Hollywood Heartbreak: Scandals

Not every match is made in heaven, and these break-ups made big, splashy headlines...

1. Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher

Reynolds found her footing in the industry thanks to MGM, where she completed Singin’ in the Rain and where she had school on the studio lot with Elizabeth Taylor. Reynolds and Fisher had their first official date at the Cocoanut Grove’s opening in 1954. They quickly became “America’s sweethearts” and married in 1955. But as Fisher continued his singing career and Reynolds continued acting, a divide began. It was worsened by the success of Tammy and the Bachelor, which made Eddie jealous. The final straw came after the loss of his friend, producer Mike Todd, who was married to Elizabeth Taylor. As Fisher comforted the widow, they began an affair. The scandal shocked the nation. Despite Reynolds’ desire to reconcile, Fisher married Taylor in 1959. However, his new marriage was doomed by Cleopatra when Taylor fell for her co-star Richard Burton. As for Debbie and Elizabeth, they reconciled many years later thanks to her daughter Carrie Fisher’s film These Old Broads. “I was not a woman of the world, or a passionate woman like Elizabeth,” Reynolds said. “[Eddie] was way overmatched with her but he didn’t know that, and she didn’t realize it at the time, probably because she was in despair.”

2. Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra

They first met while Gardner was married to Mickey Rooney, but Frank had her on his mind long before. After seeing her on a magazine cover in 1944, Sinatra allegedly said, “I’m gonna marry that broad.” Their first official date happened in 1948, and the pair were enraptured by each other. Gardner, at this point, had been unlucky in love – having divorced from husbands Rooney and bandleader Artie Shaw. Sinatra was married, but his roaming eye didn’t stop him from pursuing. When the public became aware, MGM was especially concerned, as it threatened to damage Ava’s rising career. Sinatra’s career, however, was declining at the time, and MGM had terminated his contract. The American public was also against it and sided with Sinatra’s wife, and Gardner received piles of mail about it. The Catholic Legion of Decency even threatened to ban her films. Despite the pushback, the pair eventually married in 1951, days after Frank’s divorce. By then, Gardner was a star thanks to the immense success of Show Boat, and she helped a struggling Sinatra land a part in From Here to Eternity, for which he would win an Academy Award. But as he found success – thanks to Eternity and his new record contract – Frank and Ava’s relationship deteriorated beyond repair, and they divorced in 1957. She said, “Now that he’s successful again he’s become his old arrogant self. We were happier when we were on the skids.”

3. Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner

When Wood saw Wagner in the commissary on the studio lot, she knew she was going to marry him. Never mind the fact that they hadn’t met yet. Still, she got a photo of him from the publicity department and held onto it. Wagner had a similar experience when they finally talked briefly at a charity function in 1956. He said, “Natalie was so beautiful… I fell head over heels in love with her, the way they wrote about it in songs.” However, their first date didn’t go well, and they saw others while they were dating. Eventually, in 1957, on the anniversary of their first date, he proposed, and they wed that same month. But as each had doubts about their careers, these fears trickled over into their marital life. By 1962, they divorced. However, after marriages to others also failed, they found themselves back in each other’s lives and remarried in 1972. However, tragedy struck in 1981 when the couple and Christopher Walken (Wood’s co-star in Brainstorm) traveled on their yacht. Natalie was found drowned days later with the cause of death eventually being labeled as accidental drowning at the time. However, due to the mysterious circumstances of her death, foul play was suspected by some, and the case was reopened...

4. Ingrid Bergman and Petter Lindstrom

Their first date was thanks to Bergman’s cousin, who asked Lindstrom to escort Ingrid to a dance, and the relationship blossomed from there. Despite doubts about marriage – he was an academic without a care for show business – the couple wed in 1937. However, the constraints of marriage and the feeling that her career was hurting after Arch of Triumph and Joan of Arc failed at the box office, Ingrid decided to take a chance. She wrote director Roberto Rossellini and expressed interest in his films and the desire to work together. They met in 1949, and the relationship slipped from professional to personal. They fell for each other, despite both being married. As news of the affair spread, Ingrid withdrew from the public and Hollywood. However, she became a national news story when word about her pregnancy broke. She was even condemned on the Congressional floor by Democrat Edwin C. Johnson. Bergman remained abroad until 20th Century Fox offered her the lead in Anastasia. Her performance warmed audiences to her comeback, and she eventually returned to continue her American film career. However, her relationships with Lindstrom and Rossellini both ended.