‘Furious Love’

By Terri Schlichenmeyer

Purely from a geologist’s viewpoint, it isn’t much. Basically, it’s just a rock somebody pulled from the dirt. But if someone offered you one of those rocks, you wouldn’t turn it down. You’d gladly wear it on your finger, your earlobe, or your throat — although you’d probably call it a diamond or an emerald or a sapphire. Still, it’s a rock — a little something plucked from the Earth just for you. You’re welcome.

When Elizabeth Taylor was married to Richard Burton, she collected those expensive rocks and “played” with them. In the new book “Furious Love” by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger, you’ll read about the box office bombs and boons, the baubles and the battles.

Elizabeth Taylor didn’t think much of Richard Burton the first time she met him while at a pool party in 1953. Already into her second marriage, she was just 21 and a genuine Hollywood diva. He was 28, recently “plucked from the London stage” and drunk.

Nine years later, they met again on the set of the epic movie “Cleopatra.” She was then on marriage number four to Eddie Fisher; Burton was wed to a solid hometown Welsh girl. But “Dick and Liz” (a nickname they hated) were fire together. He stood up to her and wasn’t afraid to insult her. She had a bawdy side that delighted him.

Their affair started quietly — until the paparazzi caught on. After sneaking around for a while, they openly flaunted their passion in front of photographers. Richard’s wife refused to grant him a divorce. Elizabeth tried to commit suicide. He called the whole thing Le Scandale.

In 1964, Richard Burton married Elizabeth Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher and afterward, released a simple statement that said “Elizabeth Burton and I are very happy.” But it wasn’t Happily Ever After.

Richard and Elizabeth both loved to drink, fight and make up. He draped her in expensive, famous jewels. They fought over who was “more Jewish.” They shared a blended and beloved brood of children but could never have a child together. Her career overshadowed his, then vice versa. They fought, divorced, reconciled and remarried, fought and divorced again and almost reconciled a third time. Instead, she married other men (plural). He married another woman. When Burton died, his new wife asked Taylor to stay home.

Remember the guilty, furtive pleasure of poking through a pile of your grandma’s old TV and movie screen magazines? Yep, “Furious Love” is that kind of fun.

Kashner and Schoenberger dug deep for the dirt on “Dick and Liz,” Hollywood’s most beloved, most vilified and most-married couple, to present a snarky love story that seems tame now but was gasp-worthy then.

I think that’s why I loved this book: it took me back to a relatively innocent time when a Hollywood affair was an honest-to-goodness scandal worthy of Vatican comment and Congress condemnation. If you’re looking for some old-school gossip to pass the summertime, you’ll find this book irresistible. For you, “Furious Love” is a true gem.

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