HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Richard Burton, the Welsh actor best known for such movies as Beckett, Cleopatra, Hamlet, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Taming of the Shrew and scores of others (and less so for his uncredited role as "man in strip club" in the Peter Sellers/Woody Allen vehicle What's New Pussycat?), was also well-known for his sometimes-tempestuous marriage to Elizabeth Taylor, to whom he was married from 1964 to 1976 (with a brief divorce in 1974)—and he wrote about it all in the diaries he kept, beginning in 1939 to shortly before his death in 1984.
Now, more than 700 pages from those diaries have been collected and published by Yale University Press, which is releasing the full diaries online (minus a few paragraphs of very personal material) and publishing about three-quarters of their text in a hardbound edition, which will go on sale Tuesday.
And one of the topics Burton wrote about was pornography, so here are his thoughts from November 17, 1966, as published in TheAustralian.com.au:
"The unctuous rubbishy shit written about pornography is nonsense," Burton wrote. "Practically all good pornography is best-selling so I understand, and yet I have never found anyone who when asked if they enjoyed it will ever admit so ... There is the argument that pornography can make a man a sex maniac or something perverted. Well now I am I understand a potently sexy man but it hasn't turned me into a sex fiend, a sex killer, a sex sadist or a sex masochist and I've been reading the stuff for years—at least twenty.
"I knew a girl once married to an older man with whom she'd fallen out of physical love but still loved otherwise who relied upon reading pornography urgently and quickly in the bathroom before going in to his bed to satisfy his desires and to inflame her own. The moralists would flay her alive if she had left him for another man to marry. They would excoriate her if she had extra-marital affairs. So? And what's the difference between reading it and thinking it. I myself have had in my time to make love in the dark to women by whom I was bored, desperately trying to imagine they were somebody else. And doubtless some women have had to do the same with me."
Burton is hardly the only actor (or actress) who's enjoyed porn in his personal life, even while being married to a woman considered by some to be, in her heyday, one of the sexiest women alive—in fact, just how sexy she was, was recently revealed in an unauthorized biography—but it's nice to know that no matter how famous he was nor how many sexual liaisons he had, he still enjoyed his porn.