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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 Awards
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.


Here’s Lucy
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 that evening!

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 Burtons appearance.


60 Minutes
Aired: 1970
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 two installments.


The 46th Annual Academy Awards
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 Pavilion.


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.


Dinah!
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 Elizabeth Taylor
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.”

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