Tuesday, November 6, 2012
THE RICHARD BURTON DIARIES - Edited by Chris Williams
I like diaries to be full of gossip,observation of their time, honesty and most importantly a good dose of humour.
These diaries of Burton's fail to meet my criteria in that 95% of the are solely about himself and his twice wife Elizabeth Taylor.
The entries are sporadic in that often months and sometime several years pass between entries.
When the entries are prolific it is when he and Taylor are reasonably happy together, giving detailed miniature regarding meals taken, books read and dinner guests.
When these diaries should have been unputdownable - when his marriages were in trouble- there are no entries.
From what is written I got the impression that Burton was actually a loner who was most happy reading on his own or with Taylor. He was seriously wealthy but had to keep working as he ran several households for family members and adopted children.
His alcoholism dominated his life - it was a constant battle to control and the diary is full of contriteness when he has played up or many more entries counting off a couple of weeks without getting drunk, which he inevitably does and then another cycle starts of guilt and then ......
It didn't help his drinking that Taylor was just about as bad as he was, so heavy drinking was around him all the time.
The lack of honesty comes through regards his drinking and it is apparent in other entries, especially when it is known he was a serial philanderer, but there is no mention of other women. Of course this may have a bit to do with the fact that Taylor had access to the diary and even made entries herself, so its not really a diary rather a journal.
There is very little in the way of gossip, a few mentions of actor friends getting drunk but nothing startling, they are generally very gentlemanly and well mannered, even when he criticises co- stars he is fairly nice.
A few of the entries offer laughs but they are few and far between over 660 odd pages.
As diaries these are 'small beer' when I was expecting strong spirits from a man who lead a life many on the outside envied. (2012)