Taylor and Burton’s ‘Furious love’: Not so Hollywood

Who doesn’t love an epic love?

“Give me a book or a movie about lovers in the depths of a “Wuthering Heights” passion or a Proustian fixation, and I’m off to the moors with a box of madeleines,” Maureen Dowd wrote in her Sunday Times column. She was referring to reports about a film in development about the Liz Taylor/Richard Burton romance. It will be based on the book “Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century” published last year by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger. Martin Scorsese is rumored to be directing.

But how to find two actors whose star-power and magnetism can measure up to Liz and Dick’s? Not to mention, whose onscreen chemistry could come close to the real-life fire and fury Taylor and Burton possessed. You can’t, Dowd argued. Modern movie stars can’t stand up to the greats.

“What makes superstars blaze is how inimitable they are. You can’t replicate what’s unique or measure up to what’s immeasurable,” Dowd wrote.

No doubt, it’s a tough act to follow a romance—and remarkably, a marriage—that writer Ada Calhoun described as a “bodice-ripping, booze-soaked, jewel-bedecked brawl that survives even death.” They broke all the rules, cheated on their earlier spouses and were ultimately condemned by the Vatican. But they loved each other with wild abandon and the relationship endured.

Perhaps if more people loved that way in life, they wouldn’t need Hollywood to present reduced replicas. But a love so passionate and self-sustaining is rare.

Love that lasts strikes me as very un-Hollywood. The great romances of the past—from “Casablanca” to the “The Way We Were” to “Love Story” to “Titantic” end tragically, through painful splits or premature death. Romantic comedies end with some kind of lovers’ reconciliation, where future commitment is suggested, never seen. So even if “Furious Love” doesn’t become the next “English Patient” it will be heartening to watch how Burton and Taylor lived out their romance, even from a distance, until the bitter end.