Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor were two of the most beautiful and most popular Hollywood movie stars of the 1950s and beyond. While this close proximity of fame could potentially breed competition, Reynolds and Taylor instead became fast friends and enjoyed a close relationship for years. Liz Taylor, a child star, was a seasoned professional by the time Reynolds was discovered by Warner Brothers and MGM out of high school, and according to Reynolds, the two actresses more or less grew up together in the business.
"We went to school together on the lot," said Reynolds, according to Closer Weekly. "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."
The two women remained friends as they excelled in their careers — Reynolds, notably, in Singin' In The Rain and Taylor in various films such as Giant. In 1955, Reynolds married singer Eddie Fisher, whom their son Todd Fisher still calls "the love of her life." The couple welcomed their son, Todd, and, of course, their future Star Wars movie star daughter Carrie Fisher. Taylor married her third husband, film producer Mike Todd 1957, and the two couples became close friends — so much so that Reynolds and Fisher named their son Todd in honor of Taylor's husband. Unfortunately, their dynamic friendship came to a heartbreaking end when Taylor's husband Mike Todd died in a plane crash in 1958. This accident set off a chain of events that impacted Reynolds and Taylor's life and friendship for years.
When Taylor's husband passed away, the actress was devastated. Reynolds and Fisher stepped up to support their friend — Reynolds opting to watch Taylor's children and Fisher going to Taylor's home to comfort her.
"He went with my blessing," Reynolds wrote of her husband's visits to Taylor in her memoir, Unsinkable. "The four of us were so close, I was sure he could comfort her."
However, the support Fisher gave to Taylor soon turned into an affair between them. Reynolds revealed she was the "last to know" about the affair and that she was "shattered" after finding out she had been betrayed by her soon-to-be ex-husband and best friend in the dishonorable love triangle. When the scandal became public, Taylor and Fisher both experienced fallout, with Taylor being branded a "homewrecker" and Fisher losing a TV show and record contract. Taylor and Fisher were married in 1959 but were divorced in 1964 after Taylor began an affair with her Cleopatra co-star, Richard Burton.
Former friends Reynolds and Taylor remained estranged for a number of years as they both moved on with their love lives — Reynolds with husband Harry Karl and Taylor with Burton. Then, on one fateful day in the late '60s or early '70s, Reynolds and Taylor both found themselves aboard the RMS Queen Elizabeth cruise ship to England.
"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 shared. "I almost changed my mind about going, but my husband said, 'Don't be silly.'"
Instead of fleeing the likely awkward situation, Reynolds sent a note to Taylor's room on the ship, and Taylor sent a note back suggesting they have dinner together and "get this over with." It was there that Taylor apologized for her past mistakes and the women began the rekindling of their friendship. Their reunion continued when they both starred in the TV movie, These Old Broads, written by Carrie Fisher. The film features a scene where the two women forgive one another for fighting over a man named Freddy, which closely mirrored real life.
"That was the moment they became close again," said Todd Fisher. "They literally started talking to each other for hours."
Reynolds and Taylor were able to reconcile their friendship and they remained friends up until Taylor's death in Los Angeles, California in 2011. Taylor even gave Reynolds a parting gift after her death, leaving her a sapphire necklace, bracelet, and earrings set.
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