In the 1960s and ’70s, long before Jay-Z and Beyoncé, Kim and Kanye or any edition of The Bachelorette there was only one celebrity couple who really mattered. That was the on-again-off-again, tumultuous pairing of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
The couple met on the set of the 1963 epic Cleopatra, which would become one of the worst bombs in Hollywood history, in part because of the worldwide scandal created by Taylor and Burton’s torrid affair — while they were both married to other people.
The affair between the woman who was then without peer as the world’s greatest movie glamor queen, and the talented, handsome and roguish Welsh star, made world headlines, though by the standards of today’s tabloid fare, nothing the couple did seems especially surprising or outrageous.
In 1963, for two famous people to carry on an extramarital affair in such public fashion was simply unheard of.
But Taylor and Burton’s affair was more than a fling. The couple went on to get married for 10 years, divorced, married again then finally divorced again just over a year later. They obviously had many marital problems, but the biggest was certainly Burton’s nonstop cheating, frequently humiliating his wife by carrying on with other actresses or even waitresses he met in restaurants.
But just days before they separated in 1974, effectively ending their first marriage, Elizabeth Taylor, then 42, made a final, desperate attempt to bring the 48-year-old Burton back to her, writing him a lustful, passionate love letter in pencil, as the two stayed in rented Hollywood mansion while Burton filmed a movie in Los Angeles.
When they split up, Burton apparently left the handwritten letter behind, tucked inside a book, which was later found by the home’s owner.
The letter begins in promising fashion, with Taylor telling Burton, “I wish I could tell my… pure animal pleasure of you.” She also wishes she could tell Burton of “my love for you, of my fear, my delight… my jealousy, my pride, my anger at you.”
She ends the letter declaring, “I lust thee, Your (still) wife. P.S. O’Love, let us never take each other for granted again! P.P.S. How about that – 10 years!!”
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for the two of them, they were divorced three months later anyway.
“This is one steamy letter, from one of the steamiest marriages in history,” British collectibles dealer Paul Fraser, who is selling the letter, told the Daily Mail newspaper. “The intense mixture of love and anger that Taylor has for her philandering husband is palpable in these lines. This is the only love letter between the two to have ever come up for sale. That makes this a very rare opportunity to own memorabilia from Hollywood’s most famous couple.”
Fraser has put a price tag on the letter of £35,000 — or about $57,000.
When Taylor met Burton on the Cleopatra set, she was married to singer Eddie Fisher, who himself had left actress Debbie Reynolds for Taylor. Fisher and Reynolds had a daughter, Carrie Fisher, better known as Star Wars‘ Princess Leia.
Burton at the time was married to his long-suffering first wife Sybil Williams Burton, who stick with the volatile actor despite his incessant cheating since they were married in 1949, before Burton became famous. But the affair with Taylor finally ended their marriage.
Taylor had already been married four times when she met Burton, and would go on to be married four more times including both of her marriages to Burton, who himself would be married five times, before dying at age 58 in 1984. Elizabeth Taylor lived until 2011, passing away at age 79.