Who was more Jewish — Elizabeth Taylor or Richard Burton? This question was the basis for squabbles between the married Hollywood superstars, according to Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger’s “Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century.” Taylor was a celebrated convert to Judaism, but Burton was proud of having a Jewish maternal grandfather in his native Wales. Burton further argued that the Welsh are the “Jews of Britain,” referring to ethnic stereotyping directed against his fellow Welshmen. By contrast, he told his wife, “You’re not Jewish at all. If there’s any Jew in this family, it’s me!”
Further evidence of Burton’s sympathy for Yiddishkeit is to be found in the newly published “Richard Burton Diaries.” (Yale University Press) Burton’s entry for June 6, 1967 reads that a friend had advised him that “war had broken out between Israel and Egypt and other Arab idiots.” On June 12, Burton noted with some hyperbole and underlinings, “The Israeli war is over. The Israelis completely destroyed the forces against them in 3 days with what seems a mopping-up action of two days… That clever idiot Nasser resigned and then ‘at the behest of his people’ returned to office 16 hours later.”
As far as celebrity marriages go, perhaps none have been as tumultuous as the 12-year-long saga between Hollywood Golden Age starlet (and Jewish convert) Elizabeth Taylor and Welsh actor Richard Burton.
After beginning an illicit affair on the set of “Cleopatra,” Taylor and Burton were married in 1964 and called it quits in 1976, though they gave it another unsuccessful shot the next year.
“Furious Love” (Harper), a joint biography of the two actors released in June, chronicles what the sub-headline calls the “marriage of the century.”