Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 27 February Elizabeth Taylor born, 1932 On this day in 1932 Elizabeth Taylor was born, in Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, UK. Her parents were American, originally from Arkansas, and her mother was a former actress. Often considered the last true star of Hollywood’s golden era – before TV made inroads in the 1950s – Taylor’s career started when she was nine, with There’s One Born Every Minute, followed up two years later with Lassie Come Home. Then came National Velvet, and at the age of 12 Elizabeth Taylor was a star. She remained, partly thanks to her violet eyes, double eyelashes, … Read more

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

Richard Burton in The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 19 December Birth of Leonid Brezhnev, 1906 On this day in 1906, the very last old-school leader of the USSR was born. Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev was born into Tsarist Russia, the son of workers. Thanks to an education at a technical school he became a metallurgist, joined Komsomol (the Communist youth movement) and started to make his way in the party, becoming a political commissar in a tank factory by the age of 30, and eventually party secretary in Dnipropetrovsk, a Ukrainian city intimately connected to the arms industry. As a result of Stalin’s purges in the late 1930s, Brezhnev advanced … Read more


Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton in Becket

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 10 November Richard Burton born, 1925 On this day in 1925, Richard Walter Jenkins was born, in Pontrhydyfen, Wales. Richard was child number 12 and his mother later died giving birth to child number 13; his father was a coal miner, drinker and gambler. A star athlete, young Richard adopted the name Burton after his drama teacher, Philip H Burton, de facto adopted him, and it was Philip Burton who worked on the young man’s voice, turning it from a tinny nasally thing into the sonorous boom that was to make him (along with his Roman god looks and acting ability) … Read more

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

Richard Burton in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

Based on the breakthrough novel by former spy John Le Carré, shot in black and white to suggest that espionage is unglamorous, dirty work and starring a hollowed out Richard Burton, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold is as far from James Bond as it’s possible to get – further, even than Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer of the Ipcress File. Telling the story of a jaded spy who is busted to a desk job in London and then recruited by East German intelligence – or that’s what they think – it’s a bleak marvel, as redolent of the drab side of the 1960s as the smell of a wet duffel coat. Martin … Read more