Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Few Thoughts about "Furious Love"

Photos lifted from the Internet

"She is beautiful beyond the dreams of pornography ... she is an ache in the stomach when I am away from her ... I'll love her until the day I die!"  --Richard Burton 

Let's talk about creating memorable characters and memorable love stories. Then let's talk about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. I'm still working on the how of creating these characters in my fiction, but I think I've found some inspiration in this real life love story.

There's a new book out called "Furious Love" by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger. I'm reading it now, but I've been aware of Liz and Dick - as the tabloids used to call them -- since I was a kid in Ohio. Back in the 1950s, black families were mesmerized by Hollywood's movie stars just like any other family, and my grandmother, who raised me from 2 to 10 (or even longer in many ways), loved Liz Taylor. She was a huge fan of Liz's big-girl movies. Not the National Velvet or the other films Liz made in adolescence, but she watched the Liz who were low-cut dresses and black eyeliner and red lipstick. My grandmother would take my brother and me to watch 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof', 'BUtterfield 8' (she LOVED that movie) and 'Suddenly Last Summer' to name a few of the remarkable Taylor vehicles made when Liz was at the height of her beauty and (unfortunately) also her personal tragedy.

I'm not sure what my grandmother thought of Liz's private life (probably helped that Liz married most of the men she slept with), but except for Liz Taylor I don't recall my grandmother ever sitting still or staying awake for 'fiction'. She watched The Ed Sullivan Show and Sing Along with Mitch because Leslie Uggams, "a Negro girl was on the show".  But when it came to Liz Taylor my grandmother would leave the house (go to the movie theater). She rarely left the house except to go to the grocery store or the AME church.

I'm not necessarily endorsing the book here. I'm recalling a time when movie stars were untouchable and eerily pretty and dangerous (James Dean). So far the book is good reading, but think about writing a book that takes the risks that Liz Taylor's 13-year love affair featured - marriage and divorce and marriage and divorce. Drunken brawls, passion, sex, talent ... to this day, she is still a conflicted character to me; searching for happiness. Talk about drama? All romance writers should study Liz and Dick, I know I am. Motivation - Liz's sheltered youth. Her dependency on men. Her lust for men. Then keep in mind the era she was born into that kept women from taking risks - personally or professionally. She wanted independence and back then for her that meant marriage.  Then she falls in love with a man who was a romantic, a brilliant talent, a tortured artist, an admitted drunk - a bad boy who worshipped her (Spike and Buffy anyone?).

"I am forever punished by the gods for being given the fire and trying to put it out. The fire, of course, is you." --Richard Burton

It's the tortured romance that requires an epic tale, with big heartache, which only comes from big love.


  1. I remember== my mother was born the same year as Liz, and was the same age when they were young.

    But Liz ended up 4 years younger. Go figure. :)

  2. You know my first name is Elizabeth. My mom liked to say I was named after my grandmother - Ella Elizabeth - but I think it was more about Elizabeth Taylor than anything. lol!




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