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The Boston Globe


Book Review

‘The Richard Burton Diaries’ edited by Chris Williams

A young man from Pont-rhydyfen, Wales, blessed with a sonorous voice, rugged good looks, and talent, Richard Burton seemed destined to succeed Laurence Olivier as the greatest actor on the English-speaking stage. He won acclaim in 1951 as Prince Hal in Shakespeare’s “Henry IV, Part 1,’’ playing opposite Anthony Quayle’s Falstaff, and went on to star in “The Tempest,’’ “Hamlet,’’ “Henry V,’’ and “Othello.’’

Well before Burton died in 1984, at 58, however, critics concluded that he had sold out to Hollywood. Despite receiving six Oscar nominations for best actor and winning a Tony award for playing King Arthur in the musical “Camelot,’’ Burton is remembered, if at all, these days, for his alcohol-soaked, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’’-like love affair with actress Elizabeth Taylor, whom he met in the early 1950s, and married (twice).

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