TV Appearances: 1970s
The David Frost Show
Aired: March 19, 1970
In 1970, Elizabeth and Richard Burton made their first appearance on the
talk show, The David Frost Show.
The 42nd Annual Academy
Aired: April 7, 1970 on ABC
Elizabeth presented the Best Picture Oscar which went to Midnight Cowboy.
One of the other Best Picture nominees was Anne of the Thousand Days,
which starred husband Richard Burton. Burton was also nominated for a Best
Actor Oscar, but lost to John Wayne in True Grit. Aired live from the
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.
Episode: Lucy Meets the Burtons (Season 3, Episode 1)
Aired: September 14, 1970 on CBS
In 1970, Elizabeth and Richard appeared as themselves on Here’s Lucy,
in one of TV’s most memorable guest appearances.
The premise of the episode is as follows: Burton escapes the mobs of fans
waiting for him at their hotel by wearing a plumber’s uniform. Lucy Carter,
a secretary played by Lucille Ball, desperately needs a plumber and asks
Burton to fix her faucet at the office. Agreeing, Burton follows Lucy and
fixes the faucet. Lucy offers him $23.50 for his time ($.50 knocked off
because of his Shakespeare recitation) but Burton refuses payment and
leaves. Realizing that it’s really Richard Burton who fixed her faucet, Lucy
discovers that Burton has forgotten the Taylor-Burton diamond (Elizabeth’s
69.42 carat pear-shaped diamond ring) inside his plumber’s coverall.
Deciding to try it on, Lucy gets it stuck on her finger and can’t get it
off! When Burton returns to pick up the forgotten gem, he panics when he sees
Lucy has it stuck on her finger—Elizabeth needs to wear it to a press party
He brings Lucy back to their suite to explain to Elizabeth what happened.
Elizabeth suggests using Champagne to help get it off. When that fails to
work, Elizabeth (only somewhat jokingly) suggests amputation, but
Lucy saves the day by devising a plan. When the press arrives, we find
Elizabeth standing in front of a curtain with Lucy hidden completely behind
her, except for the arm that has the ring.
The episode, which was the first episode of the show’s third season,
premiered to huge numbers. Neither of the Burtons had ever done episodic
television before, and it was a strange experience for them. There were
three days of rehearsal starting on Monday, and the show was filmed before a
live studio audience on Thursday at Paramount Studios. There were also
problems between the Burtons and Lucy. Burton didn’t like being ordered
around by Lucille Ball. Also, according to Burton, he “warned the director
to warn [her] that if she tried any of that stuff on Elizabeth she would
see, in person, what a Thousand Megaton Hydrogen Bomb does when the warhead
is attached and exploded.”
Lucie Arnaz, Ball’s daughter, said she was “nervous” about meeting the
Burtons. Arnaz, who announced her engagement during the filming of the
episode, said her ring “looked like a spitball” compared to Elizabeth’s
Taylor-Burton diamond. According to the actress Elizabeth was kind, and
recommended toothpaste to clean it. Security had been beefed up on the set
as Elizabeth insisted the actual Taylor-Burton diamond be used.
A portion of the ending with Elizabeth saying, “Good night, Lucy” (a spoof
on the show’s direct competition, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In) was cut
because it was thought it would promote the other show.
The following members of the Hollywood Press played themselves: Army Archerd,
Jim Bacon, Marilyn Beck, Joan Crosby, Joyce Haber, Dick Kleiner, Morton
Moss, Robert Rose, Vernon Scott and Cecil Smith.
The episode is available on the DVD set, Here’s Lucy - Best Loved
Episodes from the Hit TV Series. Bonus material pertaining to the
Burtons appearance includes commentary with Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr.,
rehearsal footage, behind-the-scenes footage, the original episode ending,
and the script for an alternate opening scene. According to Lucie Arnaz, so
much behind-the-scenes footage exists because of the importance of the
Elizabeth and Richard Burton were interviewed for the newsmagazine show,
60 Minutes, on Elizabeth’s mother’s patio.
The David Frost Show
Aired: March 20, 1972 and March 21, 1972
The Burtons joint interview was conducted in Budapest, where Burton was on
location filming Bluebeard. Burton discussed his relationship with
his adopted father, and recited passages from the Old Testament. Elizabeth
wore her ping-pong diamond (.042 carat) that she won in a table tennis match
against Burton. “I got him sloshed,” Elizabeth explained, “and I not only
got the ten points, I beat him. So he had to go down and buy me the perfect
diamond.” She also wore the massive 69.42 carat Taylor-Burton diamond. “Not
chopped chicken liver,” Elizabeth described it. The interview was aired in
The 46th Annual Academy
Aired: April 2, 1974 on NBC
Before Elizabeth was to present the Best Picture Oscar, a man streaked
across the stage naked on live TV. The quick witted David Niven famously
remarked: “The only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping
... and showing his shortcomings.” Aired live from the Dorothy Chandler
The 48th Annual Academy Awards
Aired: March 29, 1976 on ABC
The 48th Annual Academy Awards concluded with Elizabeth and the USC Trojan
Marching Band paying tribute to the American bicentennial with the song,
“America the Beautiful.” Aired live from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
The Barbara Walters Special
Aired: April 6, 1977 on ABC
Barbra Walters interviewed Elizabeth and her new husband, John Warner, at
the kitchen table of their farm in Virginia. A topic of discussion was
Elizabeth’s apparent weight gain, which she said didn’t bother her.
Elizabeth would later admit that that particular period in her life was
among the most difficult she ever endured.
Aired: November 16, 1977 and November 17, 1977
Elizabeth’s interview with Dinah Shore, which aired over two days on her
tribute to women in entertainment, was a filmed telephone call between the
two Hollywood icons, with Dinah in Hollywood, and Elizabeth at her home in
Georgetown, Washington. Elizabeth, dressed for a party and seated with a cat
on her lap, discussed her image, living in the public eye, and her new film,
A Little Night Music. She also joked that her husband John Warner and
actor John Wayne should play brothers in a film.
An All-Star Tribute to
Aired: December 1, 1977 on CBS
Elizabeth was honoured by Variety Clubs International in an evening called
An All-Star Tribute to Elizabeth Taylor. Paul Newman, Joanne Woodard,
Janet Leigh, Margaret O’Brien, June Allyson, and Carroll O’Connor were on
hand to lend their support. Elizabeth, then married to John Warner,
remarked, “Only in America could a little farmer’s wife from Virginia be
here with all these big movie stars.” According to Kitty Kelley, “the
proceeds went toward a $100,000 hospital wing for underprivileged and
handicapped children in her name.”