How Elizabeth Taylor Endangered Her Friendship With Debbie Reynolds

Love triangles, more often than not, can get pretty sharp around the edges. Confusion, jealousy, spite, and bitterness are the primary agents of chaos at play, and it goes without saying that someone almost always gets hurt. When Elizabeth Taylor married Eddie Fisher in 1959, one such jagged axis of heartbreak and convolution arose. Prior to that union, Taylor was married to Mike Todd and Fisher was married to Debbie Reynolds. The couples were close friends. After Mike Todd died in 1958, a scandalous affair surfaced between Taylor and Fisher that became a tabloid frenzy (via Showbiz Cheat Sheet). 

To make things even more complicated, Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor were close friends when the latter began secretly seeing Reynolds' husband. Eddie Fisher stepped aside from his present marriage to begin his courtship with Taylor, leaving behind Reynolds and their two children: Todd and future "Star Wars" icon Carrie Fisher, both of whom were toddlers at the time of the split (per Showbiz Cheat Sheet). 

How Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Reynolds became friends

"We went to school together on the lot, when she was in between films. 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," Debbie Reynolds told People in 2015, just one year before her death. Taylor, who was more or less a seasoned professional at that point, had been acting since childhood, and Reynolds was just getting her bearings. The two reportedly attended acting classes together at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and became close throughout that time (via Wide Open Country).

In coming years, Reynolds' career took off and Elizabeth Taylor continued her saga in the limelight. They remained good friends, and media outlets grew to adore the dynamic duo. Debbie Reynolds married celebrated singer Eddie Fisher in 1955, and two years later, Elizabeth Taylor entered into a marriage with her third husband, film producer Mike Todd. The four became so close that Fisher and Reynolds even named their son Todd, after Mike Todd. All seemed well on the domestic front for the iconic quartet, but tragedy struck like a lightening bolt in 1958 when a plane crash took Mike Todd's life (per Wide Open Country).

Two weddings and a funeral

Devastation usurped what was once a happy saga of romance and close friendship as Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds, and Eddie Fisher grieved the loss of a member of their circle. In the spirit of consolation, Fisher began visiting Taylor to check in on her well-being. What perhaps had started as a gesture of good will soon became an affair that resulted in Fisher leaving Reynolds and running off to marry Elizabeth Taylor in 1959, one year after Mike Todd's untimely death (via Showbiz Cheat Sheet). 

Todd Fisher described the aftermath of the scandal as a "tabloid feeding frenzy" in his 2018 memoir "My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie." In the years after, Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor became estranged. It seemed that their friendship had reached its end entirely, but in 1966, they cast aside whatever animosity lingered between them and mended their broken ties (via Showbiz Cheat Sheet). 

All's well that ends well

"A man doesn't leave a woman for another woman unless he wants to go," Debbie Reynolds shared in later years. "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." Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher were only married five years before they called it quits in 1964, so the courtship was well-deceased by the time the two women ran into each other on a cruise ship in 1966 (per Showbiz Cheat Sheet). 

Said Debby, "I sent a note to her and she sent a note to me in passing, and then we had dinner together. She was married to Richard Burton by then. I had been remarried at that point. And we just said, 'Let's call it a day.' And we got smashed. And we had a great evening, and stayed friends since then," Reynolds explained. The two remained near and dear up until Elizabeth's Taylor's death in 2011, even appearing in a made-for-TV comedy together, "These Old Broads," in 2001 (via Vogue).