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FLASHBACK EXCLUSIVE: Debbie Reynolds recalls marriage to Eddie Fisher and his affair with Elizabeth Taylor

ETOnline logo ETOnline 29/12/2016 Jackie Willis
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Debbie Reynolds found herself caught in a widely publicised love triangle in the 1950s when her then-husband, singer Eddie Fisher, had an affair with their longtime friend, Elizabeth Taylor.

In 1958, Reynolds and Fisher were one of Hollywood's hottest couples, along with Taylor and her then-husband, producer Mike Todd. The couples were inseparable at the time, with Fisher serving as Todd's best man and Reynolds being Taylor's matron of honour.

That all changed in 1958 when Todd died in a plane crash. Taylor soon struck up a romance with Fisher, which led to Reynolds divorcing her husband in 1959, and Fisher and Taylor getting married that same year.

In 1988, ET spoke with Reynolds -- who was promoting her autobiography, Debbie: My Life, at the time -- about her marriage to Fisher and how it all ended. "We, at that point in our marriage, were happily married. We had a wonderful son and daughter [Todd and Carrie Fisher]," she recalled of her relationship with Fisher before his affair. "But, obviously, I was incorrect about that, you know? Again, that was my viewpoint. I was happy, I was in love, but obviously he was not."

The Singin' in the Rain actress added, "[Eddie]'s like a good race horse: he gets off really, really good, and then he loses the race."

Reynolds said that it felt like she was the last one to know about her husband's romance with Taylor, and remembered the moment she found out that they were seeing each other. "We were all the best of friends, so there's nothing wrong with that. So, to my mind, there was nothing wrong with that," she said. "Then, I went to a party -- a dinner party -- and everyone was sort of whispering, like, 'Does she know...' And I wanted to know what they were whispering about, but nobody would tell me what they were whispering about, so I figured it was about me. So, then I put two and two together, because I could hear that certain [words], 'Eddie' and 'Elizabeth' and such."

That's when Reynolds said she called Fisher, who was in New York with Taylor. "It takes a long time to realise a situation is for real, and then you finally face it," she noted. "Then you realize that is what is happening, dummy, and just hang up the phone and let him come home and discuss it."

Reynolds also opened up about why she thought Fisher got together with Taylor so soon after Todd's death. "Eddie always wanted to be Mike Todd. He always wanted to be just like Mike. Outgoing, and everybody loved Mike. Mike was an entrepreneur and a great producer, and that was really what Eddie wanted to be. So, when Mike passed on, Eddie became Mike," she explained. "He started smoking cigars, he started drinking. He had never drank, never smoked cigars, you know? And all of a sudden, he just took on this other personality. Well, naturally, Elizabeth, who was deeply mourning, was attracted to Eddie."

"At the time, I thought it was simply that he was filling this terrible void for her, and totally friendship, which turned into another issue, but I really don't think that she pursued that," Reynolds said of Taylor. "I mean, that was Eddie wanting everything that Mike Todd had -- and to be Mike Todd. Didn't work out. You can't be somebody else."

Fisher and Taylor divorced in 1964.

Despite having an affair with her husband, Reynolds didn't seem to have hard feelings towards Taylor, whom she'd been friends with since a young age. "It took a long time for all the lives to be brought together again, including Elizabeth, including Eddie and myself. I mean, it's just something we went through, and it wasn't good for any of us," she said. "Their marriage wasn't any good for them, that fell apart. The ending of ours, later years, I mean, I really owe Elizabeth a favor for breaking that whole situation. But I don't blame her for the break, I blame Eddie for the break. Maybe I stick with women."

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Reynolds added, "I feel that Elizabeth needed desperately a replacement of Mike Todd, and in Eddie that's what she had. She didn't intend to go out and destroy me, or any other woman. ...That's what she needed at that time, and naturally that's a little bit selfish. But isn't the end of every love affair selfish? Or the beginning, selfish?"

Talks of Reynolds' love triangle have resurfaced after she died on Wednesday, one day after the death of her and Fisher's 60-year-old daughter, Carrie Fisher. Reynolds was 84.

Fisher died in September 2010 at 82, and Taylor died in March 2011 at 79.

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