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Their subsequent adulterous affair titillated the whole world and even brought an official denunciation from the Vatican.
It had raised Burton from respected classical actor to mega-stardom on a par with Taylor, though many whispered he was sacrificing his formidable talent for the sake of Hollywood big money.
Unquestioned leaders of this tiny elite were the couple known as ‘the Burtons’: Taylor with her string of husbands (of whom Burton was the fifth), Burton with his drinking and hell-raising.
They had fallen in love on the set of Cleopatra, a calamitous screen epic starring Taylor in the title role and Burton as Mark Antony, which almost bankrupted its makers, 20th Century Fox.
No night manager or concierge was around to notice that Richard Burton, one of the finest actors of his generation, seemed in danger of getting himself shot.That afternoon, Burton had to do a scene involving a motorcycle chase round and round the castle’s snowy courtyard, watched by Taylor from a turret window.In one corner of the dungeon-like room she’d set up a portable griddle on which to make toasted sandwiches and hot dogs for other cast members and the film crew.I was there to interview his wife, Elizabeth Taylor, then said without much dispute to be the world’s most beautiful woman.In those days, ‘celebrity culture’ was still in its infancy and only a handful of names, mostly from Hollywood, guaranteed a storm of headlines and packs of paparazzi wherever they went.