Richard Burton was an actor of exceptional gifts, and one of his greatest gifts was that of presence. He uses his magnificent voice and sense of timing to produce something like a hypnotic state. At times, in films, he could even make the viewer forget that the material was beneath him, and it frequently was.
Here is Burton in something close to his element, telling stories and disarming the eager interviewer, Dick Cavett, in a 1980 TV appearance. He is candid, in the manner of his diaries. Burton did not leave us as great a wealth of fine cinematic performances as we might have liked, but we can tell here that must have cut a memorable figure in person.
Here's a sample:
"Years ago I went to a party in Hollywood and there were about 20 people there and there was this lady, sort of 40 years old I thought, perhaps, which seemed to me then to be like 100, because I was only about 25 or -6 or something. But I found her absolutely fascinating.
"I told her some what I thought were funny stories and she thought were funny too and she told me some. And they were, to my surprise, because she looked very much like a lady, they were faintly, slightly blue. And I remember at one point sort of (grabbing her knee).
"So anyway, I then went to my wife Sibyl, and I said, "I've just met the most fascinating woman, that lady over there." She said, "That is Greta Garbo."