Carrie Fisher had a high-profile affair with Harrison Ford that she kept secret for decades. Her mother, actress Debbie Reynolds, didn’t know about it until Carrie’s memoir, The Princess Diarist, was published in 2016. And she didn’t approve of her daughter sharing such a private story.
That perhaps could have been because of the even higher profile love triangle Reynolds was thrown into in 1959, when her husband, Eddie Fisher, left her for Elizabeth Taylor.
Think of the Eddie Fisher and Elizabeth Taylor affair as the 1950s version of Brangelina. And in this scenario, Reynolds was Jennifer Aniston. But the main difference between the two Hollywood scandals was that Reynolds and Taylor were good friends before it all happened.
Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor went to high school together
Reynolds knew Taylor long before she got married. Both being employed by MGM, the actresses were high school classmates on the film studio’s lot. Reynolds told People in 2015 that Taylor was already a star by the time they met, and she was captivated by her.
“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,” the Halloweentown alum said. “And if anyone said they weren’t, then they were lying. Or blind.”
Reynolds’ star rose to meet Taylor’s when she starred in 1952’s Singin’ In The Rain, and Fisher was a star in his own right, charting 17 Top 10 songs such as “Thinking Of You” and “Lady of Spain.” When they got married in 1955, they became America’s sweethearts. Carrie was born in 1956, and her brother, Todd Fisher, was born in 1958. Reynolds and the Cleopatra star remained close friends throughout this time.
Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher named their son after Elizabeth Taylor’s third husband
Taylor married film producer Mike Todd (her third husband) in 1957, and the two couples were incredibly close. In fact, Reynolds and Fisher were the Matron of Honor and Best Man in Taylor and Todd’s wedding, and their son was named after the film producer. Todd died unexpectedly in a plane crash just one month after Reynolds and Fisher’s son was born, and it was Reynolds herself who sent her husband to console the mourning Taylor.
Decades after his death, Reynolds told People how she felt in hindsight about encouraging her husband to go to Taylor, according to Biography.
“You know, when Mike Todd died, I sent Eddie to help Elizabeth,” she said. “I don’t think she ever really loved Eddie. He was an interim interest during her mourning period.”
Eddie Fisher divorced Debbie Reynolds and married Elizabeth Taylor on the same day
In his 2018 memoir, My Girls: A Lifetime With Carrie and Debbie, Todd Fisher described this complicated affair as an “insane tabloid feeding frenzy.” Indeed, the entire ordeal was one big Hollywood mess, one that was the main subject of countless gossip magazines for months.
Reynolds and Taylor’s careers soared even higher as a result of the affair, but according to Todd, his father’s career took a massive and irreparable hit after he left Reynolds. His reputation was ruined because he not only broke up America’s favorite couple, but he also did it when his children were babies, leaving Reynolds behind as a single mother.
To add insult to injury, Fisher and Taylor’s relationship was extremely public, even before his divorce from the Unsinkable Molly Brown actress was finalized. Fisher and Taylor got married on May 12, 1959, literal moments after his divorce with Reynolds was finalized. They had photographers present.
Fisher paid a price for his public infidelity. Carrie’s brother told Yahoo Entertainment in 2018 “there was outrage” surrounding his father’s affair.
“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.”
The affair had a longterm effect on Carrie’s life as well. As she explained in The Princess Diarist, her father abandoning them created an estranged relationship between the two. That relationship contributed to Carrie’s attraction to unavailable men, like Ford, who was married with two children during their three-month affair on the Star Wars set.
Time healed all wounds, however. And Carrie was publicly grateful for Taylor’s role in her life. She presented the icon with an award at the 2000 GLAAD awards, saying in her introduction, “The best thing Elizabeth Taylor did for me was to get Eddie Fisher out of our house.”
Taylor famously married four more men after her torrid affair with Fisher. Reynolds and Taylor went on to mend their friendship, and even co-starred in 2001’s These Old Broads—a TV movie written by Carrie that was all about two women reigniting their friendship after one of them steals the other’s husband, named…Freddy.