Interviews with Elizabeth Taylor, Murdoch & Milligan 1957
In 1957 and 1958 at GTV, I was still working hard. With Peter Maund, on the newsdesk, I did a series of interviews with well-known people. We used an Auricon camera hired from Mr. Les Platt.
The first was an historic interview with Rupert Murdoch. He was about 27 years of age and we caught him on his train when it stopped at Melbourne on its way to Sydney. His father, who was a newspaper publisher, a knight of the realm, and well-known in Australia, had died a few years before and Rupert, fresh from Oxford University in England, had returned to Australia to take over the business. At the age of 22, he had become managing editor of his father’s newspaper. I think he might have been on his way to Sydney to buy a newspaper.
The train was in a siding for its short stop-over and Murdoch had an observation car to himself. It was there that we conducted the interview. None of us could have ever imagined what was to become of young Rupert. He was a smart arse then, full of big ideas, but, in his case, it would seem that they all came to fruition, plus some ideas he had not yet thought of.
However, I think that I can claim to have been one of the first to direct a television interview with him.
Then there was Spike Milligan. Milligan was on a liner en route for Sydney where he could go on by road to where his mother lived. I think the liner may have been the “Himalaya”. We interviewed him in his large cabin.
Milligan was going to Australia to work on a series for the A.B.C. called “The Gladys Half-hour” produced by Royston Morley.
I had heard and seen Milligan in broadcasts in England for some years and I knew what he was capable of. Before going to the ship I advised Peter Maund, who was going to do the interview, not try to banter words with him. “He will eat you alive”. I said, ”let him be the funny man while you keep a straight face”. Peter, who was an ardent fan of Milligan and The Goons, could not resist it. He did not heed my words of advice and he was destroyed. Milligan took over the interview and started to interview Peter Maund. Peter was not ready for that and it showed. However, they broadcast the interview anyway and, with certain sections removed, Peter came over rather better than one might have expected. It was soon after this that Spike Milligan famously commented that “Australia is a country of empty beer bottles and dead dogs”. I don’t think he was ever forgiven for that.
Then there was Mike Todd and his wife Elizabeth Taylor. In September 1957, we went to interview them at Essendon Airport, the old airport of Melbourne, where they had arrived to promote Mike Todd’s latest movie “Around the World in Eighty Days” (in Todd A-O). The film premiered in Sydney on October 2nd, 1957.
Mike Todd refused to speak and passed us all off to Elizabeth Taylor. It was a particularly uninteresting interview, she had nothing new to say, or even anything that was old and interesting.
It was more of a press conference than an interview. We were joined by crews from the other television stations as well as the press.
Questions were shouted at her from all around and, for a while, she seemed somewhat overwhelmed . After a short while the whole proceedings were wound up. The purpose of their visit seemed to have worked, I went to see “Around the World in eighty Days” (in Todd A-O) shortly afterwards. It was quite an experience.
I have only recently discovered that this press conference took place only a few weeks after Elizabeth Taylor had given birth to her daughter, Elizabeth Frances, which might explain why she seemed a bit under the weather.
Only a few months later, in March 1958, Mike Todd was killed in an air crash. His Lockheed Lodestar, overloaded, and in heavy weather, came down killing Todd, Art Cohn, the screenwriter, and two others, one of which was the pilot.
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