Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Retro Scandals: When Eddie Fisher Dumped Debbie Reynolds

Eddie Fisher died last week at the age of 82. As a 1950s teen idol, Fisher was popular with the teeny bopper set and had a crazy amount of chart-topping hits including Any Time, Tell Me Why, Wish You Were Here, and Oh! My Pa-Pa. Yet he is probably going to be best remembered for the train wreck he caused when he dumped his wife Debbie Reynolds for Elizabeth Taylor in the late 50s. In my opinion, the minute he kissed Taylor the first nail had been driven into the coffin of his once lucrative career, and it was the beginning of lifelong strained relationships with his children. When his death was announced last week, a clip of Carrie Fisher giving a speech was shown in which she said, "The best thing Elizabeth Taylor did for us was get Eddie Fisher out of our house." 

Perhaps if Mike Todd, Taylor's third husband, hadn't had died, the fairy tale ending might have turned out differently. Some say that Todd was the love of Taylor's life. When he died in a plane crash after only 13 months of marriage, Fisher - who with Debbie Reynolds often doubled dated with Taylor and Todd - was there to console Taylor. A big mistake. As a couple, Fisher and Reynolds made a cutesy pre-Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee pairing. Reynolds was the original "America's Sweetheart", and America - or at least, Hollywood - did not act kindly when Fisher dumped her for femme fatale Taylor (whom Fisher described as "Sexually she was every man's dream. She had the face of an angel and the morals of a truck driver.")

For Fisher, whose image had always been promoted as squeaky clean, it was a mistake that would haunt him for the rest of his life. RCA dropped him in 1960, and NBC canceled his TV series a year earlier due to the affair. After Taylor left him for Richard Burton in 1962 (after filming Cleopatra), Fisher succombed to drug use and gambling, finally entering The Betty Ford Clinic in 1990 to sober up. He went on to marry three more times, with Connie Stevens being another famous wife, and had a total of four children.

Such was a time when the public and Hollywood held its stars up to higher behavior standards compared to today, but what I find most remarkable about the affair is that Fisher's career tanked while Taylor's continued to rise. Does it not take two people to tango?

Whenever the break-up comes up in an interview, Reynolds has never been anything but classy when speaking about her ex-husband. In fact, she reconciled with Taylor and starred with her in a 2001 TV movie that her daughter Carrie Fisher wrote called These Old Broads, in which the actresses, along with Shirley MacLaine and Joan Collins, play the ex-wives of a man called "Freddie", an intentional nod to Fisher (who complained about the film on Entertainment Tonight, lamenting that the female stars "made fun of my body.") 

A Mad Magazine fake ad, with Reynolds and Taylor lookalikes mocking Fisher
A fitting final tribute, in my opinion.

5 comments:

Mimi said...

Hi Pam!! Just getting caught up on your awesome blog. I've been out of the loop for a while and have missed a lot of your posts. Can't believe how much we think alike. Wish we could go out for coffee sometime :-)

PS: Thanks for posting the Basia video. I loved her so much when I was about 20, and hearing that song brought back so many happy memories!

Amanda By Night said...

What a scalliwag! I only a little bit about his romantic background, so thanks for this. It's interesting that Hollywood embraced Taylor and not him, like you said. I think it's kind of cool that they went the way of the woman, instead of the other way around. I wouldn't be surprised if people were just fed up with Fisher's antics in general.

Marlene said...

OOOh...I didn't know all that about him!!! Aaack!! Creeper!

Pam@GoRetro said...

You know what's interesting, ladies...I was watching a clip of Reynolds and Fisher on "What's My Line?" on YouTube and the viewer comments were really catty towards Reynolds instead of being sympathetic. They said she was a talentless star who hooked her cart to Fisher to become famous. Really disheartening as she did give him two children - that has to count for something? I really don't get people sometimes...

SUZY8-TRACK said...

I think the main reason that Eddie Fisher was called a cad and Elizabeth Taylor remained unscathed was perhaps the fact that she was a widow and he took advantage of her in her fragile state.

Link Within

Blog Widget by LinkWithin