Richard Burton and Puerto Vallarta

  • Born Richard Walter Jenkins, November 10, 1925, Pontrhydyfen, Wales, UK.
  • Died August 5, 1984, Céligny, Switzerland.
  • Spouses: Sybil Williams, Elizabeth Taylor, Susan Miller (Suzy Hunt) and Sally Hay.
  • Twelfth of 13 children, brothers and father were coal miners.
  • Awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1970 Queen's Birthday Honours List.
  • Won a Grammy in the "Best Recording for Children" category for "The Little Prince".
  • Was to star in Dino De Laurentiis' Waterloo as Napoleon, but was replaced by Rod Steiger, as was John Huston as director by Sergey Bondarchuk.
  • Nominated 7 times for the Oscar, but never won.

The same way you can't think of John Lennon without Yoko Ono, we cannot remember Richard Burton without Elizabeth Taylor. This actor was the best option for incarnating male roles during the 50s and late 60s.

Richard Burton definitely left a great legacy for next generations. Even today, he is a reference for all students of elocution due to his distinctive voice that became his hallmark.

He was born in Wales, United Kingdom, on November 10, 1925, and died in Switzerland on August 5, 1984.

His original name was Richard Walter Jenkins, but he changed his name in honor of Philip Burton, his guardian and foster parent.

Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor 1963
Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor 1963

Leonardo DiCaprio, at one time, seemed to share his unfortunate fate on filmmaking, because despite Burton's 7 Oscar nominations as best actor, he failed to win any of them. However, this did not stop him from standing out in film history.

While acting was his profession, reading was his passion; a great lover of Shakespeare, as he proved with his brilliant interpretation of Hamlet in 1950.

Ava Gardner & Richard Burton 1963
Ava Gardner & Richard Burton 1963

As mentioned above, recapitulating the history of this actor, we can see mention of Elizabeth Taylor on several occasions, who was his great love and whom he married and divorced on two different occasions.

The two of them met when they starred in the movie"Cleopatra". Elizabeth Taylor epitomized the last queen of ancient Egypt, while Richard Burton had the role of Marco Antonio, the friend of Julius Caesar and Queen Cleopatra's lover.

Sue Lyon and Richard Burton 1963
Sue Lyon and Richard Burton 1963

Being one of the greatest actors of the moment, John Huston invited Richard Burton to star in the movie "The Night of the Iguana" in which he would play Lawrence Shannon, a retired and alcoholic pastor, who after being accused of sexually abusing a minor, emigrated to Mexico, where he works as a tour guide; as the story develops, he ends up involved with three women, Maxine Faulk (Ava Gardner) Charlotte Goodall (Sue Lyon) and Hannah Jelkes (Deborah Kerr).

Burton with the cast of the Night of the Iguana
Burton with the cast of The Night of the Iguana

The film was shot in Mismaloya south of Puerto Vallarta in 1963; by then it was a small fishing village, but it captivated Richard and Elizabeth, who stood by his side throughout the filming despite not being part of the movie's cast. Along with them, a horde of paparazzi arrived, who remained expectant for any opportunity to grab a photo of the happy couple.

John Huston & Richard Burton 1963
John Huston & Richard Burton 1963

The actors stayed at a place called Casa Kimberley, which was bought years later by Burton and presented to Elizabeth as a birthday present. The couple lived the best moments of their relationship in this charming Mexican house.

Elizabeth Taylor sold Casa Kimberley in 1990, together with all her belongings, including furniture, pictures, and clothes, and for a while was a museum largely left in the same conditions as when it was sold by the actress, since then it has been remodeled and is currently is a luxurious boutique hotel.

Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor 1963
Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor's villa in Puerto Vallarta

Richard Burton stayed connected to Puerto Vallarta through his life and even though his second marriage to Taylor abruptly ended when he, then a married man, started having an affair with (history repeats) Susan Hunt, that at the time was married (ex-wife of the F1 Champion James Hunt). He did return in 1977 to Puerto Vallarta, this time purchasing a beautiful villa, Casa Bursus, for his new bride.

It has now become the well known Hacienda San Ángel, one of many villas administered by Janice Chatterton who bought it from Susan in 1990, who had kept it after her divorce from Burton.

Richard Burton & Susan Hunt 1978
Richard Burton & Susan Hunt 1978

The Villa's name - you can imagine - is a combination of Burton and Susan's names. He bought the house as a Valentine's Day gift for his wife and is just a few blocks from Casa Kimberley in the Gringo Gulch. It exudes Vallartan coastal charm and is faithful to the local Mexican architectural tradition and houses infinity of stories and affairs... if only walls could talk.

Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and the Iguana 1963
Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and the Iguana 1963

Surely Puerto Vallarta is full of memories, its history blends with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, who decided unconsciously to establish a reference for international tourism.

Sergio Toledano, Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor
Sergio Toledano, Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor

If you stroll along the cobblestone streets until you reach Zaragoza St. you'll find a pink bridge standing across the street linking two houses, which are actually two parts of the same property. It's like going back in time, to a glamorous and romantic era where two stars decided to give free rein to their love.

Anyone who has visited Puerto Vallarta and passed by Kimberley House can boast that they visited the love nest of the most famous couple of the 20th Century.

Richard Burton definitely changed many lives, but none like the actor Kevin Costner, whose encounter kickstarted his future acting career, starring in "Dances with Wolves" (1990), "Message in a Bottle" (1999), "For Love of the Game" (1999) and "Draft Day" (2014).

Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor
Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor

The best decision Kevin Costner made in his life, was to choose Puerto Vallarta, coincidentally the refuge of Richard Burton, as a destination for his honeymoon, for on the flight back he had a chance to meet the already well-established actor, who agreed to speak with Costner after finishing the book he was reading. The result of this conversation, Kevin was motivated by Burton to pursue an acting career. Advice that led him to Hollywood fame.

Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor 1963
Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor in between shots

Puerto Vallarta was not just an occasional stop in the life of the actor but was also his refuge, his oasis in the desert, the town that offered everything that Richard and Elizabeth needed to live their turbulent, but passionate love and intense life.

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