Feature

Eddie Fisher, 1928–2010

The singer who loved and lost Liz Taylor

With his velvet voice and boyish good looks, Eddie Fisher was a teenage heartthrob in the 1950s who sold millions of records with hits like “Wish You Were Here” and “I’m Yours.” But his real life romantic dramas, along with a tailspin into drugs, alcohol, and gambling, eclipsed his songs and ultimately buried his career. A few weeks before his death, Fisher’s daughter actress Carrie Fisher said, “My dad, he’s not the sort of bastion of good judgment, but he’s really fun.”

The son of an immigrant Jewish grocer, Fisher grew up in Philadelphia and won a radio singing contest at 13. After moving to New York, the teenager performed in Catskills hotels and was taken under the wing of comedian Eddie Cantor, who developed what Fisher later called his “golden sound.” In 1950, he recorded his first hit, “Thinking of You,” said the Los Angeles Times. In 1955, following a two-year stint in the Army, he married actress Debbie Reynolds, but “it didn’t take long for their celebrated union to fall apart.” He set off “one of the century’s biggest scandals” when he jilted Reynolds for Elizabeth Taylor, a move that would eventually “torpedo Fisher’s career and launch Taylor toward superstardom.”

That marriage lasted five years. The pair appeared together in 1960’s Butterfield 8, for which Taylor won an Oscar. But the film ended Fisher’s film career. Taylor soon left him for Richard Burton. A broken Fisher suffered a nervous breakdown and descended into gambling and drugs. Though Fisher continued to perform in Las Vegas, said Variety, “his crooner style was considered passé.”

Fisher married and divorced actress Connie Stevens, who was followed at the altar by a 21-year-old beauty queen, Terry Richard, to whom Fisher was married just 10 months. His fifth marriage, to Betty Lin, a Chinese-born businesswoman, was his longest. In 1983, he attempted a comeback tour, but he had lost his hold on his aging fans. In two memoirs—Eddie: My Life, My Loves and Been Here, Done That—Fisher said he had abandoned his career to take care of Elizabeth Taylor’s needs and had married Reynolds only because she was pregnant and it was “the proper thing.”

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