The lives of Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor were indelibly intertwined after Taylor stole Reynolds’ husband, Eddie Fisher, sparking a major Hollywood scandal.
Fisher, also a major Hollywood star, was married to America’s Sweetheart, Reynolds, and they had a child together when Fisher left the wholesome Reynolds for the legendary and overtly sexual Taylor. Vanity Fair said Reynolds once compared the love triangle to the high-profile break up of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston before Pitt ended up with Angelina Jolie.
Reynolds never quite shook off the shadow of that 1950s-era scandal, but she went on to marry two more times and later rebuilt a friendship with Taylor long after Taylor and Fisher also divorced.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Elizabeth & Debbie Were Friends Before Taylor Stole Eddie Fisher
Before Taylor and Eddie Fisher became a couple, Reynolds and Taylor were friends. They had met in an MGM school, which Reynolds started attending at the age of 17, said ABC News. “I was just a beginner, and she and I were not in any manner alike, but we got along very well because I was in awe of going to school with Elizabeth Taylor,” Reynolds told People Magazine.
She and Fisher were married until 1959, when they divorced in the height of the scandal. Debbie was raising two children on her own – Todd and Carrie Fisher – and was cast as the victim by the public in the scandal, as Taylor was turned into the husband-stealing villain. Mike Todd and Eddie Fisher had been best friends.
Within five years, Taylor and Fisher were also divorced. Taylor went on to marry three more times, as did Fisher. Reynolds went on to marry twice more.
2. Eddie Fisher Consoled a Grieving Taylor When Her Husband Died
Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor and her husband, Mike Todd, were among the highest profile stars in Hollywood. By most accounts, Elizabeth was deeply in love with Todd. He was a brash, Chicago streets educated Oscar winning producer.
However, Todd tragically died in a plane crash, devastating Taylor. The private plane carrying Todd crashed in New Mexico in 1958 after suffering engine failure; news reports at the time said that Taylor was supposed to be on the flight but had a cold, and Todd would not let her come along.
“Everything changed when Todd died in a 1958 plane crash. Fisher took it upon himself to comfort his best friend’s stunning, young widow,” People Magazine said.
In fact, Debbie Reynolds rushed to Taylor’s home after Todd died to help care for her children, and found her screaming and distraught, said the Hollywood Reporter. Some argue that Todd was Taylor’s truest love, and say she never recovered completely from his death.
Eventually, a devastated Taylor leaned on the shoulder of her friend, Eddie Fisher, and it led to more. Reynolds said Taylor “liked [Eddie] enough to take him without an invitation,” and Taylor married him a year after Todd died, said People.
In the end, Taylor dumped Fisher for Richard Burton, with whom she fell into passionate dalliance on the set of the movie, Cleopatra.
3. Reynolds & Taylor Repaired Their Friendship on a Cruise Ship
In the end, Fisher lost both women to divorce, but Taylor and Reynolds were able to repair their ruptured friendship as the years went by. They were close enough that Reynolds once brought Taylor a pumpkin pie, and they watched the Tom Cruise movie, “The Last Samurai” together while chatting on the bed, said UK Daily Mail.
The rapprochement occurred on a cruise ship, Reynolds recalled to Access Hollywood. “Elizabeth and I went on a cruise ship and we were on the same boat … she sent a note to me and I sent a note to her to say ‘Let’s just forget about it,'” Reynolds said of the incident, which happened in the 1960s or 1970s, said Access Hollywood.
Neither was with Fisher anymore. Taylor had moved on to Richard Burton, and Reynolds had moved on to her second husband, Harry Karl.
4. Taylor Left Jewelry to Reynolds in Her Will
When Elizabeth Taylor died, she tried to make amends to Reynolds, in a sense, by leaving her jewelry in her will.
According to the UK Daily Mail, Taylor left Reynolds a jewelry case containing a sapphire necklace, earrings, and bracelet when she died in 2011.
5. Carrie Fisher Had Fond Feelings for Elizabeth Taylor
Despite the manner in which the Eddie Fisher and Elizabeth Taylor affair ruptured Carrie Fisher’s childhood and her parents’ marriage, when Taylor died, Fisher had only fond words for Taylor.
“If my father had to divorce my mother for anyone—I’m so grateful that it was Elizabeth,” Fisher said, according to EOnline. “This was a remarkable woman who led her life to the fullest rather than complacently following one around. She will be missed but never forgotten.”
In her one-woman show, Wishful Drinking, Fisher was a bit more sarcastic, saying, of her father and Taylor: “He consoled her with flowers and, ultimately, he consoled her with his penis.”
Reynolds, who visited Taylor in the hospital, also had kind words for the Hollywood legend when she died, saying, “No one else could equal Elizabeth’s beauty and sexuality. Women liked her and men adored her and her love for her children is enduring. She was a symbol of stardom. Her legacy will last.”
Eddie Fisher died in 2010 at the age of 82.