Going from being the best man in your friends' wedding to marrying the bride yourself is one way to ruffle some feathers—especially if everyone involved is super famous. This is exactly what happened in the late 1950s when Elizabeth Taylor got together with singer Eddie Fisher. Taylor had recently lost her third husband, producer Mike Todd, and Fisher was married to actor Debbie Reynolds.
The couples were close socially; Taylor and Reynolds' friendship even dated back to when they were teenagers. But after Todd's death, their relationships shifted. And while Reynolds and Taylor's careers continued on just fine, the same cannot be said for Fisher. Read on to find out how the affair led to significant fallout.
Taylor, Todd, Reynolds, and Fisher were all friends.
Reynolds and Taylor's friendship began when they were both young actors working for MGM. "My mother was best friends with Elizabeth Taylor," Reynolds' son, Todd Fisher, told Yahoo! in 2018. "Some people don't know that. They went to school together on the backlot at MGM with Roddy McDowall and Margaret O'Brien and they were all best friends."
Reynolds and Fisher got married in 1955 and welcomed two children together, Todd and Carrie Fisher. Their son is named after their mutual friend, Mike Todd.
In 1957, Taylor and Mike Todd got married. Fisher was best man in the wedding, and Reynolds was the matron of honor. The couple had a daughter together, Liza Todd.
After Todd died, Fisher grew close to Taylor.
Todd died in a plane crash in 1958. Fisher endeavored to comfort Taylor after the loss of her husband, which developed into an affair.
"Mike Todd, unfortunately, had a terrible plane crash," Reynolds told NPR in 2013. "And then when Mike died, she left with Eddie. So my husband did console her—very well, I'm sure."
Todd Fisher wrote about this in his book, My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie. "The world was stunned," he wrote (via the Mirror). "Eddie and Elizabeth were vilified. Eddie was declared a philandering, opportunistic loser, and Elizabeth was labeled a bad-girl, home-wrecking [expletive]. Debbie, the good girl, the innocent, unsuspecting victim and single mom, was globally embraced with love and sympathy."
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The affair negatively impacted Fisher's career.
Todd Fisher told Yahoo! that the affair had a major effect on his father's professional life.
"There was outrage. My dad had like contracts canceled for morality clauses," he said. "It literally ruined his career. I mean, it just wiped him out. Liz kind of came out a little better, sort of unscathed."
Fisher was both a singer and an actor, who at one point has his on TV show. He appeared in his last movie, Butterfield 8, alongside Taylor in 1960. He went on to be open about his struggles with drug abuse, which also touched his career.
"It wasn't my intention for my romantic life to overshadow other aspects," Fisher told the Associated Press in 1991. "I know that it has."
Fisher and Taylor's romance didn't last long.
Taylor and Fisher were married for five years, but their relationship began to fall apart two years in. In 1961, Taylor began filming Cleopatra with Richard Burton, and they started a highly publicized affair that turned into a lengthy relationship. After Fisher and Taylor were finally divorced in 1964, Taylor married Burton.
Reynolds later revealed that she never thought Fisher and Taylor would be forever.
"It's just he's not a strong enough personality for Elizabeth, who preferred her men to be—well, Richard Burton. He was pretty gorgeous," Reynolds told NPR. "I warned Eddie that she'd kick him out in a year and a half. And that's exactly what happened, which gave me at least a little comfort."
Reynolds and Taylor reconciled and remained friends.
Taylor and Reynolds—who both remarried more than once—were able to put the past behind them.
"We decided, being bright girls, we would get over the problems that existed," Reynolds said in the NPR interview. "And we sent each other a note saying let's move on with our lives, and let's get onto the happy side. And then to the end of her life [Taylor died in 2011], we were together. I mean, together doesn't mean everyday lunch. You know, I'm not a lunch girl, and neither is Elizabeth. But as far as being friends, we were."
Reynolds, who died in 2016, also told People (via the Mirror), "I never felt bitter about Elizabeth. A man doesn't leave a woman for another woman unless he wants to go. You know, when Mike Todd died, I sent Eddie to help Elizabeth. I don't think she ever really loved Eddie. He was an interim interest during her mourning period."