Elizabeth Taylor Avoided Murder By Being BeautifulS

"A Love Too Big To Last!" Proclaims Vanity Fair. (The words "too big" are plastered over Taylor's cleavage.) Though it might be more accurate to cite acute alcoholism, infidelity and ego as to why things didn't work out.

In the July issue of Vanity Fair, no grandiose prose is spared in reference to the upcoming book Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century, which is excerpted in the mag: "Before Brangelina, before TomKat, before … Speidi … there was Liz and Dick-that is, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the super-couple who set the standard all others can only aspire to in terms of modern celebrity." For good and ill!

What other couple has been condemned both by the Vatican and on the floor of the House of Representatives? What other couple lived as decadently, as opulently, and as passionately? What other couple could conquer both Hollywood and Broadway the way these two did over a span of two decades?

The book is a big deal primarily because the authors, Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger, got Taylor to let them publish never-before-seen correspondence between the two. This was apparently a major coup, but it's not like the revelations were exactly damaging to the actress's legend. According to the excerpt, people were constantly saying things like, "Don't worry, Elizabeth, I'm not going to kill you. You're too beautiful." And, "If you leave me I shall have to kill myself. There is no life without you." And, "You are probably the best actress in the world, which, com­bined with your extraordinary beauty, makes you unique." (Someone also says, "The past is one son of a bitch.")

This, of course, is in keeping with the soap-opera sweep of their fabled relationship, which along with Pope-baiting, serial-marrying, and various movies in which they played violent and disturbed adversaries, "included the 33.19-carat Krupp diamond, the 69.42-carat Cartier diamond, now known as the Taylor-Burton diamond, and paintings by Monet, Picasso, van Gogh, Pissarro, Renoir, Degas, and Rembrandt."

The "marriage of the century?" I'd be more inclined to bestow that accolade on one that actually lasted for more than a fraction of it — maybe one of those adorable British couples that the UK press is so into covering! But to the extent that O.J.'s was the "trial of the century," I guess Taylor-Burton does indeed qualify inasmuch as, like that judiciary sideshow, it was lurid, absurd, completely removed from everyday life, overshadowed the players' prior accomplishments, and was served up for ravenous public consumption. And in terms of "the standard all others can only aspire to in terms of modern celebrity," well, I fear they may be right. Any couple who complains that we consider their love-life public fodder can look to the Taylor-Burtons, who welcomed publicity and brought the drama. Anyone who has learned that marital hijinx can grab the spotlight owes them a debt of gratitude. Those stars who know that the public doesn't care about Hollywood marriages ending as long as the new couple is super beautiful and suitably glamorous may have consulted their playbook. They were unique in that they were genuine stars who did tabloid stuff — think if Brangelina had drunken brawls in public, or Speidi were respected actors — but one could argue that they also did a lot to give Hollywood marriage its name. After their second marriage, Taylor wrote Burton a note that's published in the book for the first time:

Dearest Hubs, How about that! You really are my husband again, and I have news for thee, there bloody will be no more marriages — or divorces, either. Yours truly, Wife.

Liz And Dick: The Ultimate Celebrity Couple [Vanity Fair]