Payday Loans
Richard Burton (1925-1984)

  1. Laurence Olivier, The Beggar’s Opera, 1952.       With a surprising backer in producer Herbert Wilcox (considering there was no choice role for his usual star, his wife, Anna Neagle), Peter Brook planned a verson in black-and-white, with a coarse and virile highwayman.  Burton! “Perfect for the role but the time was not ripe, his name not sufficiently known to make the investors and distributors feel secure.  On the other hand, Laurence Olivier was at the height  of his success, both as an actor and film-maker.”  Brooke sent him a cable: ever been keen on MacHeath? “Fortunately and calamitously this struck too good a note, for apparently (it) had been a project he had been nursing for many years, hoping to act, direct and produce it himself.   His ‘yes’ rejoiced us all and was an early lesson in how one must never celebrate too soon He was furious that he had let his own project slip out of his fingers and so he insisted on  being co-producer as well [and] turned my first film into an ugly battlefield.”

  2. James Mason, Julius Caesar, 1952.   Still tied, contractually, to London’s Old Vic theatre when Orson Welles wanted him for Brutus in a Caesar financed by Egypt’s profligate King Farouk, no less. And, hopefully, said Welles, MGM. No!, Metro had its own plans…
  3. Marlon Brando, Julius Caesar, 1952. However, MGM was similarly thwarted. Indeed, legend insists that Brando only got the gig because Burton couldn’t accept it.  Brando had never played Shakespre before - nor since. A full decade later, the same director, Joseph L Mankiewicz called him up again - for Cleopatra’s Marc Antony.

  4. James Mason,  A Star Is Born, 1953.
  5. Robert Cummings, Dial M For Murder, 1953.      Before making his directing debut, The Ringer, in 1952, Guy Hamilton knew what his second film should be. He’d seen a terrific TV play and praised it to producer Alexander Korda, who bought the rights for a mere £500 (TV had little impact in those days of scanty viewers). As  “the junior contractor,” Hamilton directed all the tests - Burton’s included - and the next he heard was that Korda sold his rights (for rather more than £500) to Alfred Hitchcock. “Well,” said Hamilton, “I knew I wasn’t gonna win this one.” (Cummings was 15 years older than Burton).
  6. Vittorio Gassman, Rhapsody, 1954.       Eight years before La Scandale, this  was set as Burton’s first screen meet with Elizabeth Taylor, until her eye injury (while  replacing Vivien Leigh in Elephant Walk) freed him for The  Robe.  They  had first met at a poolside brunch welcoming the Welshman to Hollywood when she  found him “coarse and self-important.”
  7. Marlon  Brando, Desirée, 1954.       Brando called her: Daisy Ray!
  8. Richard Todd,  The Virgin Queen, 1954.    Or Raleigh and the Virgin Queen  when Burton  was among the contenders for  Queen Elizabeth I’s supposed lover, Sir Walter Raleigh Other potential Walts were Burt Lancaster  and Cornel Wide.  Fox boss Darryl F Zanuck was more busy  securing Bette Davis to reprise her Queen from 1939’s The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. "Mother was thrilled,” said her daughter BD Hyman. “She felt a great affinity for Queen Elizabeth, envied her her power and believed that she and the queen were very much of a kind." As evidenced by her deftly removing  Raleigh from the title.
  9. James Dean, Giant, 1955.
  10. Robert Stack, Great Day in the Morning, 1955.       Whatever else Burton did as a kid, it was obviously not playing cowboys and injuns. Otherwise how else could a Welshman refuse his first (and only) Western! Producer Edmund Grainger next aimed at Robert Mitchum or (the 25-years older!) William Powell.

  11. Kenneth More,  Reach For The Sky, 1956.     “I never found out why he didn’t do it,” said Kenny More of the WWII story of courageous, legless RAF fighter ace Group Captain Douglas Bader  Richard was keen until offered Alexander The Great at four times More’s £25,000! More did not care.  “I was the only actor who could play the part properly. Bader’s philosophy was my philosophy. His whole attitude to life was mine.”
  12. John  Gielgud,  Saint  Joan, 1957.      Learning from Kenny More, Burton dropped Warwick to play  another war-time RAF hero:  Wing o Yeo-Thomas. Joan’s director, Otto  Preminger,  was never that keen on Burton... as  shall be seen. In 1979.
  13. Laurence  Olivier,  The Prince and The  Showgirl, 1957. An early suggestion for Marilyn Monroe before she insisted on Olivier repeating his stage role and helming. Her antics turned  him off directing for 13 years.
  14. Kirk Douglas, Paths of Glory, 1957.        Burton was approached about Colonel Dax - not easy to cast as most stars refused the project. Or, LAgents refused to  show the script to their clients. Dirk Bogarde lumped Burton together with fellow Welshman Stanley Baker: “as tiresome as each other.”
  15. Charlton Heston, Ben-Hur, 1958.        During the birth pangs of the MGMighty epic re-make, Sidney Franklin was due to direct Burton as the hero… Later, William Wyler (one of the original’s 1924 crew) aimed the role at Italians Cesare Danova and Vittorio Gassman. Plus Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas, Rock Hudson, Van Johnson (no, really!), Burt Lancaster and Edmund Purdom. Judah Ben-Heston won his Oscar on April 4 1960.
  16. Roger Moore, The Miracle, 1959.         Everything about this one was inadequate.
  17. Audie Murphy, The Unforgiven, 1959.       Surprisingly both Richard and Tony Curtis were considered before John Huston went back to his Red Badge of Courage star; it was the WWII  hero’s  third and last  major  movie  in  a 23-year career of Z Westerns.
  18. Yul Brynner, Solomon and Sheba, 1959.       Brynner, not Burton, finished the royal role after Tyrone Power’s death during Spanish shooting.
  19. John Mills, The Singer Not The Song, 1960.       Legend goes that Dirk Bogarde jumped at the silly bandito role  because  (a) he’d be in tight  leather trousers and (b) have some worthwhile acting opposition - namely Burton or Peter Finch. When only the trousers arrived, Bogarde made good on his promise to “make life unbearable for everyone concerned.” 
  20. Gregory Peck, The Guns of Navarone, 1960.   Writer-producer Carl Foreman aimed high for his Allied saboteurs in WWII Greece - starting with Cary Grant and Marlon Brando! Plus three stars from his Oscar-winning Bridge on the River Kwai script: Alec Guinness (too busy), Jack Hawkins (having cancer treatment), William Holden (too pricey). Plus Gary Cooper (another  cancer victim) from Foreman’s High Noon. In the mix for Peck’s Captain Mallory were Richard Burton, William Holden and Rock Hudson. Peck tried an English accent. He needn’t have bothered. Mallory was a New Zealander. The actual mission the film was based on was Winston Churchill’s worst WWII blunder – so he adored Foreman’s revision and asked him to film his autobiography, My Early Life, which he did as Young Winston i in 1971. Navarone was the 1961 box-office champ., allowing Foreman to direct his next one, The Victors, 1962. 

  21. Frank Thring, King of Kings, 1960. Titles, directors and actors changed what was Son of Man or The Sword and the Cross in 1952, evolved through John Farrow, King Vidor and, ultimately, Nicholas Ray.  Producer Samuel; Bronston hated the script. 'I cannot even understand this, it's all Thee and Thou and everything else." He wanted Burton somewhere. As Herod Antipas or…

  22. Ron Randell, King of Kings,1960.   …Lucius, The Centurion. Burton simply quit when he was refused top billing.  But, Dickie-boyo, you’re not playing Jesus.  Too late. He’d fled. 

  23. Jason Robards, Tender Is The Night,1961.    Producer David Selznick first tried to film F Scott Fitzgerald’s last completed novel  at RKO in 1951,  with his wife, Jennifer Jones and Cary Grant -  who disapproved of  Dr Dick Diver, the shrink falling for his patient.  George Cukor decided on Elizabeth Taylor and Glenn Ford (!), John Frankenheimer voted for Warren Beatty or  Christopher Plummer. Veteran toughie Henry King helming Jones with a miscast Robards was a fiasco.  Other potential Dicks over the years had been Montgomery Clift, Paul Newman and true Brits Dirk Bogarde and Richard Burton.   Hmm, Burton and Taylor - now that would  have worked.

  24. Stuart Whitman, The Mark, 1961.        Whitman’s sole Oscar nomination.  Who would dare play the role today - a pedophile.
  25. Jeffrey Hunter, King of Kings, 1961.  For his Jesus, feisty director Nicholas Ray  worked his way through the Welsh Burton, English Peter Cushing, Australian Keith Michel, Canadian Christopher Plummer and even Swedish  Max Von Sydow (George Stevens’ Christ in 1964) before voting Hunter. Despite being, at 35, closer to Christ’s age than per usual in Schmollywood epics, Jeff was soon dubbed “I Was a Teenage Jesus.”
  26. Peter O’Toole,  Lawrence of Arabia, 1961
  27. Max Von Sydow, The Greatest Story Ever Told, 1962.      One year  later…   Same story. Same role. Same reply. “Oh, Christ, no!”  (Von Sydow had also been seen for King of Kings).
  28. Stanley Baker, Eve, France-Italy, 1962.       The Hakim producer brothers of Paris  (Raymond and Robert)  offered the gig to Jean-Luc Godard. “I didn’t like the actors they had in mind. I wanted Richard Burton. They thought it was a good idea. I said: There’s the telephone. They said: ‘Oh yes - but you know - maybe he’s not home!’ So I understood that they were not willing.”  Baker soon understood, or so he told me in London, that the Hakims “couldn’t produce a fart out of a tin of beans.”
  29. Stephen Boyd, Jumbo,  1962.     If at first you don’t succeed…  MGM’s  first cast in 1943:  Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland.  In 1947 : Frank Sinatra-Judy Garland  - or Gene Kelly-Kathryn Grayson.  1949:  Frank Sinatra-Esther Williams. 1952:  Donald O’Connor-Debbie Reynolds. 1962: Dean Martin-Doris Day. Finally: Stephen Boyd was Day’s (weak) partner in her last musical.  A flop.  (Cast included a Robert Burton - as Madison. And he played 1968 screens roles to Richard’s 79!).  As for  the  real Burton - “We almost got him, too,” said director Charles Walters.  “But  something in Egypt with Liz Taylor came up!”
  30. Rex Harrison, My Fair Lady, 1963. 
    To protect the  $5.2m  he paid for the rights, Jack Warner wanted star power - like Audrey Hepburn and Cary instead  of Broadway’s original Eliza Doolittle and Professor Higgins: Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison. Warner had  several other Professors in mind. From the inspired (Grant, Noël Coward, Peter O’Toole, George Sanders) to the plain stupid (Rock Hudson as a grumpy English gentleman?). Plus dowdy Michael Redgrave, who had the style but the box-office appeal of George Zucco.  (Who?)  (Exactly!) Refusing $1.5m, Grant declared:  “Not only will  I not play it, but if you don’t put Rex in it, I won’t go see it.

  31. Dick Van Dyke, Mary Poppins, 1963.      OK, chimney sweep Bert had to sing and dance it up. But he also had to be at home with a Cockney accent. Only a few US stars could manage that. Sadly, Van Dyke was not among them. Nor were Fred Astaire, Cary Grant or Danny Kaye…UK author PL Travers didn’t like how books were Hollywoodised and took 25 years to accept Walt Disney’s plan for her governess. She then found the result “vulgar and disrespectful” - and, like most Brits, loathed Van Dyke’s Bert. But then she knew nothing about cinema, having suggested the august (and aged) Alec Guinness, Rex Harrison. Even Laurence Olivier - To sweep, or not to sweep! Plus Richards Burton and Harris, Peters O’Toole and Sellers. (Only Sellers made sense). Disney wanted Stanley Holloway - busy reprising his My Fair Lady stage role. Loving the movie but feeling miscast, Van Dyke nominated Jim Dale (a Disney star in the 70s) and agreed with Travers about Ron Moody… who would have frightened not only the horses but the kids, as well.
  32.  Robert Morse, The Loved One, 1964.   "The motion picture with something to offend everyone…"  It would have been more so if Spanish legend Luis Buñuel had managed to  make it with Guinness in  the mid-1950s. American producer Martin Ransohoff took over the option in 1961 and signed the newly Oscared UK director Tony Richardson, hoping he’d bring his Tom Jones, Albert Finney, with him.  He did not.  And so, the mess began.  With five writers, seven scripts and the Brit poet hero of Evelyn Waugh’s 1948 satire of the American funeral home buainess,  going from Guinness at 50 to Richard Burton and Peter Sellers at 39, to Alain Delon (!) and Finney, 29, to a Beatles mop-topped Morse at 33 - chosen by the author but incapable of a UK accent!  (And no one thought Alan Bates, 28, would have been perfect?)  To sweeten the deal for Burton, Richardson even suggested the missus, Elizabeth Taylor, as Aimee Thanatogenous – finally played by a seven years younger Anjanette Comer.  The tax-conscious Burtons ruled themselves out of the project by insisting it had to be made in Spain!
  33. Anthony Quinn, The Visit,  US-France-Germany-Italy, 1964.       Welsh actor-playwright friend Emlyn Williams suggested Duerrenmatt’s play as a perfect Burtons’ vehicle. Better  value,  certainly,  than  Ingrid  Bergman and Quinn - who co-produced  this  heavy-handed Euro-suet. 

  34. Peter O’Toole, Becket, 1964.      
    They swopped roles. Burton was to be bawdy Henry II until Liz suggested Becket was better. “What?” exploded Richard.  “After all the scandal you want me to play a saint - are you crazy?”  “No! But you’d be crazy to play the king. It’s the part you’re always playing. It’s too obvious.” As usual, about cinema, she was right.

  35. Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music, 1964.       Driven to drink by it all, Plummer hated everything. The film - he called it S&M or The Sound of Mucus. The co-star - working with Julie Andrews (or Ms Disney as he called her) - was akin to “being hit over the head with a big Valentine's Day card, every day.” So maybe Burton, Yul Brynner, Sean Connery, Bing Crosby, Peter Finch, Walter Matthau and Maximilian Schell were lucky to lose Captain Von Trapp.   Keith Michel was first reserve if Plummer proved (as he soon wished) unavailable. Despite all his badmouthing, Plummer and Andrews became good friends.

  36. Stephen Boyd, The Bible: In the Beginning, 1964.  Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis wanted each Old Testament filmed by such notables as Bergman, Fellini, Visconti, Welles. John Huston replaced them all for just 20 Genesis verses - "I wouldn't go a verse further."  And played Noah and played God talking to Noah… His first King Nimrod choice had been Burton who, of course, replaced Boyd in the troubled Cleopatra, 1962. Time Magazine famously compared ths Bible to to being swallowed by a whale.

  37. Jean-Paul Belmondo, Pierrot le fou, France, 1965.      Godard tries again... After securing the rights of Lionel White’s pulp fiction, Obsession, bilious auteur Jean-Luc Godard decided to shoot in English. With Burton in the titular role of Ferdinand Griffon, aka Pierrot, aka Crazy Pete, opposite cute singer Sylvia Vartan. Reverting to French, he then thought about Michel Piccoli (from his Le mepris, 1963) or  his A bout de souffle star, Belmondo. In many ways, Pierrot is a different take on their 1959 breathless breakthrough.

  38. Trevor Howard, Von Ryan’s Express, 1964.   Howard, Peter Finch and Jack  Hawkins were in the frame for Major Fincham in Frank Sinatra’s WWII spoof. Frank wanted Richard Burton. Fox would not hear of it, not after the Cleopatra circus.  When visiting her London pal John Leyton on-set, Mia Farrow met Sinatra - and they were wed during 1966-1968.   

  39. Charlton Heston, The Agony and the Ecstasy, 1965.      Pope Spencer Tracy was hiring him as Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling... before Fred Zinnemann quit for his masterpiece, A  Man for All Seasons. And Pope Rex Harrison hired Chuck!
  40. Stuart Whitman, Sands of  the  Kalahari,  1965.       “I hate friendship interferring  with  business,” said  star-producer Stanley Baker.  He  had both  Burtons in  his pocket. Except they wanted  $1.5m in theirs. (Dirk Bogarde lumped Burton and Baker together: “both as tiresome as each other”).

  41. Robert Morse, The Loved One, 1965.      His  Jimmy Porter, circa ‘59, was now too expensive for Tony Richardson.  Not to say too old for Evelyn Waugh’s poet  falling for an embalmer played by Liz Taylor. Again, they wanted $1.5m between then, plus plus 10% each of the profits. Au revoir, luvvies!
  42. Robert Redford, This Property Is Condemned. 1965.  In the days when the Burtons started being offered anything - no mater how much older they were than the characters. Columbia’s bizarre idea became Warner’s wiser Redford and Natalie Wood, a few months after completing Inside Daisy Clover. They were 29 and 27 compared to 40 and 33. Not an authentic Tennessee Williams piece, reported Redford, but a 20-minute one-acter. None of the 14 drafts, from such writers as John Huston and Francis Ford Coppola (finally escaping Roger Cormania) could disguise that fact. “The only appeal,” he added, “was Natalie.” And she attempted suicide on November 27.
  43. Sean Connery, Thunderball, 1965.
  44. Guy Stockwell,  Beau Geste,  1966.     Universal envisaged a high-blown second re-make with Richard Burton,  Albert  Finney, Peter O’Toole, until cutting costs for a back-lot number with the  contract squad.
  45. Cyril Cusack, Fahrenheit 451, 1966.     Plus Liz Taylor and Robert Redford! That’s when Sam Spiegel burst - momentarily - into French realisateur François Truffaut’s more subdued plans.
  46. Dirk Bogarde, Accident, 1966.  Once due as Marxist director Joseph  Losey’s first film for Sam Spiegel since The  Prowler, 1951. “I want Burton,” said  Spiegel. “Who knows Bogarde?” Losey did and owed his post-Hollywood Black List  career to him - and not to Spiegel  - with The Sleeping Tiger, 1954 (Losey hid under the credit of Victor Hanbury) and The Servant, 1963. .  “And Dirk  can make it now while Burton’s booked  for a year.”  Result: The Joseph Losey film everyone has been waiting for,” said The Times…. although co-star Stanley Baker (another Losey favourite) estimated that “75% of the audience didn't realise that Accident was a flashback.
  47. Paul Scofield, A Man For All Seasons, 1966.       Burton was first choice for the movie Thomas More. Shouldn’t the hit stage star make the film?  “By rights, yes,” said second choice Olivier, “but it’s all down to piggy banks and dog eat dog.”
  48. Robert Redford, This Property Is Condemned,  1966.       Paramount’s off-the-wall idea for the Tennessee Williams’s one-act play set during the Depression. (And then some). When director Sydney Pollack got the script (by Francis  Coppola and Edith Sommer), who else was he gonna call!
  49. Kenneth More, The White Rabbit, TV, 1967.       Having given one RAF hero to Kenneth More in Reach For The Sky, 1956, Burton made sure he got the next one that came along... However, by the time the production was set it was eleven years later -  he was the world’s #1 lover  while the Wing Cmmander Yeo-Thomas story,   was a BBC TV mini-series. And the RAF hero was played - again - by Kenny More!
  50. Richard Harris, Camelot, 1967. Far too expensive! Burton had left the original Broadway show for Cleopatra. The Burtons’s exorbitant fees killed any chance of him repeating his Arthur opposite Liz Taylor‘s Guenevere - and Peter O’Toole as Lancelot Du Lac.  Warner didn’t think Harris could sing. Oh yes, he could (and had a best-selling album, the following year with MacArthur Park). “Burton played it as a man born to greatness,” said Harris. “I play it as a man with greatness thrust upon him.”He passed his test, kept his crown (literally), took over a Camelot tour from a bursitis-stricken Burton in1980,. Harris then paid $1m for the stage rights, revamped and extended theBroacfway revival into an international  tour, making $8m.

  51. Brando,  Reflections In A Golden Eye, l967.     Marlon Brando had been first choice for UK director Tony Richardson’s plan (with Jeanne Moreau) in the early 50s. But now Brando was sixth… after Montgomery Clift, William Holden, Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum, Patrick O’Neal. Or. in fact, seventh, as another Brit,  Michael Anderson, wanted Burt Lancaster in 1956 as the same Major Weldon Penderton, the sexual mess, married but fancying the pants off Private Williams  (when he had them on).  Out of work for four years or so, Clift was uninsurable. "Bessie Mae" (Elizabeth Taylor) put up the $1m bond money for a 60s version, with Burton directing and playing Lieutenant-Colonel Langdon. But nobody, including Clift, felt he could act anymore.  Brando was superb. Burton hung  around John Huston’s set,  worried Liz would stray.  Indeed, he later reported that  “my Elizabeth and that Brando creature had an affair’”  during the shooting.
  52. Steve McQueen, The Thomas Crown Affair, 1967.       First choice of director Norman Jewison and producer Walter Mirisch for Tommy Crown,  the most unlikely bank robber. But everybody wanted Burton.
  53. Terence Stamp, Histoires extraordinaires (UK/US: Spirits of the Dead), France-Italy, 1967.     Getting back into action after the collapse of The Voyage de G Mastorna  (the best film he never made), Federico Fellini joined the  Edgar Allen Poe sketch film. . (The other directors, Claude Chabrol, Joe Losey, Luchino Visconti, Orson Welles became just Lous Malle and Roger Vadim). Fellini fell for Poe’s Never Bet The Devil Your Head with a celeb-stressed actor, the titular Toby Dammit, running amok at Cinecittà.  When discussions with Peter O’Toole turned into a right royal argy-bargy, Fellini switched to Burton, James Fox and utlimately, Terry put his Stamp on it.
  54. Oliver Reed, Oliver!  1968.       Everybody wanted the Burtons, even as humble Bill Sykes and Nancy.
  55. Alan Bates, The Fixer, 1968.      Director John Frankenheimer (the Spielberg of his day) wanted Burton for the 1911 Russian-Jewish handyman, Yakov Bok. Or, indeed… Peter Sellers!   (The first cut was four hours, 45 minutes!).

  56. Nicol Williamson, Laughter in the Dark, 1969.    
    Roger Vadim aimed his 1954 version of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel at Burton and Brigitte Bardot.  Director Tony Richardson also chose Burton. And sacked him after two weeks, for “unpunctuality  and unprofessionalism” - ie. not being as sober or not holding his booze as well  as during their  Look Back in Anger in 1958.  Burton said good luck to Williamson, who crowed:  “I’m better  than him.” A jinxed item: Mick Jagger was in  re-tread that  ran out of funds in the 80s.

  57. Peter O’Toole, Goodbye Mr Chips, 1969.   For the musical version of the 1938 classic which won British Robert Donat an Oscar for his portrayal of the gentle schoolmaster, Mr Charles Edward Chipping, almost every possible Brit was contacted. From Albert Finney to Peter  Sellers, by way of Richard Harris, Christopher Plummer and Paul Scofield. Mrs Chips was important, too, and the couple went from Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn or the Doctor Dolittle‘s Rex Harrison-Samantha Eggar to Camelot’s Richard Burton-Julie Andrews or Burton-Lee Remick…or surprise, surprise, Elizabeth Taylor. Plus Burton-Petula Clark, except he turned down “a singer!” (So what was Julie Andrews?).  Finally, and gloriously, the Chips became Pete ‘n’ Pet. 
  58. Maximilian Schell, Simón Bolívar, 1969.    Italian director Alessandro Blasetti wanted Burton as El Libertador of Venezuelia: SimónJosé Antonio de la Santisima Trinidad Bolivar y Palacios y Blanco (!). With Liz on board as…er….oh anyone else… (What about Consuelo Hernandez?) However, the Burton chased by film-makers that year was, he told his diary on July 22, “fundamentally so bored with my job that only drink  [1½ bottles of vodka per day] is capable of killing the pain.”

  59. Rod Steiger, Waterloo, Italy-Soviet Union, 1969.      This major flop was the reason why Stanley Kubrick lost backers for his own Napoleon venture. Burton was first asked by Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis to play Napoleon (with pal O’Toole as Wellington). He said no - but yes to Trotsky, Tito, Churchill... “He’s ruined his great gifts,” bemoaned Orson Welles, calling the Welsh kettle black! “He’s become a joke with a celebrity wife. Now he just works for money, does the worst shit.” Hmm…
  60. Christopher Plummer, Waterloo, Italy-Soviet Union, 1969.      De Laurentiis then offered first Duke of Wellington, Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley. And what if he had played them both… ?! As had been supposedly suggested to Peter Sellers when he was booked for Bonaparte and Sean Connery passed on Wellington. Plummer reprised his Iron Duke in a 1974 chapter of the Witness To Yesterday series.

  61. George Segal, The Owl and The Pussycat, 1970.      The Burtons were just too famous a couple to pass for a bookworm and a hooker living in the same New York building. Or,  the same room in  this claustrophobic version of Bill Manhoff’s play.
  62. Christopher Jones, Ryan’s Daughter, 1970.     When  Brando rejected iconic  director David  Lean for a third time, scenarist Robert Bolt voted Burton. He had the right “forbidding  darkness,” agreed Lean, but he went younger with a Z-movie player whose sole connection with acting talent was once being Lee Strasberg’s son-in-law.
  63. Michael Jayston, Nicholas and Alexandra, 1970.    Michael  Whosis?  Exactly.  And that was the  problem  with Sam Spiegel’s dull epic.  Despite hiss track record, Columbia wouldn’t  give him enough money  to hire star power for Tsar Nicholas II, Russia’s last monarch…  no, though,  the  last despot. (So no Julie Christie, Audrey Hepburn,  Grace Kelly or Liv Ullmann as the t missus, either).  Sam finished up with almost a TVersion  with co-dullards, Michael Jayston and Janet Suzman.  No wonder Lindsay Anderson, Joseph L Mankiewicz and George Stevens (to name  but three  directors) refused the gig.
  64. Ian Holm, A Severed Head, 1971.      As the fashion became trying to  squeeze the  Burtons  into anything semi-literate, producer Elliott Kastner tried to land  them, opposite Brando and Julie Christie, in Iris Murdoch’s intellectual farce.  Kastner had forgotten Burton’s low opinon of Brando. (And vice-versa).
  65. Kevin Conway, Hogan’s Goat, TV, 1971.    Now it was  the Burtons, O’Toole and Spencer Tracy..!  Impossibly pricey for William Alfred’s so-so Broadway play  and after Tracy’s death, it became a PBS special.
  66. Topol, Follow Me (US: The Public Eye), 1972.    Cary Grant as the detective following Julie Andrews as a possibly unfaithful wife became  Burton-Elizabeth Taylor for a wee while - like so many projects during the Burtons’ boom.  Finally the Israeli star, Topol, kept an eye on Mia Farrow in director  Carol Reed’s final film,  based on  Peter Shaffer’s 1962 one-act  play, The Public Eye. Our favourite critic, Roger Ebert, shredded poor Jayston. “He has the cinematic charisma of an introverted snail… Having made the last czar of Russia uninteresting in Nicholas and Alexandra now pulls off the feat of making an uninteresting character MORE uninteresting.”
  67. Clive Revill, The Legend of Hell House, 1972.       Fantasy writer Richard Matheson set about bettering Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting and then toned down his novel’s gratuitous sex and violence  to win over his dream team - the Burtons.
  68. Peter Finch,  Bequest To The Nation, 1973.        Finchy leapt at Lord Nelson,  “the  most  built-in  romantic who ever  lived.  He defeated Napoleon,  bucked the Establishment, lived with a smashing broad, had one arm,  one eye and was funny. Christ, they don’t come any better than that!”  Burton probably knew America would call it... The Nelson Affair.
  69. Charlton Heston, The Three Musketeers, 1973.       In the early gung ho period, Burton was chased by producers Ilya and Alexander Salkind for Cardinal Richlieu. Or to be more honest, as the kind of big name to attract financial deals for production and distribution. Heston was so keen, he gave up Athos and Porthos to play the cameo
  70. Robert Mitchum, Farewell My Lovely, 1974. Mitchum said  producer Elliott Kastner first wanted Burton to play Philip Marlowe, but he was over-scheduled. Director  Richards said  Mitchum was the only chocice from the get-go. Despite people saying he was too old at at 57 to play Raymond Chandler ‘s sleuth, in his 30s, circa 1941,  No matter. Mitchum played him again four years later, circa 1977, in The Bjg Sleep. And it  sure looked that way.

  71. Richard Kiley, The Little Prince, 1974.      “A big disappointment,” said producer Robert Evans. Burton “sang beautifully” but director Stanley Donen, who had already refused to work with Sinatra, also refused his replacement. So, one Broadway star was replaced by another... and the movie played to empty seats.

  72. John Wayne, Rooster Cogburn, 1974.       The idea was fair - a sequel  to True Grit.  But if Wayne proved too ill, what would be the point of someone else in his titular Oscar-winning rôle? Marlon Brando topped producer Hal Wallis’ eye-patch  list of Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, George C Scott and some of Duke’s old co-stars: Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck. Plus four of co-star Katharine Hepburn’s previous partners  - Charles Bronson, Burt Lancaster, Peter O’Toole, Anthony Quinn - and as she continued trying to pick guys she’d never  worked with before… Warren Beatty, Henry Fonda, Laurence Olivier, Ryan O’Neal, Paul Scofield, Henry Winkler (!)… (McQueen turned down her Grace Quigleyin 1983).   Kate wrote that embracing Duke “was like leaning against a great tree."

  73. Topol, Galileo, 1975.      The Brechtian director Joseph Losey had to wait 30 years to film his earliest Broadway success - minus his Trotsky.

  74. Michael Caine, The Man Who Would Be King, 1975.
  75. Len Cariou, A Little Night Music, 1977.    The Burtons were split asunder... Once he married Suzy Hunt,  Elizabeth telephoned congratulations and asked him to consider being her husband in the Sondheim musical instead of Robert Stephens. Burton almost agreed.  “I want her to be happy,  to have success with marriage  and her work.  That will  take  any  guilt  off my shoulders.”
  76. John Mills, Des Terufels Advokat (UK: The Devil’s Advocate), Germany, 1977.     Due for  the priest finding his faith tested by  terminal cancer.  Opposite Liz, of course.
  77. Richard Attenborough, The Human Factor, 1979.      “I offered him the role of Daintry,  instead of  Castle,”  producer-director Otto Preminger told me in London.  “But Attenborough had already found a  script  somewhere  and  selected  the  part for himself!”

  78. Nicol  Williamson, The Human Factor, 1979.
    During the shooting in London, producer-director Otto Preminger (making wjat proved to be his  final film) juggled potentials   for his British spy suspected pf treason by the higher-ups at  The Firm – Richard Burton,  Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins, Nicol Williamson, even the MP turned novelist Jeffrey Archer -   Baron Archer of Weston-super-Mare. (He  failed his audition for being too short  for the model, Iman, as his wife).  At the time everyone one was hiring  Burton. Everyone except  Otto.  He told me why in  his Londpn office.
     “I didn’t like his complexion - all those  holes in his cheeks.”

  79. Gregory Peck,  The  Sea Wolves,  1980.          Producer Euan Lloyd meant it as a re-teaming of his Wild Geese.
  80. Albert Finney,  Under The Volcano, 1984.       “I wanted to do it since 1947. With the possible exception of Ulysses and In Parenthesis, it’s the best novel of the century.” He discussed it with John Huston  during The Night of the Iguanas, 1964. Had a handshake deal with Joe Losey in  1972 -  and was stage-touring the Liz ’n’ His  Private Lives (more like The Dance of Death, said critics)  when  John Huston called again. 

      (Clic to enlarge)  

    “They fly again... “ But Burton had already flown. Just as Stephen  Boyd died just before making  the first Wild Geese, 1978.


  81. Edward Fox, Wild Geese II, 1984.       “Richard  died  on  the Sunday  he  was due to join us,” recalled producer  Euan  Lloyd.  “I tried  everybody - all engaged -  then remembered Richard’s admiration for Edward  in  Edward and Mrs Simpson...  and  he  agreed  to become  Colonel  Faulkner’s younger brother.”  Lloyd dedicated his film to Burton’s memory.  (Stephen  Boyd died just before making  the first Wild Geese, 1978).
  82. Claudio Amen Edola,  Nostromo, TV,  1997.      Director  Joe Losey’s 1956 casting - “at that moment, he was ideal for the role” - passed to David Lean and finally, to a TV mini.  
  83. Ian McKellen, Apt Pupil US-France-Canada, 1997.  The 62nd of Stephen King’s staggering 313 screen credits  was a cursed “short book.”  Take One: James Mason  was set for  Kurt Dussander jn 1984 but died from a heart attack.  His replacement, Richard Burton, also died before filming began, from a cerebral hemorrhage. Take Two: Nicol Williamson and Ricky Schroder  were Dussander and Todd when the money ran out of Alan Bridges’ take with ten days to go in  1987. (King saw 75% of the “really good” film).  Take Three:  Bryan Singer directed Ian McKellen and Brad Renfro (as the Nazi and his US teenager blackmailer). Chicago critic Roger Ebert slapped it down as “an uneasy hybrid of the sacred and the profane.”  
  84. Michael Caine,  The Quiet American,  2001.      The re-make was offered when he preferred the film of the year - 1984. Soon after finishing it, he died in Switzerland, August 4, 1984.


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