Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor were best friends until the latter ran off with the former’s husband in the 1950s. Years later, in 1966, the two women found themselves on the same ocean liner together.
“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,” Reynolds once recalled. “I almost changed my mind about going, but my husband said, ‘Don’t be silly.’”
Instead of trying to run away from this situation, Reynolds decided that it was time to make peace.
“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,” remembered Reynolds, who accepted the invitation. “She’d moved along in her life, and so had I.”
Reynolds and Taylor were teenagers when they met on the lot at MGM Studios.
“We went to school together on the lot,” Reynolds explained “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.”
Reynolds married Eddie Fisher in 1955, and they immediately became America’s sweethearts.
“There’s no doubt my father was the love of her life,” their son, Todd Fisher, recently told Closer Weekly. “I know how much they loved each other.”
When Taylor married her third husband Michael Todd in 1957, Reynolds and Fisher were their witnesses. They were all devastated the next year, when Todd was killed in a plane crash.
Worrying about Taylor, Reynolds agreed to watch her three children, and sent Fisher over to her home to comfort her.
“He went with my blessing,” Reynolds wrote in her 2013 memoir “Unsinkable.” “The four of us were so close, I was sure he could comfort her.”
Taylor and Fisher soon began having an affair, and Reynolds was devastated when she found out what was happening.
“I was the last to find out,” she admitted. “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.”
Fisher divorced Reynolds and married Taylor, who would go on to leave him in 1964 for the actor Richard Burton. By the time Reynolds and Taylor met up on the ship, they had each moved on with their lives.
“My mother was a class act,” said Reynolds’ son Todd. “She handled it with such grace.”
“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,” Todd added, saying that Taylor described it as “a tragic rebound off of the death of the love of her life, Mike Todd.”
Todd will never forget once taking a private plane with his mother and Taylor to an AIDS march in San Francisco.
“It was fun to see them together again,” he said. “It was magical. The forgiveness that took place between them was important.”
By the time Taylor died in 2011, she and Reynolds were close friends who would have long conversations with one another over the phone.
“People always assume you’re going to carry a grudge, but I don’t do that,” said Reynolds, who passed away in 2016. “We passed through that with time.”