RICHARD BURTON by David Jenkins


A Brother Remembered
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 One of the many biographies of the actor, who died in 1984, including the surpassing Richard Burton: A Life (1988) by Melvyn Bragg and Richard Burton, My Brother (1988) by Graham Jenkins. Graham was the youngest of the populous Jenkins clan, born two years after Richard; David, this most recent brother/chronicler and a retired chief inspector of police still living in South Wales, falls somewhere in the soft center of the 11 children who survived infancy. There is little light and no heat in this version. And there is precious little about the young, larky, self-possessed Richard (saved from the jaws of poverty by a series of consequential adults who were enchanted by his gift) that hasn't been told earlier by Graham or far more entertainingly by Bragg, who had access to the luscious journals written by the actor. The story, conflated here to include the whole capacious life, weakens as the distance between Richard and kinfolk grows, as the family sees him only sporadically and he has them flown first-class here and there to a series of Dionysian fetes where they sing Welsh folk songs like obliging, drunken von Trapps (``Grace Kelly among others asked for several encores''). The authorial voice seems especially inauthentic when compelled to wax critical, as in ``a turgid, uninvolving war story, this was a far cry from the crisp, straightforward pleasures of The Desert Rats.'' Should have been nicely bound (if not gagged) and brought out just for the family on St. David's Day.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-7126-5768-1
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Century/Trafalgar
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1994