Tonight on BBC4, Michael Parkinson recalled an interview with Richard Burton from 1974. The interview took place soon after Burton had emerged from what we now call "rehab" and was done very informally in front of an audience of BBC kitchen staff.
Burton, smoking cigarette after cigarette with somewhat shaky hands was, nevertheless, splendid.
It was good to be reminded not only of his glorious voice but of his articulacy, his erudition and his brilliance as an actor. He told an amusing story of when he and Elizabeth Taylor were hoping to adopt a German girl (Maria). Burton was playing Hamlet in New York and the German authorities sent a group over to check on him; six or seven of them attended a performance of Hamlet and Elizabeth Taylor warned Burton that he had to be polite to these people. Consequently, he went on stage to do "To be or not to be" and performed the whole soliloquy in German which delighted the visitors! Apparently Claudius and Polonius, hiding behind the arras, were bloody furious.
Parky reminded Burton that Neville Coghill had once said that he'd taught only two people of genius; one was WH Auden and the other was Richard Burton. Burton said that he had failed to live up to such a generous assessment but hoped to do better and fulfil Coghill's expectations.
What came across in the interview was (a) his absolute love of Wales and pride in being Welsh, (b) his erudition, (c) his self-deprecation, (d) his sense of humour and (e) his sense of wonder about the world.
I had a bit of lump in my throat at the end, I have to admit. I don't know if this will be on the BBC's website but it's worth looking it up.
I have not viewed the entirity of either of these two parts of that interview - only having dug them out last night - but I'm sure you'll see what Gaynor meant by 'showing his erudition, self-depraction, etc.'
and, Part II
Thanks for posting that, SJ. Excellent.