four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
48-Sept-Oct-2010
By: 
Sam Kashner
user_rating: 
0

Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century

A-Furious LoveHusband-and-wife team Sam Kashner, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, and Nancy Schoenberger, a poet and the author of a biography of Lady Caroline Blackwood, have explored Hollywood and celebrity culture in previous collaborative efforts: Hollywood Kryptonite: The Bulldog, the Lady, and the Death of Superman (1997) and A Talent for Genius: The Life and Times of Oscar Levant (1994).

The Topic: They met at a party in 1953. Celebrated actor Richard Burton, 28, was immediately captivated, but 21-year-old Elizabeth Taylor, arguably the most beautiful woman in Hollywood, was unmoved by the notorious Welshman. Nine years later on the set of Cleopatra, sparks flew, but their brazen affair drew widespread criticism. After divorcing their respective spouses, the dazzling duo wed in 1964. However, domestic bliss ultimately gave way to ferocious fights, alcoholism, drug addiction, and the strain of living in the public eye; they divorced in 1974 (reconciling briefly in 1975). Though both remarried, their grande passion became the stuff of legend. "I was still madly in love with him the day he died," recalls Taylor. "I think he still loved me, too."
Harper. 512 pages. $27.99. ISBN: 9780061562846

Philadelphia Inquirer 4 of 5 Stars
"[A] five-alarm blaze of a biography that enthralls like an Olympian epic. In its sympathetic chronicle of a dazzling couple whose glitter gradually dulls and whose power struggle devolves into marital stalemate, the book by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger reads like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night--with oceans more booze and conspicuous consumption." Carrie Rickey

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"If there is one thing made clear by Furious Love--a 438-page ode to the epic liaison between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton--it is that we in the 21st century are getting woefully ripped off when it comes to celebrity-couple dish. ... Furious Love reads like a Shakespearean drama, one that telegraphs a message to today’s tabloid stars: The only way to truly capture the drama, grandeur, deceit and lust that was Taylor and Burton would be to play them in a movie." Marco R. della Cava

Wall Street Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"[The authors] provide an entertaining, blow-by-blow account of the life and times of an epic Hollywood couple. ... To read Furious Love is to grasp that, for these stars, acting was something to do when they were not fighting and drinking, two of their other major talents." Dave Shiflett

Boston Globe 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The narrative quickly resolves into round after round of sex, drinking, movie making, jewelry buying, fighting, and more sex, drinking, and fighting. ... Yet the book leaves no doubt that their passion for each other was immense and genuine, fueled by an intense physical and emotional connection, admiration for each other’s gifts, and a shared capacity for the prodigious consumption of liquor." Rebecca Steinitz

Providence Journal 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The authors fill us in on the stars--they had access to more than 40 letters and notes Burton had written--the yachts and parties and spectacular diamonds, the glut and the excess, the sheer conspicuous consumption of the two, the balls and brawls, but at the same time they scrutinize Elizabeth and Richard within the ‘Lizendick’ extravaganza. I’m not sure they quite succeed--what happens to a self as public spectacle, the couple as the infamous ‘Battling Burtons’?" Sam Coale

Critical Summary

Offering up "Brangelina" as the 21st century’s lackluster answer to "Liz and Dick," critics likened the contemporary pair to I Love Lucy’s Fred and Ethel Mertz. Those unfamiliar with "the brawling Burtons" will find juicy anecdotes in abundance here, but Furious Love rises above mere celebrity gossip by humanizing the mythic couple, taking readers deep into their A-list world of conspicuous consumption and private pain. Despite some repetitive, cliché-ridden prose, reviewers were still captivated by this powerful portrait of doomed love. Less successful, they noted, were the authors’ attempts to connect Hollywood’s emerging celebrity culture to the relationship, ceaselessly scrutinized by the tabloids. An "addictive page-turner" (Providence Journal), Furious Love is a behind-the-scenes tour of one of the most tempestuous romances of the 20th century.