydyfen, his hometown in Wales, it seemed appropriate to finish the trail by talking with someone close to Burton in Wales and with a legend (and Welshman himself) closely connected to Burton’s Hollywood persona and the industry that made his career and his fame.
We finished this journey that will begin again for readers when they visit the Burton trail, by speaking with Burton’s cousin David Owen and with Dick Cavett, the one TV interviewer who really opened Richard Burton—with virtues and vulnerabilities intact-- to generations of American viewers.
It is well known that one of stage and screen’s legendary actors, Richard Burton, was a proud Welshman
Born, Richard Walter Jenkins in Pontrhydyfen in valley of the River Afan in South Wales, Richard, or Ritchie as he was known to locals, was a typical Welsh lad...
One of the best things about traveling in Richard’s shoes is that there are still family members and friends of “Ritchie’s” throughout Wales. A pint of Welsh ale in a local pub may get them talking about “Liz and Dick” on their last trip to Wales, or about Burton’s lifelong love of his Welsh home.
It may seem amazing to movie connoisseurs around the world that Richard Burton had never received a star on Hollywood’s legendary Walk of Fame. That is, until now.
On March 1, 2013 the late actor and Welshman’s posthumous star was revealed next to Elizabeth Taylor’s. The unveiling took place on St. David’s day, the national day of Wales, and was in tandem with this year’s 50th anniversary of Cleopatra, the film that began his tumultuous affair with Taylor.
Gretchen Kelly is a travel journalist and "set-jetting" expert. Set-jetting is movie-inspired travel or going on trips inspired by films or film celebrities. Her popular first VisitWales blog series, Beyond the Green, highlighted on BBC Radio Wales also featured travel-related connections between hit films like the Harry Potter series and Wales as well as links between Welsh destinations and stars like Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Follow Gretchen on Twitter @GretchenKelly for more movie-inspired travels.