BBC America’s ‘Burton and Taylor’ lacks their passion

 

McClatchy Washington Bureau

Actors Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were legends for all time.

Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter are brilliant actors in their own right.

So why is “Burton and Taylor,” premiering Wednesday on BBC America, so dull?

Noted stage actor Burton was cast in the 1963 movie “Cleopatra” as Mark Anthony, the Roman general who became one of Cleopatra’s lovers. Taylor was the alluring Cleopatra.

Their attraction to each other became legendary, overshadowing the film that went on to be one of the most expensive of all time, nearly bankrupting a film studio.

Both Burton and Taylor divorced their spouses and married in 1964. That marriage lasted until their 1974 divorce. A second marriage in 1975 lasted until 1976.

By the time of “Burton and Taylor,” in 1983, they had been divorced for almost seven years. Despite their personal history, they decided to collaborate in playwright Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” on Broadway.

The plot of “Private Lives” is that a divorced couple find themselves in adjacent rooms while on honeymoon with their new spouses. Unfortunately, they are still attracted to each other.

In “Burton and Taylor,” Taylor (Helena Bonham Carter) talks a reluctant Burton (West) into doing the play. Bonham Carter plays her as imperious, needy, practical, and, at her very core, still in love with her former spouse.

Burton is the complete professional theater actor, here for the job and wary of the problems of working with his former wife, knowing her needs, desires and personality. He has moved on from their marriages in a way Taylor has not. He has a new woman in his life, Sally, whom he marries late in the “Burton and Taylor.” He struggles with his drinking.

West and Bonham Carter do masterful jobs of re-enacting two masterful actors acting in a noteworthy play despite their personal struggles and emotional turmoil, but the constant struggles get tedious to watch. The recreation of the period of “Private Lives” is done well, but the flashbacks to earlier periods are not clearly marked. A few dates might have helped. And a few more comments from the people on the sidelines, watching this train wreck happen, might have given some insight.

Burton would die at 58 in 1984 from a brain hemorrhage. Taylor, 79, passed away in 2011.

Their legends live on, but “Burton and Taylor” is for those who already know the back-story.

Read more World Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  • Tunisia recovers bodies of Syrian boat migrants

    Tunisian authorities say the country's coast guard has recovered at least 41 bodies of migrants, mostly Syrians, who drowned trying to sail to Europe.

  •  
U.N. peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, also known as UNDOF, observe Syria's Quneitra province at an observation point on Mt. Bental in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, overlooking the border with Syria, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. An armed group detained more than 40 U.N. peacekeepers during fighting in Syria early Thursday and over 80 peacekeepers are trapped, the United Nations said. The peacekeepers were detained on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights during a "period of increased fighting between armed elements and the Syrian Arab Armed Forces," the office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement. ( AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

    UN peacekeepers in firefight with Syrian rebels

    United Nations peacekeepers from the Philippines stationed on the Syrian Golan Heights exchanged fire with Syrian rebels surrounding their base on Saturday as another group of Filipino troops were extricated from a neighboring post, the UN and Philippine officials said.

  •  
This undated image posted on Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014 by the Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group, a Syrian opposition group, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows a fighter from the Islamic State group, armed with a knife and an automatic weapon, next to captured Syrian army soldiers and officers, following the battle for the Tabqa air base, in Raqqa, Syria. (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group)

    Syrian rebels say Islamic State could be defeated

    When the shock troops of the Islamic State set out to conquer a city in Syria or Iraq, their first move has been to avoid a battle by spreading terror – using videos that show them savaging civilians and beheading captured soldiers.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category