Burton and Taylor, the 90-minute BBC America drama that premiered last summer in England and will air on Wednesday, 10.16, played last night at the Hamptons Film Festival. Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Elizabeth Taylor on the downslide, made an appearance at the screening. The film is basically about (a) the volatile, twice-married-and-divorced couple (Taylor, Richard Burton) costarring in a stage presentation of Noel Coward‘s Private Lives in ’83 — a near-debacle and (b) the ravages of booze upon Taylor, if only by implication. Nobody is trashing the film. It seems to have played well enough. A friend admired Dominic West‘s performance as Burton. Definitely better than Lindsay Lohan‘s Liz and Dick, everyone is saying.

All stories about alcohol bringing grief into people’s lives are, I feel, inherently boring because it’s always the same syndrome. Taylor’s alcoholism was fairly acute 30 years ago. In the below clip she tries to goad Burton into drinking while he’s on the wagon. Consider these excerpts from Burton’s diary, included last February in an Express article by Anna Pukas, basically about the Private Lives period:

“Burton noted that Taylor had yet to read the play [at the first rehearsal]. He wrote: ‘ET still drinking. Wine only, she says. ET bad. Couldn’t even read the lines properly. ET as exciting as a flounder temporarily. This is going to be a long, long seven months.

“’ET beginning to bore which I would not have thought possible all those years ago. How terrible a thing time is.”

“’ET only 15 minutes late but then spent 15 minutes more doing her eyebrows. She stinks of garlic — who has garlic for breakfast? She’s also on something or other because there are lines she can’t say at all. Very worrying. Tells me twice an hour how lonely she is.”

“Things did not improve. Accustomed to being able to do retakes, Taylor didn’t see the point of rehearsing. ‘Ran through second act with ET…abysmal,- Burton wrote on 3.20.83. ‘She was quite crocked and couldn’t even read the lines let alone remember them. She’s such a mess.”

Booze is basically a very dull dramatic element.

  • MisterQuigley

    Has anyone ever seen THE WIRE? I hear it’s pretty great. This guy Domingo West starred, apparently…

  • Every time I see West playing the part I feel like he’s just too….nice to play Burton somehow. He’s a suave man, but he doesn’t have Burton’s wolfish arrogance.

    • brenkilco

      Or that bitter, self loathing edge. West seems like a well adjusted guy.

  • scooterzz

    as biopics go, this one is really pretty good…it tells an interesting story of two (very famous) people who couldn’t live with or without each other… my only complaint is that helena bonham carter wore that iconic beauty mark on the wrong
    side of her face throughout the entire movie…..

  • Glenn Kenny

    You have a really peculiar relationship to narratives in which alcohol and alcoholism figure prominently. But this is not unrelated to your Sandra Bullock problem in the respect that complain as you will, they’re not going away.

    • Perfect Tommy

      The alcoholcentric, Liz and Dick filled “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?” certainly isn’t dull.

    • MisterQuigley


      I agree, she was great in 28 Days Later.

  • Hollis Mulwray

    FYI – If your a drunk with the slighest amount of garlic in your diet, you’ll reek of it. Alcohol ( vino especially) shoves the stuff out the pores.

  • brenkilco

    Your aversion to alcohol related stories clearly isn’t shared by Hollywood. Trivia question. How many actors and actresses have won Oscars or been Oscar nominated for playing alcoholics? Nicholas Cage, Van Heflin, James Stewart, Jack Lemmon. I bet there are a lot more. Wow, Ray Milland. Almost forgot him.

  • EOTW

    West was AMAZING in THE WIRE..oh wait. fuck it.

  • Perfect Tommy

    I love the thought of Bonham Carter printing, clipping and taping in her scrap book: ” Definitely better than Lindsay Lohan‘s Liz and Dick, everyone is saying.”