August & September at the Movie Morlocks


The last couple of months have been extremely difficult. In between doctor’s appointments while dealing with some eye problems I suffered a major shake up in the Napa earthquake, which did a lot of damage to my home & neighborhood. Naturally this impaired my writing but I still managed to compile a few articles for the TCM Movie Morlocks’ blog.

Carole Lombard’s Lasting Impact … on Napa!
Excerpt: “While pursuing my personal interest in local history here in Napa I was pleasantly surprised to discover how one of my favorite funny ladies, the brassy blonde bombshell Carole Lombard, had made a lasting impression on the area when she visited California’s Wine Country in 1939 to star in Garson Kanin’s THEY KNEW WHAT THEY WANTED (1940). This notable RKO production was based on a Pulitzer Prize winning play written by Sidney Howard that chronicled a complicated love triangle between an ambitious San Francisco waitress (Carole Lombard), a simple-minded Italian grape farmer (Charles Laughton) and his affable ranch hand (William Gargan). Much of the film was shot on location in the Napa Valley and during that time Lombard, along with her costars and husband Clark Gable, toured wineries, mingled with locals and befriended some well-heeled residents who still fondly recall family stories about encountering the lovely Lombard.”

Memories of Lauren Bacall 1924-2014
Excerpt: “Film fans have endured a rough summer. We’ve lost many talented people who have brought us immeasurable joy. Today I’d like to celebrate the late great Lauren ‘Betty’ Bacall who mesmerized audiences with her incredible beauty, quick wit, smoky voice and sultry style. She was a beloved stage and screen actress but she was also much more including an award-winning writer, a socially conscious political activist, an avid fashion enthusiast who designed her own maternity clothes and a survivor who out-lived two husbands (Humphrey Bogart and Jason Robards) and managed to raise three children on her own. What follows is a stunning gallery of portraits as well as a collection of personal observations about Bacall from friends, acquaintances and family members who knew her and loved her.”

Saying Good Night to Brian G. Hutton (1935-2014)
Excerpt: “I’m particularly fond of the two films Hutton crafted with Elizabeth Taylor in the 1970s during an intriguing period in her career that is often dismissed by critics as well as fickle fans. The first film Hutton and Taylor made together was a twisted love triangle with the cheeky American title X, Y & Z (1972). This blacker than black comedy pitted Taylor against Michael Caine in a sort of sexy update of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF set in swinging London. The film didn’t fare all that well with critics but audiences seemed to appreciate it and Taylor enjoyed working with the affable director who kept his two stars laughing during the shoot. Their second film was the Hitchcockian thriller NIGHT WATCH (1973), which reunited Taylor with Laurence Harvey, her longtime friend and costar from the Oscar winning BUTTERFIELD 8 (1960). Of the two films Hutton made with Taylor, NIGHT WATCH is my personal favorite for a number of reasons. First and foremost it’s a great little suspense filled feature with some surprising twists and turns that provided Elizabeth Taylor with one of her meatiest late career roles. Besides reuniting her with Harvey, the cast also includes horror film and television favorites Billie Whitelaw (TWISTED NERVE; 1968, FRENZY; 1972, THE OMEN; 1976, Etc.) and Linda Hayden (TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA; 1970, THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW; 1971, MADHOUSE; 1974, Etc.) as well as Robert Lang (THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD; 1971, THE MEDUSA TOUCH; 1978, TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED; 1980, Etc.).”

EARTHQUAKE! – An Update From the Trenches
Excerpt:”Imagine if you will (spoken in my best Rod Serling voice), it’s 3:20am on a Sunday morning in the small city of Napa. You’d gone to bed a few hours earlier after enjoying a few glasses of home grown wine while catching up with the latest offering from Hammer Films (THE QUIET ONES; 2014) but just as the onset of deep REM sleep begins to take hold of your body and brain, you’re jolted awake by what sounds like a locomotive crashing into your house. This is followed by what feels like King Kong picking you up and tossing you in the air for 20 seconds.”

A Killer Stalks the Streets of San Francisco in Edward Dmytryk ‘s THE SNIPER (1952)
Excerpt: “There’s a palpable sense of profound paranoia, lawlessness run amok, rage against social injustice and flat out despair to be found in some of Dmytryk‘s best post 1950 films including THE SNIPER as well as THE CAINE MUTINY (1954), WARLOCK (1959) and MIRAGE (1965) that I really appreciate. The filmmakers most interesting work during this period also frequently featured complex and fascinatingly askew female characters trying to assert their power such as Elizabeth Taylor’s mad southern heiress in RAINTREE COUNTY (1957), Carol Baker’s boozy sexually aggressive widower in THE CARPETBAGGERS (1964) and the entire female cast of WALK ON THE WILD SIDE (1962). In this regard THE SNIPER could be seen and appreciated as a kind of warning shot to audiences signaling the direction that Dmytryk‘s career would take over the next few decades. It would make a particularly interesting double feature with the director’s stylish adaptation of BLUEBEARD (1972), featuring Richard Burton as the bearded mad man who possesses an unhealthy desire to murder his wives.”

Gordon Parks: Filmmaker, Photographer & Renaissance Man
Excerpt: “Tonight TCM is offering up a very special selection of films directed by Gordon Parks and his son, Gordon Parks Jr. for your viewing pleasure. The films include THE LEARNING TREE (1969), THOMASINE AND BUSHROD (1974), AARON LOVES ANGELA (1975) and SHAFT (1971) along with a making of documentary, SOUL IN CINEMA: FILMING SHAFT ON LOCATION (1971) . . . Parks Sr. is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and multitalented men who ever sat behind a camera and directed a film. He lived a fascinating life and dabbled in many arts but today he’s probably best remembered for the Oscar wining action-packed crime drama SHAFT. This Blaxploitation classic is one of my favorite films from the 70s and besides its entertainment value, SHAFT is a wonderful showcase for many of the themes, ideas and passions that motivated Parks throughout his career as an award-winning photographer…”

You’re Invited! Join the #TCMParty on Twitter
Excerpt: “A couple of years ago I noticed that the hashtag #TCMParty was trending on Twitter while TCM was showing a marathon of Japanese giant monster movies from Toho Studios. Naturally this piqued my curiosity so I began following their activities at @TCM_Party. The Twitter group is made up of classic movie fans who regularly watch films shown on TCM and enjoy discussing them online. I’m not an active participant myself but I occasionally jump into conversations when they’re discussing a movie I love or happen to be watching.”

2013 at the Movie Morlocks

jfrancoJess Franco 1930-2013

What follows is a collection of links to some of my posts at TCM’s Movie Morlocks from 2013. These are (in my estimation) the best and most interesting articles I wrote last year but you can read my entire output for 2013 at the Movie Morlocks if you peruse the archives. From this point onward on I’ll be collecting links to my Morlocks’ posts and sharing them here at the end of each month.

Rio – Rififi Style! GRAND SLAM (1967)
A Brief History of the Telefilm
Out, out, brief candle: Jon Finch 1942-2012
This is a Time for Ghosts : THE AWAKENING (2012)
All Love is Mad : MAD LOVE (1935)
Does Oscar gold come with an Oscar curse?
Telefilm Time Machine: DAUGHTER OF THE MIND (1969)
Tracing My Irish Roots Through the Movies
The Pulp Adventures of Lee Marvin
Telefilm Time Machine: THAT CERTAIN SUMMER (1972)
In Memoriam: Jesús “Jess” Franco (1930-2013)
Lon Chaney Jr. – Lady Killer
Comic Relief with ARTISTS AND MODELS (1955)
Telefilm Time Machine – FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY (1973)
GUN AND SWORD: An Encyclopedia of Japanese Gangster Films 1955-1980
Personal Passions: Alain Delon
Derelict Dancers: Gerard Depardieu vs. Roman Polanski – A PURE FORMALITY (1994)
Hail Cleopatra! Queen of the Nile & Queen of ’60s Style
Arsenic & Ambiguity in David Lean’s MADELEINE (1950)
Final Faces
Francois Truffaut – Friend, Teacher & Film Critic
Someone is Bleeding: LES SEINS DE GLACE (1974)
Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be? : SO LONG AT THE FAIR (1950)
Telefilm Time Machine: Steven Spielberg’s SOMETHING EVIL (1972)
Four Reasons Why I Love Natalie Wood
Julie Harris 1925-2013: “And we who walk here, walk alone.
The Story of Film: UN CHIEN ANDALOU (1928)
In the Trenches with James Whale
Hollywood Goes to the Dolls
Telefilm Time Machine: SATAN’S TRIANGLE (1975)
Vincent Price Takes Center Stage
Vincent Price’s Small Screen Successes
Vincent Price & Gene Tierney: A Doomed Romance
In the Kitchen with Vincent Price
Adults Only: HOUSE ON STRAW HILL (1976)
Fighting Prejudice with Sidney Poitier
A Celluloid Revolution – James Dean: Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray
Telefilm Time Machine: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (1972)

Movies in Comicolor

Last week I neglected to share a link to a recent Movie Morlocks post I wrote discussing Movie Love. This interesting ’50s era romance comic was aimed at a female audience and featured romantic films adapted into comic books. It also contained background stories on particular actors and little tidbits of information that many classic movie fans should appreciate. There’s more about this interesting comic (including more sample pages!) at TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog.

Movies in Comicolor at TCM’s Movie Morlocks

Goodbye Goddess: Elizabeth Taylor 1932-2011


I was crushed when I learned that Elizabeth Taylor had passed away today due to heart failure. Like many people who write about movies I’m often asked who my favorite actress is and I almost always answer with Elizabeth Taylor because I adore her and her name is easily recognizable. When I added the image of her and David Bowie to my blog’s sidebar a few years ago it wasn’t a careless gesture. A lot of thought went to it because I thought the image was a wonderful tribute to the two things that make Cinebeats’ tick – movies and music. Taylor was a goddess among women. A Hollywood legend and a genuine superstar. They don’t make them like her anymore but I’m not sure that they ever did. Taylor was one of a kind. My tribute to the much missed and much loved actress can be found at the Movie Morlocks.

Goodbye Goddess: Elizabeth Taylor 1932-2011 @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

Recommended Links:
– From the Cinebeats’ Archives: Lots more on Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor Obit at IMDB
Elizabeth Taylor Obit & Tributes at The Guardian
Unpublished photos of Elizabeth Taylor from LIFE Magazine
From Velvet to Helena: A Life of Launching Herself Into the Imaginary at The Sheila Variations
Links to many tributes at MUBI

Happy Birthday Joseph Losey!

Losey & Bogarde
Two of my favorite people: Director Joseph Losey & actor Dirk Bogarde

Today marks what would have been Joseph Losey’s 102 birthday. Unfortunately very few of us live that long and Losey died in 1984 at age 75. Lately critics around the world seem to be rediscovering his work and rethinking their opinion of the director’s impressive legacy. Joseph Losey is gaining new fans every day and it’s wonderful to see this sudden resurgence of interest in his films. As a lifelong Losey fan this makes me extremely happy! I’ve enjoyed writing about Losey’s work here at Cinebeats as well as contributing to Harkit Records release of John Barry’s soundtrack for Boom! which happens to be one of my favorite Losey films. I hope to write more about his work in the future but if you would like to read my previous posts about the director you can find them here:
Joseph Losey @ Cinebeats

The Glamorous World of Paul Hesse

The Glamorous World of Paul Hesse
Four of my favorite actresses photographed by Paul Hesse
Top: Gene Tierney and Elizabeth Taylor
Bottom: Bette Davis and Ava Gardner

Like most film buffs, I absolutely love old Hollywood glamor photography. I’m an amateur photographer myself so I own a lot of photography books and some of my favorites are jam-packed with beautiful photos of classic Hollywood film stars. In the ’70s the practice of taking glamorous head-shots of the stars and hiring photographers to shoot on sets seemed to quietly fade away. Studios didn’t want to spend money on it and the public became more interested in fashion photography, rock stars and realistic portraits. But from roughly the ’30s to the ’60s movie magazines around the world were overflowing with glamorous photographs of movie stars. One of the most interesting photographers working during this period was Paul Hesse who helped pioneer the use of color film in commercial art. His colorful and hyper-realistic portraits of celebrities still grab my attention every time I come across one. Hesse had a very distinct style that is still noticeable today. If you’d like to learn more about Paul Hesse or just enjoy some of his other photos you can read my brief write-up about the man and his work at TCM’s Movie Morlocks Blog.

Ash Wednesday (1973)

Yesterday was Elizabeth Taylor’s 77th birthday. Last year I wasn’t able to properly complete my tribute to Taylor and I never finished writing about a few of her films that I want to cover here sooner or later, but today I thought I’d offer up a few brief thoughts about her 1973 film, Ash Wednesday.

The paper thin plot of Ash Wednesday was summed up perfectly by Roger Ebert in his review of the film (published in his book I Hated This Movie) so I’ll just quote him here:

Ash Wednesday is a soapy melodrama that isn’t much good as a movie but may be interesting to some audiences all the same. It’s about how a 50ish wife (Elizabeth Taylor), her marriage threatened by a younger woman, has a face-lift in order to keep her husband (Henry Fonda). It doesn’t work, but she gets a nice winter in a ski resort out of it and an affair with Helmut Berger.

In all honesty that’s all there is to Ash Wednesday. Trying to read some kind of subtext into Jean-Claude Tramont’s flimsy script is utterly pointless so I won’t bother. But when you consider the film’s 1973 release date, the movie becomes somewhat notable for the way it dared to tackle aging and beauty myths. In a memorable opening sequence featuring actual footage from real operations; viewers are subjected to an appropriately ugly and unflinching look at cosmetic surgery as an elderly Elizabeth Taylor decides to reluctantly go under the knife. The makeup used to age Taylor (who was only 41 years old) is pretty convincing, but she’s soon magically transformed into the flawless middle-aged beauty that she actually was at the time.




As the film slowly unfolds the audience is supposed to be surprised by the May-September romance that blossoms between 41 year-old Elizabeth Taylor and 29 year-old Helmut Berger, but that’s impossible. Taylor still looked stunning at 41, which only manages to muddle the plot. And when a ragged looking Henry Fonda finally shows up as the cold distracted husband who is having an affair behind Taylor’s back you’re left wondering, why? There is a great scene where Taylor confronts Henry Fonda telling him that she only had plastic surgery in an effort to get him back, but Fonda isn’t moved. Elizabeth Taylor’s character is forced to realize that plastic surgery can’t save a marriage that is emotionally dead.

The only real reason to sit through Ash Wednesday is to watch lovely Liz and handsome Helmut Berger exchange passionate glances and loaded words until they finally fall into bed together. Elizabeth Taylor looks amazing in the film and waltzes through it wearing some fabulous Edith Head costumes and impressive Valentino fashions. Her performance is also rather convincing and low-key even if the material is completely forgettable. She could have easily hammed it up, but Taylor obviously has some emotional connection to the character she’s playing and her sincerity is believable. On the other hand, the talented Helmut Berger is wasted here and he seems more than a little distracted in the film.

Rumor has it that Taylor’s husband Richard Burton thought Ash Wednesday was incredibly vulgar and he was bothered by the love scenes Berger shared with Taylor. Richard Burton was sure that Berger and Taylor were having an affair off screen as well, even though Helmut Berger was open about his homosexuality. According to writer Dominick Dunne who produced Ash Wednesday, the behind-the-scenes drama happening during the making of the film was more interesting than anything going on in front of the cameras. Elizabeth Taylor was chronically late to the set prompting Paramount Studio head Robert Evans to fly off the handle and the fights that occurred between Taylor and Burton were explosive enough to frighten the rest of the cast and crew.




Director Larry Peerce previously had some success directing episodes of Batman (1966) and The Wild Wild West (1967), as well as popular films such as Goodbye, Columbus (1969), but he brings none of the style or humor from his earlier efforts to Ash Wednesday. The film takes much too long to get going and there aren’t enough bedroom scenes in it, but what does occur is a bit steamy so if you happen to love watching Elizabeth Taylor and Helmut Berger on screen as much as I do, you might find Ash Wednesday worth a look. On the other hand, Ash Wednesday is really just a blueprint for the type of dull and lurid melodrama that you might find playing on the Lifetime Movie Channel at 1am. And if I didn’t know any better I’d swear the script was adapted from some Harlequin romance novel. If that sort of thing holds no appeal you should avoid this film at all cost.

Ash Wednesday is only available on video and I can’t really make a case for its DVD release. Many of Elizabeth Taylor’s adoring fans would probably like to see the film become more easily available, but for now they’re going to have to pick up a used copy of the Paramount VHS at Amazon if they want to see it.

You can find more images from the film in my Ash Wednesday Flickr Gallery.

The Eyes Have It

My blogging buddy Peter Nellhaus over at Coffee, Coffee and more Coffee has asked me to contribute my own list of “20 Favorite Actresses” to a new film meme making the rounds of the blogosphere. Frankly I was just going to blow him off and ignore his request because these meme things tend to make me nuts but Peter is too nice a guy to ignore. I tried to throw caution to the wind and just quickly put together a list of 20 of my favorite actresses, but as usual I spent way too much time thinking about this and managed to give myself a headache in the process. This meme madness must end! But at least it gave me an excuse to post a bunch of fabulous photos of some of my favorite actresses.

Naturally I ignored the rules and decided to post a list of 23 40 favorite actresses instead of limiting myself to only 20. My list could have been even longer and I’m sure I’ll regret forgetting to include a few more favorites but over time I felt the need to keep adding to the list and finally just doubled the size. Some of these talented and lovely women were never offered the better roles they so richly deserved, while others are acclaimed Academy Award winners and celebrated Hollywood legends. They do have a couple of things in common though; they’ve appeared in a lot of great movies and I never get tired of watching them!

So without further blabbering, here are 20 50 Women I Love Watching . . .

Elizabeth Taylor

Monica Vitti

Sarah Miles

Julie Christie

Barbara Steele

Charlotte Rampling

Kim Novak

Anna Karina

Carroll Baker

Meiko Kaji

Catherine Deneuve

Isabelle Adjani

Brigitte Bardot

Natalie Wood

Deborah Kerr

Sophia Loren

Gene Tierney

Glenda Jackson

Ava Gardner

Ursula Andress

Delphine Seyrig


Edwige Fenech

Ingrid Pitt

Judy Garland

Florinda Bolkan

Marisa Mell

Katharine Hepburn

Soledad Miranda

Barbara Shelley

Bette Davis

Pamela Franklin

Barbra Streisand

Claudia Cardinale

Anita Ekberg

Paula Prentiss

Geneviève Bujold

Marlene Clark

Diana Rigg

Elke Sommer
Elke Sommer

Alida Valli
Alida Valli

Jenny Agutter
Jenny Agutter

Sharon Tate
Sharon Tate
Pam Grier
Pam Grier
Gayle Hunnicutt
Gayle Hunnicut
Linda Hayden
Linda Hayden
Samantha Eggar
Samantha Eggar
Raquel Welch
Raquel Welch
Suzy Kendall
Suzy Kendall
Ewa Aulin
Ewa Aulin

My Top 20 Favorite Films of 1968

At the Britannica blog Raymond Benson has finished listing off his Top 10 Favorite Films of 1968 so if you’re interested in the final results stop by and give them a look. I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions how much I dislike making lists of favorite films myself since they’re limited by what I’ve seen and are subject to change at anytime. Roger Ebert recently asked his blog readers to “. . . agree that all lists of movies are nonsense.” I agreed with him wholeheartedly at the time, but in the process of watching Raymond Benson share his list favorite films from 1968 I naturally began thinking of my own favorite films released the same year.

Compiling a list of favorite films restricted by their release date without implying that they’re “the best” (whatever that means) started to seem like a fun exercise. And while reading the complaints and reservations about Raymond Benson’s own selections I even suggested that it would be interesting if all the participants of the Britannica blog “round-table” supplied their own list of Top 10 Favorite Films for 1968 so we could compare them. I figured that if we were going to scrutinize Raymond Benson’s selections we might as well scrutinize each other. I also thought that it would probably enrich the discussion. No one else seemed willing or able to share a list of there own picks, but for the past two weeks I’ve been quietly compiling a list of my own favorite films from 1968.

I wasn’t planing on sharing my own list with anyone, but over the weekend I listened to an interesting discussion between Greencine’s David Hudson, Film Comment‘s Gavin Smith and film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum about the current state of film criticism that got me contemplating my list again. During the discussion Jonathan Rosenbaum smartly pointed out that, “People love lists now because they need to. There’s too much to navigate through.” In my own experience I’ve found this to be very true. Since I started blogging my “Favorite DVDs of the year” lists for 2006 and 2007 have become some of my most popular posts and they’ve generated some lively discussions and lots of email. I think other people appreciate them because they offer a brief look at some films I’ve enjoyed and recommend. And in the words of Jonathan Rosenbaum, the lists are easy to navigate through.

So without further explanation, here’s a list of some of my own favorite films from 1968. I couldn’t manage to narrow all my choices down to a mere Top 10 so I just decided to share my Top 20 list instead. I purposefully left off documentaries so you won’t find any listed and four of the films on my list were also on Raymond Benson’s list. The numerical order doesn’t mean much and naturally my list is subject to change at anytime since I’m continually being exposed to new movies. It also should be noted that after looking at various print and online sources I’ve come across different release dates for some films. As far as I know, the following 20 films were originally released in 1968.


1. If…. (Lindsay Anderson; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about If…. can be found HERE and HERE.

Black Lizard (1968)
2. Black Lizard aka Kurotokage (Kinji Fukasaku; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Black Lizard can be found HERE.
I’m currently working on a much longer article about the film and its star that I hope to share here soon.

Spirits of the Dead (1968)
3. Spirits of the Dead aka Histoires Extraordinaires
(Federico Fellini, Louis Malle & Roger Vadim; 1968)

Some of my thought about Spirits of the Dead can be found HERE.

Teorema (1968)
4. Teorema (Pier Paolo Pasolini; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Teorema can be found HERE.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick; 1968)

Diabolik (1968)
6. Diabolik aka Danger: Diabolik! (Mario Bava; 1968)
Some of my brief thoughts about Diabolik can be found HERE.

Succubus (1968)
7. Succubus aka Necronomicon – Geträumte Sünden (Jesus Franco; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Succubus can be found HERE.

8. The Great Silence aka Il Grande silenzio (Sergio Corbucci; 1968)
Some of my thought about The Great Silence can be found HERE and HERE.

Rosemary's Baby (1968)
9. Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski; 1968)

Petulia (1968)
10. Petulia (Richard Lester; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Petulia can be found HERE.

11. Blackmail Is My Life aka Kyokatsu koso Waga Jinsei ( Kinji Fukasaku; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Blackmail Is My Life can be found HERE

Boom (1968)
12. Boom! (Joesph Losey; 1968)
My lengthy look at Boom! can be found HERE.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
13. Night of the Living Dead (George Romero; 1968)

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
14. The Thomas Crown Affair (Norman Jewison; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about The Thomas Crown Affair can be found HERE.

Girl on a Motorcycle (1968)
15. Girl on a Motorcycle aka Naked Under Leather (Jack Cardiff; 1968)
Some of my thoughts about Alain Delon and Girl on a Motorcycle can be found HERE.

16. Once Upon a Time in the West aka C’era una volta il West
(Sergio Leone; 1968)

Some of my thoughts about Once Upon a Time in the West can be found HERE.

17. Death Laid an Egg aka La Morte ha fatto l’uovo (Giulio Questi; 1968)
I briefly mentioned my fondness for Death Laid an Egg HERE.

The Devil Rides Out (1968)
18. The Devil Rides Out aka The Devil’s Bride (Terence Fisher; 1968)

19. The Party (Blake Edwards; 1968)

Barbarella (1968)
20. Barbarella (Roger Vadim; 1968)

Honorable mention goes to the wonderful Yokai Monster films that I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Burton’s First Encounter with Taylor

I recently stumbled across this fascinating description of Richard Burton’s first meeting with Elizabeth Taylor written by Burton himself and borrowed from his book Meeting Mrs. Jenkins (1966). I enjoyed reading it so much that I just had to share it. Not only is it an amazing read but it’s also a great showcase for Burton’s wicked sense of humor and his wonderful way with words. Besides acting, directing and producing, Richard Burton was also an avid writer and he kept journals for most of his adult life.

“It was my first time in California and my first visit to a swank house. There were quite a lot of people in and around the pool, all suntanned and all drinking the Sunday morning liveners – Bloody Marys, boilermakers, highballs, iced beer. I knew some of the people and was introduced to the others. Wet brown arms reached out of the pool and shook my hand. The people were all friendly, and they called me Dick immediately. I asked if they would please call me Richard – Dick, I said, made me feel like a symbol of some kind. They laughed, some of them. It was, of course, Sunday morning and I was nervous.

I was enjoying this small social triumph, but then 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. I didn’t, of course, which was just as well. The girl was not, and, quite clearly, was not going to be laughing back. I had an idea that, finding nothing of interest, she was looking right through me and was examining the texture of the wall behind. If there was a flaw in the sandstone, I knew she’d find it and probe it right to the pith. I fancied that if she chose so, the house would eventually collapse.

I smiled at her and, after a long moment, just as I felt my own smile turning into a cross-eyed grimace, she started slightly and smiled back. There was little friendliness in the smile. A new ice cube formed of its own accord in my Scotch-on-the-rocks.

She sipped some beer and went back to her book. I affected to become social with the others but out of the corner of my mind – while I played for the others the part of a poor miner’s son who was puzzled, but delighted by the attention these lovely people paid to him – I had her under close observation. She was, I decided, the most astonishingly self-contained, pulchritudinous, remote, removed, inaccessible woman I had ever seen. She spoke to no one. She looked at no one. She steadily kept on reading her book. Was she merely sullen? I wondered. I thought not. There was no trace of sulkiness in the divine face. She was a Mona Lisa type, I thought. In my business everyone is a type. She is older than the deck chair on which she sits, I thought headily, and she is famine, fire, destruction, and plague, she is the Dark Lady of the Sonnets, the on lie true begetter. She is a secret wrapped in an enigma inside a mystery, I thought with a mental man-to-man nod to Churchill. Her breasts were apocalyptic, they would topple empires down before they withered. Indeed, her body was a miracle of construction and the work of an engineer of genius. It needed nothing but itself. It was true art, I thought, executed in terms of itself. It was smitten by its own passion. I used to think things like that. I was not long down from Oxford and Walter Pater was still talked of and I read the art reviews in the quality weeklies without much caring about the art itself, and it was a Sunday morning in Bel Air, and I was nervous, and there was the Scotch-on-the-rocks.

Like Miniver Cheevy I kept on drinking and, in the heady flow of the attention I was getting, told story after story as the day boozed slowly on. I went in swimming once or twice. So did she, but, lamentably, always after I’d come out. She swam easily and gracefully as an Englishwoman would and not with the masculine drive and kick of most American girls. She was unquestionably gorgeous. I can think of no other word to describe a combination of plentitude, frugality, abundance, tightness. She was lavish. She was a dark unyielding largesse. She was, in short, too bloody much, and not only that, she was totally ignoring me. I became frustrated almost to screaming when I had finished a well-received and humorous story about the death of my grandfather and found that she was turned away in deep conversation with another woman. I think I tried to eavesdrop but was stayed by words like – Tony and Janet and Marlon and Sammy. She was not, obviously, talking about me.

Eventually, with half-seas-ed cunning and with all the nonchalance of a traffic jam, I worked my way to her side of the pool. She was describing – in words not normally written – what she thought of a producer at M.G.M. This was my first encounter with freedom of speech in the U.S.A., and it took my breath away. My brain throbbed; I almost sobered up. I was profoundly shocked. It was ripe stuff. I checked her again. There was no question about it. She was female. In America the women apparently had not only got the vote – they’d got the words to go with it.

I was somewhat puzzled and disturbed by the half-look she gave me as she uttered the enormities. Was she deliberately trying to shock me? Those huge violet-blue eyes (the biggest I’ve ever seen, outside those who have glandular trouble – thyroid, et cetera) had an odd glint in them. You couldn’t describe it as a twinkle…. Searchlights can not twinkle, they turn on and off and probe the heavens and so on.

Still I couldn’t be left out. I had to join in and say something. I didn’t reckon on the Scotch though. I didn’t reckon that it had warped my judgment and my sense of timing, my choice of occasion. With all the studied frenzy of Dutch courage I waded into the depths of those perilous eyes.

In my best chiffon-and-cut-glass Oxford accent I said: “You have a remarkable command of Olde-Englishe.”

There was a pause in which I realized with brilliant clarity the relativity of time. Aeons passed, civilizations came and went, brave men and cowards died in battles not yet fought, while those cosmic headlights examined my flawed personality. Every pockmark on my face became a crater of the moon. I reached up with a casual hand to cover up the right-cheeked evidence of my acne’d youth. Halfway up I realized my hand was just as ugly as my face and decided to leave the bloody thing and die instead. But while contemplating the various ways of suicide and having sensibly decided, since I had a good start, to drink myself to death, I was saved by her voice which said, “Don’t you use words like that at the Old Vic?”

“They do,” I said, “but I don’t. I come from a family and an attitude that believe such words are an indication of weakness in vocabulary and emptiness of mind…. Despite Jones’s writing that in times of acute shared agony and fear, as in trench warfare, obscenities repeated in certain patterns can at times become almost liturgical, almost poetic….” I ran out of gas.

There was another pause; more empires fell. Captains and kings and counsellors arrived and departed. She said three four-letter words. These were, I think, “Well! Well! Well!”

Somebody laughed uneasily. The girl had turned away. I had been dismissed. I felt as lonely as a muezzin, as a reluctant piano lesson on a Saturday afternoon, as the Last Post played on a cracked bugle.

I went home and somebody asked, when I told them where I’d been, what she was like. “Dark. Dark. Dark. Dark. She probably,” I said, “shaves.” To nobody in particular I observed that the human body is eighty percent water.”