Hollywood’s most scandalous love triangle
ONE of Debbie Reynolds' biggest heartbreaks of her life was when her husband Eddie Fisher walked out on their marriage for her best friend, Elizabeth Taylor.
The Hollywood power couple were married from 1955 until 1959. Her son Todd Fisher, who recently published a memoir about his famous mother and his sister, Carrie Fisher, titledMy Girls,wrote Reynolds was "devastated" by the shocking revelation.
"Numb, as she described it," the 60-year-old wrote, as reported by the Daily Mail on Monday. He said she described herself as "'blank … as if I were on the top of a mountain, like floating in space'".
Todd was just months old when his father walked out. He gained a better understanding of the Hollywood bombshell after he candidly spoke with his mother before she passed away in 2016 at age 84.
"The world was stunned," he wrote. "Eddie and Elizabeth were vilified. Eddie was declared a philandering, opportunistic loser, and Elizabeth was labelled a bad girl, home-wrecking sl*t. Debbie, the good girl, the innocent, unsuspecting victim and single mum, was globally embraced with love and sympathy."
The Fishers were once incredibly close with Taylor and her then-husband, producer Mike Todd. Taylor and Reynolds attended school together as teenagers on the MGM studios lot, and Mike Todd was Fisher's closest friend. When Taylor and Todd married in 1957, it was Fisher who served as best man and Reynolds was matron of honour.
But Fisher revealed the marriage between his parents became strained in 1956 after his big sister Carrie was born. When Fisher travelled overseas in 1957 to perform a concert in London, Reynolds flew out to be by his side.
"It speaks volumes about the state of their marriage by then that Debbie brought along her best friend from childhood, Jeanette Johnson, so she'd had someone to talk to," he wrote.
After the show, the Fishers flew to the south of France where they joined Taylor and Todd in a villa. Reynolds, who was yearning to have a second child, plied her husband with alcohol.
"He got drunk on two beers that night," reflected Reynolds back in her own 1988 book. "Not only that, but he became very amorous. Elizabeth and Mike had put him in the mood, or he forgot whom he was with. It was a happy time with all of us entertaining each other with stories and jokes.
"Eventually they went off to make love and I turned to Eddie and said, 'Why don't we do the same?' And so we did … I just remember praying to God that night that I would be pregnant. We had a good time and there weren't many of those … I just knew when I left that I was pregnant. I couldn't have known, but I knew."
Todd was born in 1958 and named after Fisher's beloved friend. But tragedy soon came calling.
That same year, Mike Todd died in a New Mexico plane crash. Fisher was determined to comfort his grieving widow, only to leave his wife a month later for her.
Fisher and Taylor married in 1959, despite the public scandal. They were together for five years before the screen vixen left him for Richard Burton, a Welsh actor she was having an affair with while on the set of 1963's Cleopatra.
Taylor and Burton married in 1964 and would divorce in 1974. The couple remarried in 1975 and called it quits once more in 1976. Taylor married two other men before she died in 2011 at the age of 79.
She and Reynolds reconciled after they bumped into each other while on holiday in 1966.
"It seems that, by pure coincidence, mum and (new husband) Harry had found themselves on the same cruise ship (ironically, the Queen Elizabeth) as Richard and Elizabeth," Fisher said. "The four of them had dinner together on the ship, to the hysterical glee of the tabloids, and Elizabeth and Richard were welcome … from that night on."
Taylor would also go on to become friends with Reynolds' children.
"She immediately took my hand and pulled me down to sit beside her, and for the next hour she talked, in extreme detail, about nothing but how much she'd loved Mike Todd and how, no matter how many other loves might come along, she was sure no one ever measured up to him," said Todd about one of their encounters.
"I sat there and listened, not especially interested but a little fascinated that this woman, who'd technically been my stepmother for about 10 minutes (OK, to be accurate, more like five years) and who, along with my father, had dealt my mother one of the most devastating betrayals of her life, seemed to feel connected to me, maybe because I was named after the greatest love of her life."
Fisher also revealed Reynolds vividly remembered how she and Taylor reflected on their past. That moment took place while on the set of 2011's These Old Broads.
"Elizabeth asked mum to come to her dressing room," wrote Todd. "Mum sat down beside her, and Elizabeth got right to the point, with tears in her eyes. 'Debbie,' she said. 'I'm so sorry for what I did to you with Eddie.' It caught mum off guard that Elizabeth was still so emotional about it, and she pointed out, meaning it, 'That was another lifetime. You and I made up years ago.' Elizabeth's voice broke. 'I just feel so awful when I think of how I hurt you and your children.'
"Mum's voice broke too, when she told me about that conversation. She and Elizabeth spent some nice time together during the filming of These Old Broads - they even spent an evening sitting in Elizabeth's bed watching a movie and eating a pumpkin pie mum brought for the occasion. Mum always marvelled that it was Carrie's script that made those moments possible for two women who, despite being at the centre of the greatest, most painful tabloid scandal of the 1950s, never really stopped loving each other."