Burton had secret affair with Monroe, claims book

Richard Burton's affair with Elizabeth Taylor, who went on to become his wife – twice – is infamous. But a new biography of the great Welsh actor claims that he also cheated on his first wife with the Hollywood legends Marilyn Monroe and Lana Turner.

Details of the biography Richard Burton: Prince of Players by Michael Munn, the actor's former publicist, are being kept closely under wraps because of an exclusive serialisation deal.

But it has leaked that the book will contain the sensational revelation that one of the greatest actors of his age enjoyed an extra-marital fling with the most admired starlet of the age.

Munn claims Burton's liaisons with Monroe and Turner took place in the 1950s and early 1960s when his Hollywood career was taking off, but before he met Taylor on the set of Cleopatra. Turner was his co-star in the 1955 film The Rains of Ranchipur and Monroe was the woman every man in Hollywood wanted to take to bed.

At the time Burton was married to his first wife, Sybil Williams, whom he met in 1947 on the set of his first film, The Last Days of Dolwyn, about a Welsh village similar to the mining village of Pontrhydyfen where he was born. Burton married Williams a few months later when he was just 23 and the couple went on to have two daughters.

Penny Junor, who has also written a biography of Burton, said: "I think any affair that Burton might have had is credible. He was very promiscuous.

"He had an awful lot of women in his time. He made it a rule to try to conquer any leading lady that he had in the early days. The reason he ended up with Elizabeth Taylor was that she had a similar rule that she would only sleep with men she married.

"Clearly Marilyn Monroe would have been a target for him because she was the sex symbol of Hollywood at the time."

A turning point in Burton's career came when he played the leading role in the play The Boy With a Cart, so impressing the leading actor and director Anthony Quayle that he cast him as Prince Hal in Henry IV and the king in Henry V in the 1951 Shakespeare season at Stratford-upon-Avon as part of the Festival of Britain – for which the young Burton received rave reviews.

A year later, he arrived in Hollywood, starring in My Cousin Rachel. He went on to star in movies including Look Back In Anger, The Longest Day, Becket, What's New, Pussycat?, Hamlet, directed by Sir John Gielgud and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? opposite Taylor.

Burton's marriage to Williams ended when he met Taylor on the set of the 1963 film epic Cleopatra, but the lovers did not marry until 1965 when both had divorced their spouses.

By 1973, however, Burton's relationship with Taylor had crumbled and they separated, divorcing the following year. In 1975, the pair remarried, but a year later, divorced again when Burton became infatuated with Susan Hunt, the former wife of the motor racing driver James Hunt. In 1982, they too divorced and Burton married Sally Hay.

Burton died aged 58 from a cerebral haemorrhage in Geneva in 1984.