Elizabeth Taylor cries every time she sees it, so instead she stayed home last night and watched Jimmy Carter on television.

At the Kennedy Center where 250 AFI Film Club members saw a 16-year-old Taylor playing her first adult film role in "A Place in the Sun," there were enough other tears, however, to take up the slack.

Taylor arrived near the end, accompanied by her husband, Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) to be introduced on stage by AFI's George Stevens Jr., son of her old director. And with eloquence, she described the emotional drain she undergoes whenever she sees the film.

Later, at a buffet supper Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.) hosted in the Senate Caucas Room, Warner downplayed his reaction to President Carter's televised press conference on the Iranian's situation. "she's the star of the evening," he said.

Wearing royal blue, silk-slim-legged evening pants, with a matching stole, she looked very much the movie star as she edged through the crowd on her red satin spiked heels. But she was reticent about any further discussion of what the film meant to her. "You gotta understand," said Steve Martindale. "She didn't want to come -- she didn't want to do this. She's very sensitive, you know. She loved Montgomery Clift and it was very hard for her."

She brightened considerably when she spotted Sen. Jacob Javits (R.N.Y.), crying "Hello, baby" as she flung her arms around his neck. Javits responded with similar affection.

Among the guests were the Sidney Zlotnicks, the Livingston Biddles, the Smith Bagley's, Ina Ginsburg, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, Sen. and Mrs. Edward Zorinsky (D.-Neb.) and Egyptian Ambassador and Mrs. Ashraf Ghorbal, probably the only couple there going home to watch a video taped version of Carter's press conference.

"We feel in sympathy," Ghorbal said. "We've always said that even an emissary from the enemy has a sanctity, let alone a diplomatic envoy."

Ghorbal said he had not seen the deposed shah or Iran since last week when he accompanied former Iranian Ambassador Ardeshir Zahedi to the hospital for a visit.

"Ultimately, I feel the shah will go to Egypt. When you talk to him, you feel he is anxious to come. There is a nostalgia for it. But did he say he would? No," said Ghorbal.

Zorinsky said he had a feeling that the United States is going to find out who its allies really are, as a result of the Iranian crisis.

"France, or instance, hasn't uttered a word on our behalf, their bottom line being oil. They've been conspicuous by their absence of advice, which is something we usually get an abundance of."

And who else among so-called allies?

"I'm trying to abide by the philosophy of not speaking ill of the alligator before I cross the river," Zorinsky said.

Holbrooke, whose expertise is in East Asian and Pacific affiars at the State Department, said he arrived late at the film because "we've been sort of busy on Cambodia -- if I said I didn't watch the press conference, what do you suppose, would happen to me?"

Holbrooke sat at the head table opposite Elizabeth Taylor. There were 12 tables, gleaming with white cloths and red napkins in the historic room where presidents and would-be presidents as Pell put it, have declared political ambitions.

AFI was created by the National Endowment for the Arts, Pell said, dowment's Livingston Biddle. Which meant that AFI's place in last night's sun, the Causus Room, was justified, according to Film Club chairman Ina Ginsburg.

So Senate Chef Jimmy Lee master-minded beef strogonoff and spinach salad, at AFI's expense. And at least one U.S. senator helped move furniture.

When Sen. and Mrs. David Pryor (D-Ark.) arrived after everyone else and rearranged some head table chairs.

"I'm sort of playing butler tonight," said the senator from Virginia.