Relationships December 2021

How the World Turned Its Back on Elizabeth Taylor

No stranger to scandals and presumptuous opinions, Elizabeth Taylor has been exposed to hostility from the public on a few occasions. Perhaps the most pivotal moment, the one that turned her into a gossip columnist's daydream, was her affair with and subsequent marriage to singer Eddie Fisher. Pop media went into a frenzy constructing the narrative that Elizabeth was a home-wrecking villain too seductive to be trusted, completely ignoring the elements of grief and sadness which made their story possible.

Eddie and Elizabeth began their relationship following the tragic death of Mike Todd, Elizabeth’s husband and Eddie’s dearest friend, in 1958. Elizabeth was always very outspoken on the fact that Mike was one of the greatest loves of her life, and the torment of heartache she experienced after his passing was unimaginable. Facing similar circumstances over the loss of his close companion, Eddie grew close to Elizabeth, the only person who could understand his pain. At the time, Eddie was married to actress Debbie Reynolds who was often regarded as America’s Sweetheart and they were adored by the public as a couple. However, even before Mike’s passing, the two were not emotionally connected, with Eddie once saying that they were never in love and had discussed divorce a number of times before Elizabeth came into the picture. Eddie’s struggles divided them even further, leading him to rely on Elizabeth for understanding and support. Their relationship deepened from a sense of shared trauma and they began their romantic relationship shortly thereafter.

While the press had been tearing apart Elizabeth for her assumed role in Eddie’s infidelity and painting her as a malicious seductress for quite some time, the fight became up-close and personal before one of Eddie’s performances at The Tropicana in Las Vegas. On April 1st, Eddie and Elizabeth announced that they were to be married as Debbie Renolds agreed to a divorce. The next day before Eddie’s second performance at the venue, a group of picketers appeared outside, toting signs reading “Liz Go Home”, “Keep the Marriage Vows Liz, Leave Town,” and other such messages which showed no compassion for the grieving widow’s painful situation.

The public did not ease up on their opinions of Elizabeth until she became deathly ill with pneumonia, requiring an emergency tracheotomy in 1961. Unfortunately, she would again come to suffer from a lack of empathy and public speculation surrounding her following relationship with Richard Burton, but she never backed down from the fight for love. As she is famously quoted, “I am a survivor - a living example of what people can go through and survive.”