Richard Burton - Rotten Tomatoes

Richard Burton

Lowest Rated:   0% Alexander the Great (1956)
Birthday:  
Birthplace:   Pontrhydyfen, Wales, UK
The 12th of 13 children of a Welsh miner, actor Richard Burton left his humble environs by winning a scholarship to Oxford. Blessed with a thrillingly theatrical voice, Burton took to the stage, and, by 1949, had been tagged as one of Britain's most promising newcomers. Director Philip Dunne, who later helmed several of Burton's Hollywood films, would recall viewing a 1949 London staging of The Lady's Not for Burning and watching in awe as star John Gielgud was eclipsed by juvenile lead Richard Burton: "He 'took' the stage and kept a firm grip on it during every one of his brief appearances." A few years after his film debut in The Last Days of Dolwyn (1949), the actor was signed by 20th Century Fox, which had hopes of turning him into the new Lawrence Olivier -- although Burton was not quite able to grip films as well as he did the stage. Aside from The Robe (1953), most of Burton's Fox films were disappointments, and the actor was unable to shake his to-the-rafters theatricality for the smaller scope of the camera lens. Still, he was handsome and self-assured, so Burton was permitted a standard-issue 1950s spectacle, Alexander the Great (1956). His own film greatness would not manifest itself until he played the dirt-under-the-nails role of Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger (1959). In this, he spoke the vernacular of regular human beings -- rather than that of high-priced, affected Hollywood screenwriters -- and delivered a jolting performance as a working-class man trapped by the system and his own personal demons. Following a well-received Broadway run in the musical Camelot, Burton was signed in 1961 to replace Stephen Boyd on the benighted film spectacular Cleopatra (1963). It probably isn't necessary to elaborate on what happened next, but the result was that Burton suddenly found himself an international celebrity, not for his acting, but for his tempestuous romance with co-star Elizabeth Taylor. A hot property at last, Burton apparently signed every long-term contract thrust in front of him, while television networks found themselves besieged with requests for screenings of such earlier Burton film "triumphs" as Prince of Players (1955) and The Rains of Ranchipur (1956). In the midst of the initial wave of notoriety, Burton appeared in a Broadway modern-dress version of Hamlet directed by John Gielgud, which played to standing-room-only crowds who were less interested in the melancholy Dane than in possibly catching a glimpse of the Lovely Liz. Amidst choice film work like Becket (1964) and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1966), Burton was also contractually obligated to appear with Taylor in such high-priced kitsch as The V.I.P.s, (1963) The Sandpiper (1965), and Boom! (1968). A few of the Burton/Taylor vehicles were excellent -- notably Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (she won an Oscar; he didn't, but should have) -- but the circus of publicity began to erode the public's ability to take Burton seriously. It became even harder when the couple divorced, remarried, and broke up again. Moreover, Burton was bound by contract to appear in such bland cinematic enterprises as Candy (1968), Villain (1971), The Assassination of Trotsky (1972), The Klansman (1974), and that rancid masterpiece Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977). So low had Burton's reputation sunk that when he delivered an Oscar-caliber performance in Equus (1977), it was hailed as a "comeback," even though the actor had never left. (Once again he lost the Oscar, this time to Richard Dreyfuss.) Burton managed to recapture his old performing fire in his last moviemaking years, offering up one of his best performances in his final picture, 1984 (1984). He died later that year.

Highest Rated Movies

Filmography

MOVIES

RATING TITLE CREDIT BOX OFFICE YEAR
No Score Yet Cleopatra 50th Anniversary
  • Actor
2013
No Score Yet Dr. Faustus
  • Actor
  • Director
2012
No Score Yet König der Spione - John le Carré
  • Actor
2012
No Score Yet Elizabeth Taylor: A Tribute
  • Actor
2011
No Score Yet Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of 'The War of the Worlds'
  • Actor
2006
No Score Yet Tony Palmer's Classic Film of John Osborne and the Gift of Friendship
  • Actor
2006
No Score Yet Chasseurs de Primes
  • Cop
1996
84% 1984
  • O'Brien
1984
No Score Yet Wagner
  • Actor
1983
No Score Yet Circle of Two
  • Ashley St. Clair
1980
No Score Yet Lovespell
  • Mark King of Cornwall
1979
No Score Yet Steiner - Das eiserne Kreuz, 2. Teil (Sergeant Steiner) (Breakthrough)
  • Sgt. Steiner
1979
No Score Yet Absolution
  • Father Goddard
1979
60% The Wild Geese
  • Col. Allen Faulkner
1978
No Score Yet The Medusa Touch
  • John Morlar
1978
No Score Yet The AFI Lifetime Achievement Awards: Henry Fonda
  • Actor
1978
71% Equus
  • Martin Dysart
1977
20% Exorcist II: The Heretic
  • Father Philip Lamont
1977
No Score Yet Volcano: An Inquiry Into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry
  • Actor
1976
No Score Yet The Gathering Storm
  • Winston Churchill
1974
No Score Yet The Klansman
  • Breck Stancill
1974
No Score Yet The Voyage
  • Cesare Braggi
1974
No Score Yet Brief Encounter
  • Alec Harvey
1974
No Score Yet Massacre in Rome
  • Lt. Col. Herbert Kappler
1973
No Score Yet Divorce His/Divorce Hers
  • Martin Reynolds
1973
60% Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood
  • First Voice
1973
No Score Yet Sutjeska (The Fifth Offensive)
  • Tito
1973
No Score Yet The Assassination of Trotsky
  • Leon Trotsky
1972
43% Bluebeard
  • Bluebeard (Baron von Sepper)
1972
40% Hammersmith Is Out
  • Hammersmith
1972
No Score Yet Villain
  • Vic Dakin
1971
No Score Yet Raid on Rommel
  • Capt. Alex Foster
1971
42% Anne of the Thousand Days
  • King Henry VIII
1969
No Score Yet Staircase
  • Harry
1969
88% Where Eagles Dare
  • Maj. Jonathan Smith, MC
1969
80% Candy
  • MacPhisto
1968
11% Doctor Faustus
  • Director
  • Doctor Faustus
  • Producer
1968
8% Boom!
  • Chris Flanders
1968
No Score Yet Wall in Jerusalem
  • Actor
1968
27% The Comedians
  • Brown
1967
85% The Taming of the Shrew
  • Petruchio
  • Producer
1967
95% Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • George
1966
31% What's New, Pussycat?
  • Man in Bar
1965
10% The Sandpiper
  • Dr. Edward Hewitt
1965
85% The Spy Who Came In from the Cold
  • Alec Leamas
1965
71% The Night of the Iguana
  • Rev. Dr. T. Lawrence Shannon
1964
93% Zulu
  • Narrator
1964
76% Becket
  • Thomas a Becket
1964
No Score Yet Hamlet
  • Hamlet
1964
No Score Yet The V.I.P.s
  • Paul Andros
1963
55% Cleopatra
  • Mark Antony
1963
No Score Yet Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Narrator
1963
92% The Longest Day
  • Flight Officer Campbell
1962
No Score Yet Merv Griffin Show - 40 of the Most Interesting People of Our Time
  • Actor
1962
No Score Yet Ice Palace
  • Zeb Kennedy
1960
No Score Yet The Bramble Bush
  • Dr. Guy Montford
1960
No Score Yet Sen noci svatojanske (A Midsummer Night's Dream)
  • Actor
1959
89% Look Back in Anger
  • Jimmy Porter
1958
No Score Yet Sea Wife
  • Biscuit
1957
80% Bitter Victory
  • Capt. Leith
1957
0% Alexander the Great
  • Alexander
1956
No Score Yet The Rains of Ranchipur
  • Dr. Major Rama Safti
1955
No Score Yet Prince Of Players
  • Edwin Booth
1955
80% Demetrius and the Gladiators
  • in film clip from THE ROBE
1954
No Score Yet Thursday's Children
  • Actor
1954
33% The Robe
  • Marcellus Gallio
1953
80% The Desert Rats
  • Capt. 'Tammy' MacRoberts
1953
No Score Yet My Cousin Rachel
  • Philip Ashley
1952
No Score Yet Green Grow the Rushes
  • Robert 'Bob' Hammond
1951
No Score Yet The Last Days of Dolwyn (Women of Dolwyn)
  • Gareth
1949

TV

RATING TITLE CREDIT YEAR
96% The Wire
2002-2008
  • Shamrock
  • 2004
No Score Yet Great Performances
2000
  • The White Knight
  • 1983

Quotes from Richard Burton's Characters