Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s torrid love affair was the talk of Hollywood – and the world – for decades, with the pair giving in to their desires during the production of 1963’s Cleopatra. What followed was an obsessive love that overshadowed their careers. In 1973, the Ivanhoe actress said: “When you are in love and lust like that, you just grab it with both hands and ride out the storm.” That storm almost included her death, with Eddie Fisher (the father of Star Wars’ Carrie Fisher) arriving at her home with a gun.
Taylor and Fisher were married from 1959 to 1964 and he was already the star’s fourth husband after Conrad Hilton Jr, Michael Wilding and Mike Todd. Scandal was nothing new to both of them, as he had been married to Debbie Reynolds when he stared an affair with Taylor.
Fisher and Todd were best friends, but the latter tragically died in a plane crash in 1958. As Taylor and Reynolds were also close, the Cat on a Hot Tin Roof star was invited to stay at their home while they were all grieving.
After staying for only a few days, Taylor and Fisher fell in love and he divorced Reynolds in 1959, marrying his new lover the very same day.
Incredibly, Reynolds’ didn’t take the divorce personally, saying: “I never felt bitter about Elizabeth. A man doesn’t leave a woman for another woman unless he wants to go. You know, when Mike Todd died, I sent Eddie to help Elizabeth. I don’t think she ever really loved Eddie. He was an interim interest during her mourning period.”
After this, the singer’s career took a turn for the worse, while Taylor’s continued to skyrocket. He was losing out on performances due to the scandal and it was at this unstable moment in their relationship that she secured the role in Cleopatra.
Soon after, Fisher discovered the truth about the pair’s torrid love affair and, according to the book Furious Love by Nancy Schoenberger and Sam Kashner, he raced to her home in Italy to confront her about it. When he arrived, things escalated quickly as he pulled a gun on the actress.
However, he didn’t pull the trigger as he told his wife: “Don’t worry, Elizabeth, I’m not going to kill you. You’re too beautiful.”
The following year the pair divorced, and Taylor tied the knot with Burton in 1964. They were married until 1974 until they too decided to end their relationship. They briefly re-married in 1975, but that soon ended in 1976.
They remained firm friends until Burton died in 1984 at the age of 58. She told Vogue: “I was still madly in love with him the day he died. I think he still loved me, too.” Taylor died in 2011 at the age of 79.
Despite starting their affair in 1962 when they met on a movie set, the pair had actually crossed paths a decade prior. In 1953, Burton was attending a Hollywood party at the home of Jean Simmons and Stewart Granger. This is when his eyes first glanced upon Taylor and he was immediately enamoured by her.
In his diary, he wrote: “A girl sitting on the other side of the pool lowered her book, took off her sunglasses and looked at me. She was so extraordinarily beautiful that I nearly laughed out loud. She was unquestioningly gorgeous… she was a dark unyielding largess. She was, in short, too bloody much.”
According to Furious Love, Taylor wasn’t interested in his advances then. She found him “swaggering and vulgar,” and ignored him throughout the night. She said she didn’t want to become “a notch in his belt.”