They were the chirpy white hopes of wholesome Eisenhower-era values. When ”Thinking of You” crooner Eddie Fisher, 27, and Singin’ in the Rain starlet Debbie Reynolds, 23, exchanged vows on Sept. 26, 1955, they took their place among Hollywood’s perfect couples. Heck, even their dimples matched.
Perfection, alas, is hard to maintain. Even before Eddie shocked the nation three years later by leaving Debbie for Liz Taylor, the couple knew they were making a mistake. ”There was so much press we more or less felt obligated to get married,” recalls Fisher, who still remembers feeling ”shock” on his wedding day. ”I think Debbie was trying to figure out a way to get out of it, too.”
Through the births of two children, Carrie in 1956 and Todd in 1958, the couple considered divorce, then went for broke soon after Todd was born, when Eddie’s consolation of Liz (the recent widow of Fisher’s best friend, producer Mike Todd) turned to romance. Debbie sued for divorce, Eddie became Liz’s fourth husband, and the ensuing headline blizzard still makes the Woody-and-Mia storm look like a mild flurry.
Ironically, Debbie won the war. Mass public support for her (Reynolds wailed that Liz had wrecked her ”ideal” marriage) catapulted Debbie into the $1-million-a-year range, making her one of the few actresses in Liz’s income bracket. Fisher’s newly rotten image, however, cost him his NBC variety show. And all this tsuris for nothing: Liz took up with Richard Burton four years later.
Debbie and Eddie never quite made up. Years later, says Eddie, Debbie groused to him, ”Why didn’t you just f— her?” At least daughter Carrie has kept a sense of humor about the whole thing. During a Labor Day family reunion this month in Carmel, Calif., she covered the walls with old fanzine covers chronicling her parents’ split. And how did Mom and Dad get along? ”Oh, Debbie and I just do not,” says Eddie. ”We’re fire and water.”
Time Capsule: September 26, 1955
Mitch Miller’s ”The Yellow Rose of Texas” was No. 1 for the fourth week, Sloan Wilson dressed up the best-seller lists with The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, and The $64,000 Question was TV’s big winner.