Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join in the fun by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and writing a bit about them!
I'm getting to this VERY late in the day, so I'll make this short and sweet: I know there are lots of other movie stars who have been in movies together while they've been dating/married, but when I think of couples who shared the screen together, there's really only one that matters. All the rest are pale imitations.
I speak, of course, of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
Cleopatra (Joseph L. Makiewicz, 1963) Yes, it's Cleopatra! Life Magazine's "Most Talked-About Movie Ever Made!" The film that nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox! And the film that everybody wanted to see, for the scandal of Burton and Taylor's affair, which began during shooting. Cleopatra was the biggest box office hit of the year in America, and won four Oscars from nine nominations, but talk of the stars' extramarital affair so dominated the headlines that Fox tried to sue them for causing damage to the film with their actions. And, well... there's a lot wrong with Cleopatra, but it's not necessary Burton and Taylor's fault (although Taylor is FAR from her best). It's a slog of an epic that buckles under the weight of its beyond-opulent sets and costumes. It looks fantastic, but the story and the telling of it leave a whole hell of a lot to be desired.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Mike Nichols, 1966) I know it's almost impossible to believe, but this MASTERPIECE was director Mike Nichols's FIRST MOVIE. You'd never know it from watching this, though. Of course, the source material of Edward Albee's Tony Award-winning play offers a pretty great starting point, but Nichols effortlessly transfers the thing to film, helped in no small part by Burton and Taylor, each doing the best work of their careers. Supporting players George Segal and Sandy Dennis are no slouches either, but perhaps Nichols owes his biggest debt to cinematographer Haskell Wexler, who provides some of the most stunning black & white cinematography in the history of the medium.
The Taming of the Shrew (Franco Zefferelli, 1967) Yes, it's true. Burton and Taylor were indeed made to fight onscreen. Indeed, their aggression was usually more compelling than their love! Taylor had never done Shakespeare before, and it shows a bit, but there's no denying that this slapstick-heavy version of one of The Bard's most controversial plays is still super entertaining. And Burton is a hoot as Petruchio, the Man's Man set to the task of subduing the fiery "shrew" Katherine as he makes her his bride. Yes, the ending lacks all but the slightest trace of irony that has become the standard - and that was even present in the silent version from 1929 starring Mary Pickford - but the sumptuous look and fun staging make this an enjoyable romp until that point.