Inside Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor’s Journey Through Friendship, Betrayal and Forgiveness

In 1966, Debbie Reynolds and her second husband were in New York waiting to board the RMS Queen Elizabeth to England when she spotted the baggage. “I saw tons of luggage going by me and birdcages and dog cages and nurses, and I realized Elizabeth [Taylor] was on the same ship as me,” she remembered. “I almost changed my mind about going, but my husband said, ‘Don’t be silly.’”

Seven years after Elizabeth Taylor had run off with Debbie’s first husband, singer Eddie Fisher, the two actresses and former friends found themselves trapped together on an ocean liner. “I sent a note to her room, and she sent a note back to mine saying that we should have dinner and get this over with and have a good time,” recalled Debbie, who accepted the invitation. “She’d moved along in her life, and so had I.”

Elizabeth, who began acting at age 9, was already a star when she and a teenage Debbie met at MGM Studios. “We went to school together on the lot,” recalled Debbie. “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.”

Debbie, of course, would go on to become a star too, in classic films like 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain. Three years later, she wed teen idol Eddie Fisher, and the couple was hailed as America’s sweethearts. “There’s no doubt my father was the love of her life,” the couple’s son, Todd Fisher, exclusively tells Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “I know how much they loved each other.”


When Elizabeth married her third husband, Michael Todd, in 1957, Debbie and Eddie were their witnesses. The foursome were so tight that Debbie and Eddie named their son Todd after Elizabeth’s husband. So it’s little surprise that Mike’s sudden death in a plane crash a year later left all of them devastated. Debbie generously offered to watch Elizabeth’s three children and sent Eddie over to her house to keep an eye on her. “He went with my blessing,” Debbie wrote in her 2013 memoir, Unsinkable. “The four of us were so close, I was sure he could comfort her.”

The affair that began between Elizabeth and Eddie would turn Debbie’s world upside down. “I was the last to find out,” she confessed. “There had been hints in the papers, and I had noticed that when I turned up at functions or parties on my own, my friends were whispering. … Even so, it was a great shock to find them together. I was shattered.”

The public took Debbie’s side of the scandal and branded Elizabeth a homewrecker. Eddie came off even worse. His self-titled TV series was canceled. He also lost his recording contract. “My father accused [Debbie] of turning the public against him, but it was just his behavior that caused that,” says Todd, a witness to his father’s callous actions. “I have a telegram from when I was 2 from ‘Liz and Eddie’ wishing me a happy birthday,” he says. “Why would anybody send a telegram to a 2-year-old? The answer is to [mess] with Debbie! My father was prone to that behavior. Liz didn’t even know about it.”

Of course, Elizabeth and Eddie’s marriage didn’t last — she left him for Richard Burton in 1964. By the time Debbie and Elizabeth met up on the ship, they had both moved on. “My mother was a class act,” says Todd, who released a memoir, My Girls: A Lifetime With Carrie and Debbie, in 2018. “She handled it with such grace.”


Elizabeth, meanwhile, sought forgiveness, not just from Debbie but from the children who had been hurt by Debbie and Eddie’s divorce. “Many years later, Liz insisted on telling me in great detail the whole story of what she was feeling when she went off with my dad,” says Todd, who explains that Elizabeth called it “a tragic rebound off of the death of the love of her life, Mike Todd.”

Debbie’s older child, Carrie Fisher, also accepted Elizabeth’s apology. She even helped bring the former friends closer by writing These Old Broads, a 2001 TV movie about aging actresses that Debbie and Elizabeth agreed to star in. The movie included a scene where their characters forgive each other for fighting over an ex-lover named “Freddy.” “That was the moment they became close again,” says Todd. “They literally started talking to each other for hours.”

Todd recalls taking a private plane to an AIDS march in San Francisco with his mother and Elizabeth. “It was fun to see them together again,” he says to Closer. “It was magical. The forgiveness that took place between them was important.” And that bond remained intact for the rest of their lives. “People always assume you’re going to carry a grudge, but I don’t do that,” said Debbie, who visited her friend often in the last months of her life and was bequeathed a matching sapphire necklace, bracelet and earrings set by Elizabeth following her 2011 death. “We passed through that with time.”

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