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Angela V. John

Behind the Scenes: The Dramatic Lives of Philip Burton

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This book will be released in April 2025.

Pre-orders are charged at time of order and the book will be posted to you as soon as it becomes available.



Philip Burton (1904-95) is best remembered as the schoolmaster responsible for training and transforming his pupil Richard Jenkins into Richard Burton, world-famous star of stage and screen. Together they produced a remarkable symbiosis. The stage-struck Philip Burton was present behind the scenes for the rest of the actor’s life, intervening at crucial moments to ensure consummate stage performances in, for example, Coriolanus, Hamlet and Camelot. This biography, drawing upon a number of previously unseen sources, provides a fresh angle on this compelling story. And by placing Philip Burton’s story centre stage, a remarkable figure also emerges in his own right. In a life that virtually spanned the twentieth century, he demonstrated resilience and transatlantic triumph against the odds.

Like his best-known protégé, he was born into an impoverished south Wales mining family. Alongside teaching, he acted, wrote and produced plays and in 1945, with wireless at its height, he became a BBC radio producer. He worked on almost 200 radio programmes, encouraging newcomers and producing work by Dylan Thomas. He wrote scripts for the fledgling television and penned its first ‘soap.’ Reinventing himself in the mid-1950s, Philip Burton moved to the United States where, after dabbling in the film industry and working as a theatre director, he became the inspirational first director of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York. He took American citizenship and travelled across the States, delivering sparkling Shakespearean lecture-recitals. He published five books, living in Key West, Florida from the 1970s. Philip Burton died in 1995 aged ninety, his expertise and encouragement having enabled numerous aspiring actors and writers to flourish on both sides of the Atlantic.


Angela V. John is the author/editor of a dozen books. Her biographies include Turning the Tide (Parthian) about Lady Rhondda, and Elizabeth Robins: Staging a Life 1862-1952 (Routledge and The History Press), a study of the American actress, writer and suffragette who popularised Ibsen on the British stage. In 2019 her essay collection Rocking the Boat: Welsh Women who Championed Equality 1840-1990 (Parthian) explored different forms of biographical writing.
Behind the Scenes developed out of The Actors’ Crucible: Port Talbot and the Making of Burton, Hopkins, Sheen and All the Others (Parthian). Angela now lives in Pembrokeshire but grew up in Port Talbot and first met Richard Burton in 1969. For many years she held the Chair in History at the University of Greenwich, London. She is currently an honorary professor at Swansea University, president of Llafur, the Welsh People’s History Society, and of the Port Talbot Musical Theatre Society. (Photo: Jane Kimberley)