The art of interviewing a personality particularly for Television is probably the most difficult thing to achieve. Few People including the most experienced actually get it right. I think the reason is because being a Good interviewer requires one to be first and foremost a good listener. Dick Cavett definitvely was blessed with the Midas Touch when interviewing the highly charismatic Richard Burton. Cavett was to recall his impression of this memorable interview in an article for the NY Times ( Who’s Afraid of Richard Burton? by Dick CAVETT, NY Times). Burton’s witty responses, anecdotes and charm turn this interview into a far broader experience than a mere Q&A. Enjoy …
Richard Burton on The Dick Cavett Show (July 1980)
Who’s Afraid of Richard Burton? by Dick CAVETT ( NY Times)
About Richard Burton (1925- 1985):
His Official Website Here
Probably more frequently remembered for his turbulent personal life and multiple marriages, however Richard Burton was truly one of the great UK actors of the post WW2 period. The young Richard Jenkins was the son of a Welsh coal miner, and he received a scholarship to Oxford University to study acting and made his first stage appearance in the early 1940s.
His first film appearances were in non-descript movies such as The Last Days of Dolwyn (1949), Waterfront (1950) and Green Grow the Rushes (1951). Then he started to get noticed by producers and audiences with his lead in My Cousin Rachel (1952), La tunique (1953) and Alexandre le grand (1956), added to this he was also spending considerable time in stage productions, both in the UK and USA, often to splendid reviews.
The late 1950s was an exciting and inventive time in UK cinema, often referred to as the “British New Wave”, and Burton was right in the thick of things, and showcased a sensational performance in Les corps sauvages (1959). He also appeared with a cavalcade of international stars in the WW2 magnum opus Le jour le plus long (1962), and then onto arguably his most “notorious” role as that of “Marc Antony” opposite Elizabeth Taylor in the hugely expensive Cléopâtre (1963). This was, of course, the film that kick-started their fiery and passionate romance (plus two marriages), and the two of them appeared in several productions over the next few years including Hôtel International (1963), Le chevalier des sables (1965), the dynamic Qui a peur de Virginia Woolf? (1966) and La mégère apprivoisée (1967). However, Burton was often better when he was off on his own giving higher caliber performances, such as those in Becket (1964), the brilliant thriller L’espion qui venait du froid (1965) and alongside Clint Eastwood in the actioner Quand les aigles attaquent (1968).
His audience appeal began to decline somewhat during the early 1970s as fans turned to younger, more virile male stars, however Burton was superb in Anne des mille jours (1969), he put on a reasonable show in Le cinquième commando (1971), was over the top in Barbe-bleue (1972), and wildly miscast in the ludicrous L’assassinat de Trotsky (1972).
By 1975, quality male lead roles were definitely going to other stars, and Burton found himself appearing in some movies of dubious quality, just to pay the bills, including L’homme du clan (1974), L’exorciste II: L’hérétique (1977) and La grande menace (1978). However in 1978, he appeared with fellow UK acting icons Richard Harris and Roger Moore in Les oies sauvages (1978) about mercenaries in South Africa, and whilst the film had a modest initial run, over the past twenty five years it has picked up quite a cult following!
His two last great performances were as the sinister “O’Brien” in 1984 (1984), and in the TV mini series “Ellis Island, les portes de l’espoir” (1984). He passed away on August 5th, 1984 in Celigny, Switzerland from a cerebral hemorrhage.
Burton was an avid fan of Shakespeare, poetry and reading, having once said “home is where the books are”.
About Dick Cavett:
The host of “The Dick Cavett Show” — which aired on ABC from 1968 to 1975 and on public television from 1977 to 1982 — Dick Cavett is also the co-author of two books, “Cavett” (1974) and “Eye on Cavett” (1983). He has appeared on Broadway in “Otherwise Engaged,” “Into the Woods” and as narrator in “The Rocky Horror Show,” and has made guest appearances in movies and on TV shows including “Forrest Gump” and “The Simpsons.” Mr. Cavett lives in New York City and Montauk, N.Y.
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