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Behind Richard Burton's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood February 15, 2013 at 3:21PM

Richard Burton will receive his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on March 1. These ceremonies aren't cheap -- per the New York Times, the 300-pound cement-based terrazo stars themselves cost $30,000 a piece.
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Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor

Richard Burton will receive his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on March 1. These ceremonies aren't cheap -- per the New York Times, the 300-pound cement-based terrazo stars themselves cost $30,000 a piece.

This is a $5,000 increase from 2009. The money is purportedly used to raise funds for the Hollywood Historic Trust. Each year approximately 300 applications are sent to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, and 24 honorees are selected to receive the hallowed stars for the following year. They are chosen by a five-person committee.

Given that there has to be incentive and cash behind an application, many worthy stars and filmmakers (among them Robert Towne and Sam Peckinpah) will never make it to the Walk. In this case, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is using Burton's star to promote its re-release of "Cleopatra," celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and hitting Blu-ray on May 21.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz' notorious film, co-starring Burton's longtime power-couple other half Elizabeth Taylor, is one of the most expensive Hollywood productions ever made, and is still referenced as the prime example of a massively overbudget disappointment in relation to cost. (A PR man on the movie, Jack Brodsky, wrote the must-read behind-the-scenes book on the making of the film, "The Cleopatra Papers.")

The fever-pitch interest in Burton and Taylor -- which puts modern-day equivalents like Brad and Angelina to shame -- is still in full swing. The 2012 trend of "hate-watching" met its match with the awfully reviewed Lifetime movie "Liz & Dick," starring Lindsay Lohan. It was recently announced that Goth matriarch Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West ("The Wire," "The Hour") will be the next to play Burton and Taylor in a BBC biopic. Meanwhile, Martin Scorsese and Paramount have the rights to Nancy Schoenberger's book about the couple, "Furious Love."

For an historic take on the Walk of Fame, check out film scholar Thom Andersen's brilliant "Los Angeles Plays Itself" (available in 12 parts here on YouTube) in which he points out that for decades the star selection for the Boulevard was tainted by Black List associations, with ramifications that linger to this day.

This article is related to: News, News, DVD and VOD, Classics


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.