Adding insult to injury, the crooner reportedly stopped providing for their two children, Carrie and Todd Fisher, after he walked out. The Hollywood power couple had been married from 1955 until 1959.
“It was a big surprise to Debbie,” Reynolds’ close friend Ruta Lee told Closer Weekly for the magazine’s latest issue currently on newsstands.
“Even though she was a big star, she was still a young girl,” continued the 83-year-old. “He never sent any money, so I found it a little scary.”
According to the actress, America’s Sweetheart was later comforted by businessman Harry Karl, a man she believed would be an ideal father figure for her children.
“She wanted a good father to her children because Eddie was not,” said Lee. “So she picked an older man that was like her dad who could take care of them.”
Reynolds and Karl were married from 1960 until 1973. And while things initially looked promising for Reynolds, she suffered another major setback in her private life. The magazine claimed Karl eventually began dipping into Reynolds’ savings to gamble and spend money on prostitutes. He reportedly ended up spending $100 million of his and Reynolds’ wealth during their 13-year marriage. Once they called it quits, Reynolds was then stuck with a $3 million bill from Harry’s creditors.
Reynolds found love once more with real estate entrepreneur Richard Hamlett. That union lasted from 1984 until 1996. However, Lee alleged that, like Karl, Hamlett was also stealing money from Reynolds and lying about it during their marriage.
Lee also alleged behavior had gotten so bad that one of Reynolds’ employees had enough and submitted her letter of resignation.
“She told me, ‘I can’t stand the lying that is going on,’” recalled Lee. “Her husband is taking money for his personal use and not accounting for it.”
“He really did her wrong,” continued Lee. “Her last divorce was especially devastating because she [believed] it was her last chance to find happiness with a man.”
Closer Weekly shared that in 1997, Reynolds finally declared bankruptcy after she had to pay Richard $270,000 in their divorce to buy out his interest in the Las Vegas casino they’d purchased together.
Reynolds would go on to detail her tumultuous marriages in the 2013 memoir “Unsinkable.”
Despite her personal woes, Reynolds remained resilient.
“She was a brave little gal,” said Lee. “She never moaned or cried the blues… Any woman would have felt defeated at that point, but that was the Miss Texas in Debbie. She had that tenacity.”
In 2018, Todd revealed in his memoir “My Girls” that Taylor and Reynolds reconciled after they bumped into each other while on vacation in 1966. This was long after Taylor and Fisher ended their marriage in 1964. By then she was married to actor Richard Burton.
“It seems that, by pure coincidence, mom and (new husband) Harry had found themselves on the same cruise ship (ironically, the Queen Elizabeth) as Richard and Elizabeth,” Todd described. “The four of them had dinner together on the ship, to the hysterical glee of the tabloids, and Elizabeth and Richard were welcome… from that night on.”
Taylor would also go on to become friends with Reynolds’ children.
“She immediately took my hand and pulled me down to sit beside her, and for the next hour she talked, in extreme detail, about nothing but how much she’d loved Mike Todd and how, no matter how many other loves might come along, she was sure no one ever measured up to him,” said Todd about one of their several encounters.
“I sat there and listened, not especially interested but a little fascinated that this woman, who’d technically been my stepmother for about ten minutes (OK, to be accurate, more like five years) and who, along with my father, had dealt my mother one of the most devastating betrayals of her life, seemed to feel connected to me, maybe because I was named after the greatest love of her life.”
Todd also revealed Reynolds vividly remembered how she and Taylor reflected on their past. That moment took place while on the set of 2011’s “These Old Broads.”
“Elizabeth asked mom to come to her dressing room,” wrote Todd. “Mom sat down beside her, and Elizabeth got right to the point, with tears in her eyes. ‘Debbie,’ she said. ‘I’m so sorry for what I did to you with Eddie.’ It caught mom off guard that Elizabeth was still so emotional about it, and she pointed out, meaning it, ‘That was another lifetime. You and I made up years ago.’ Elizabeth’s voice broke. ‘I just feel so awful when I think of how I hurt you and your children.’
“Mom’s voice broke too when she told me about that conversation. She and Elizabeth spent some nice time together during the filming of ‘These Old Broads’ – they even spent an evening sitting in Elizabeth’s bed watching a movie and eating a pumpkin pie mom brought for the occasion. Mom always marveled that it was Carrie’s script that made those moments possible for two women who, despite being at the center of the greatest, most painful tabloid scandal of the 1950s, never really stopped loving each other.”