Before Brad, Angelina, and Jennifer there was Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds, and Eddie Fisher

Will Lerner
Producer, Yahoo Entertainment

Well before the romantic escapades of Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt, and Angelia Jolie, another love triangle captured the attention of the American public. In the late 1950s, “Oh! My Papa” crooner Eddie Fisher left wife and Singin’ in the Rain star Debbie Reynolds and their two children, Carrie (yes, that Carrie) and Todd, to marry the recently widowed Elizabeth Taylor.

In his new memoir, My Girls, Todd Fisher doesn’t shy away from the drama surrounding his parents’ dramatic split. In fact, that’s how he starts his book. Fisher came to Yahoo Entertainment’s Los Angeles studios to talk about the time his famous dad left his famous mom for another famous actress.

Debbie & Eddie

Reynolds and Fisher’s romance began in the early 1950s, uniting two A-list celebrities of the day. “Well, you know, my mother was a fairly big movie star at the time,” said Fisher, speaking of mom Debbie Reynolds. “Now, over here in the other court is Eddie Fisher, who is in another world.”

Although he may not be as well-remembered today, Eddie Fisher was once one of Hollywood’s top entertainers, a singer with over 30 hits and millions of records sold. “At one point in his life he had more hits than the Beatles and Elvis combined,” Todd told Yahoo Entertainment.

Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher cut the wedding cake following their nuptials in 1955 in the Catskills. Their 15-month romance was climaxed by a three-minute civil ceremony. (Photo: Getty Images)

Fisher and Reynolds met overseas while entertaining the troops during the Korean War. “So while [my mom is] there, my father happens to be there, and he sees her performing. He says to his best friend, ‘I’m going to get that girl.’ And of course he does.”

In 1955, Reynolds, 23, and Fisher, 27, married. The press chronicled their every move and celebrated in October 1956 when Reynolds gave birth to daughter Carrie.

Debbie & Eddie and Liz & Mike

Famous people often have famous friends. Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor had long been confidantes, even before they became superstars.

“My mother was best friends with Elizabeth Taylor,” Fisher continued. “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.”

Elizabeth Taylor and film producer Mike Todd’s 1957 wedding. Debbie Reynolds, matron of honor, is holding the flowers in the center of the photo, while Eddie Fisher is to her right in the white suit. (Photo: Getty Images)

Fisher was also close to Taylor’s third husband, Mike Todd. Todd was a theatrical and movie producer, winning an Academy Award in 1957 for Around the World in 80 Days.

Aside from the four going on vacations together, Fisher was Todd’s best man at his wedding (with Debbie serving as matron of honor to Elizabeth). The bond was so real that Debbie and Eddie’s son, Todd, was named after Mike. The calculus changed, however, when Mike Todd died tragically in a plane crash in New Mexico in 1958.

Eddie & Liz

As Carrie Fisher put it in her one-woman show, Wishful Drinking, when Mike Todd died, her father “rushed to [Elizabeth Taylor’s] side, gradually moving to her front.” Eddie Fisher divorced Reynolds and married Elizabeth Taylor in 1959.

“There was outrage,” Fisher told Yahoo Entertainment. “My dad had like contracts canceled for morality clauses. … It literally ruined his career. I mean, it just wiped him out. Liz kind of came out a little better, sort of unscathed.”

Eddie Fisher and Elizabeth Taylor kiss after marrying in Las Vegas on May 12, 1959. Earlier in the day, Fisher had obtained his divorce from Debbie Reynolds. (Photo: Getty Images)

Eventually, Fisher and Taylor wound up divorcing and then marrying anew. In the years that passed, Reynolds and Taylor regained their friendship and remained friends until Taylor passed away in 2011. While Todd Fisher was very young when his parents’ marriage was torpedoed by his father, he says it was tough on sister Carrie.

“Carrie was in the middle of it, and it affected her,” Fisher shared. “She would sit by the window waiting for my dad to show up.”

We asked Fisher if he was reticent to write about this tale from his life. “Well sure,” Fisher responded. “I mean, I don’t tell every story. … There’s nothing about life, especially our lives, that’s simple.”

Watch Todd Fisher describe Carrie Fisher’s anxiety before the premiere of Star Wars:

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