Biography of Richard Burton

Photo of Richard Burton

Richard Burton was a twentieth century stage and film actor.

When and Where was he Born?

10th November 1925, Pontrhydfen, Wales.

Family Background:

Richard Burton was the son of a coal miner Richard Walter Jenkins and his wife Edith. He was the twelfth of thirteen children. Christened Richard Walter Jenkins.


Local School. Took stage name in gratitude to favourite teacher Phillip Burton. Oxford University. (Burton wanted to adopt him but a full adoption was not legally possible so he changed his name instead). Exeter College, Oxford with the R.A.F.

Timeline of Richard Burton

1939: Beginning of the Second World War.

1943: Burton becomes a cadet in the Royal Air Force aged eighteen.

1944: He leaves University as one of twelve prize winning cadets and becomes a navigator. He is prevented from becoming a pilot due to poor eyesight.

1948: He makes his film Debut in “The Last Days of Dolwyn”. He marries Sybil Williams.

1951: He has a triumphant season at the Royal Shakesperare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

1952: Burton is nominated for Best supporting Actor at the Oscars in “My Cousin Rachel” in his first Hollywood film.

1953: He is nominated for Best actor in “The Robe”.

1954: He is the narrator in Dylan Thomas’s radio play “Under Milk Wood”.

1963: Burton appears in the film “Cleopatra” alongside Elizabeth Taylor. The two fell in love and eventually marry (twice). He is divorced from his first wife.

1964: He is nominated for Best actor in “Becket”. He marries Elizabeth Taylor.

Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland restored by William Armstrong (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Burton filmed Becket in and around Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland.

1965: Burton is nominated for Best Actor in “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold”.

1966: He is nominated for Best actor in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

1969: John Wayne comes to see him and offers him the Oscar he had won for “True Grit” saying that Burton deserved it more than he did. He appears in “Where Eagles Dare”.

1970: He is nominated for Best Actor in “Anne of a Thousand Days”.

1974: First divorce from Elizabeth Taylor.

1975: He remarries Elizabeth Taylor on 10th October.

1976: Taylor and Burton divorce again on 1st August.

1977: He is nominated for Best actor in “Equus”. Although he was nominated for seven Oscars but he never a actually won one, some say because the Academy disapproved of his life style.

1983: He marries Sally Hay and they go to live in Switzerland.

When and Where did he Die?

5th August 1984, Geneva, Switzerland of a brain hemorrhage.

Age at Death:



1. Sybil Williams 1948-63 (Divorced).
2 and 3. Elizabeth Taylor 15th March 1964- 1974 (Divorced) and 10th October 1975 – 1st August 1976 (Divorced).
4. Sally Hay 1983 till his death.

Site of Grave:

Protestant Cemetery, Celigny, Switzerland.

Plays and films Performed in:

1944: London stage debut in “Druid’s Rest.”
1950: New York stage debut in “The Lady’s not for Burning.”
1952: “My Cousin Rachel”. (Film).
1954: Hamlet at the Old Vic Theatre, London.
1956: “Othello”.
1960: King Arthur in the Broadway Musical “Camelot”.
1962: “Cleopatra”. (Film).
1964: “Becket”. “The Night of the Iguana”.
1965: “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold”.
1966: “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
1969: “Where Eagle’s Dare”.

Places of Interest:


The National Film Theatre.


Filmed “Becket” at Bamburgh Castle.