The Truth About Debbie Reynolds' Marriages

When Debbie Reynolds passed away in December 2016 — just one day after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher — the world mourned "one of the last of the Hollywood royalty" (via BBC). Reynolds' first big break came in the form of a beauty pageant — Her title of Miss Burbank also came with a contract with Warner Bros. She was only 16 at the time.

In 1952, Reynolds won over Americans' hearts with her breakout role in Singin' in the Rain, starring as Kathy Selden, alongside leading man Gene Kelly. From then on, Reynolds was a household name, going on to appear in How the West Was Won, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and The Second Time Around. Later on, Reynolds became known to a new generation thanks to her roles in the Disney channel original movie Halloweentown and on Will and Grace.

Reynolds was known for taking on characters in comedies and musicals, including ones with a cheery disposition. "Drama's unhappy, and playing someone unhappy would make me unhappy," she told The Boston Globe in 1990. "Ain't for me, honey" (via New York Times). Sadly, her off-screen life was far more complicated than that of her girl-next-door characters.

A Hollywood scandal

In 1955, Debbie Reynolds married popular singer Eddie Fisher. Not long after, Reynolds gave birth to daughter Carrie in 1956 and son Todd in 1958. Publicly, Fisher and Reynolds were "America's Sweethearts" (via Vanity Fair), but privately, the two had marital struggles from the very beginning.

"He didn't think I was funny," Reynolds wrote of Fisher in her 1988 autobiography, Debbie: My Life. "I wasn't good in bed. I didn't make good gefilte fish or good chopped liver. So what did he have? A cute little girl next door with a little turned-up nose. That was, in fact, all he actually ever said he wanted from me. The children, he said, better have your nose" (via New York Times).

What happened next is the stuff of Hollywood legend. Reynolds and Fisher were best friends with married couple Mike Todd and Elizabeth Taylor, even serving as bridesmaid and best man at their nuptials. When Todd died tragically in a plane crash in 1958, Fisher gave Taylor a shoulder to cry on...and then, a whole lot more than that.

The public sided with Reynolds when Fisher left her and the two kids for Taylor, casting Reynolds as the woman spurned and Taylor as the wanton adulteress. Ultimately, Taylor and Fisher's union would be short-lived, and thanks to a fated reunion on the Queen Elizabeth ship, Reynolds would eventually forgive her former friend many years later (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Debbie Reynolds' other marriages

Following her divorce from Eddie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds would go on to remarry twice more. In 1960, Reynolds wed Harry Karl, a shoe magnate and owner of Karl Shoes. Per Reynolds' friend Ruta Lee, Reynolds picked Karl because she thought he'd make a good father figure for her children (via Fox News). However, Reynolds' union to Karl proved to be a difficult one. Karl reportedly gambled away $100 million of their combined wealth, and when they divorced in 1973, Reynolds was saddled with his $3 million in debt.

Daughter Carrie Fisher would later joke that Reynolds took a part in a musical in New York City in order to get out of the marriage, "which in Hollywood is a legal way to get out" (via Footwear News).

Reynolds's third and final marriage came in 1984 to real estate developer Richard Hamlett, who, like Karl before him, proved to be a "source of significant financial turmoil" (via Biography). The two were married for 11 years, divorcing in 1996.

Although Reynolds' marriages did have their fair share of strife, she is perhaps best known for the relationship she shared with her daughter, Carrie Fisher. Their love for each other, with all of its ups and downs, was forever immortalized in Fisher's novel and subsequent film, Postcards from the Edge.