Truly, what a queen! Henry VIII may have had six spouses but Elizabeth Taylor has him beat — and was surely a much nicer spouse overall. Please join us as we revisit all the weddings of Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky. She was also engaged to, but did not marry: William Pawley Jr, lawyer Victor Luna, and businessman Dennis Stein. Fun fact, she also dated Anthony Geary, AKA Luke on General Hospital, and if ever there were a person who could roll with married a woman with that many ex-husbands, surely it’s a soap opera star. They met on set:
WHAT A DAME.
Actually, I have many fun facts, which I shall divide by husband, and many of which are courtesy of my best friend, Lord Wiki Pedia and Ms Taylor’s very very robust “Personal Life” section:
1. 1950: Nicky Hilton, whom she married at 18, mostly (from my reading of things) because she wanted to get out of the house and away from the control of her parents and MGM, which still completely organized the wedding. Per Wiki, “In the weeks after their wedding, Taylor realized that she had made a mistake; not only did she and Hilton have few interests in common, but he was also abusive and a heavy drinker. She was granted a divorce in January 1951, eight months after their wedding.”
2. 1952: Michael Wilding, who was much older than she was. “Taylor found their age gap appealing, as she wanted ‘the calm and quiet and security of friendship’ from their relationship; he hoped that the marriage would aid his career in Hollywood…As Taylor grew older and more confident in herself, she began to drift apart from Wilding, whose failing career was also a source of marital strife. When she was away filming Giant in 1955, gossip magazine Confidential caused a scandal by claiming that he had entertained strippers at their home. Taylor and Wilding announced their separation on July 18, 1956, and were divorced in January, 1957.” Honestly, even just this paragraph makes me loathe him. Sir, did you ever really think you were going to be more famous or more successful than Ms. Elizabeth Taylor? Acting out by having strippers at your marital home, while she’s off working? SIT DOWN.
3. 1957: Mike Todd, who Elizabeth married a month after her divorce from Wilding was final, and who of course tragically died in a plane crash barely a year after their wedding. She always said she adored him and he was her favorite of all her husbands, but I tend to think that perhaps she just hadn’t gotten around to NOT adoring him, because he died first. For one thing, Wiki tells me that Todd loved the media attention of being married to her and I suspect that would have gotten a bit old. For another, I also think she may have expressed the above sentiment to irritate Richard Burton specifically. We’ll get to him!
4. 1959: Eddie Fisher. The 50s were so tumultuous for Elizabeth! She married four men in ten years! This one was, of course, particularly so. As Duke Wiki of Pedia tells us, after Mike Todd’s death, Elizabeth “was comforted by Todd’s and her friend, singer Eddie Fisher, with whom she soon began an affair. As Fisher was still married to actress Debbie Reynolds, the affair resulted in a public scandal, with Taylor being branded a ‘homewrecker.’ Taylor and Fisher were married at the Temple Beth Sholom in Las Vegas on May 12, 1959; she later stated that she married him only due to her grief.” That is probably accurate, and regardless, Debbie and Elizabeth made up less than a decade later (on a cruise) and returned to being friends with one another. (Debbie, correctly, mostly blamed Eddie for the whole thing. Eddie, frankly, also seems like he might have been annoying as a spouse.)
5. 1964: Richard Burton. At last! “While filming Cleopatra in Italy in 1962, Taylor began an affair with her co-star, Welsh actor Richard Burton, although Burton was also married. Rumors about the affair began to circulate in the press, and were confirmed by a paparazzi shot of them on a yacht in Ischia….The scandal caused Taylor and Burton to be condemned for “erotic vagrancy” by the Vatican, with calls also in the US Congress to bar them from re-entering the country. Taylor was granted a divorce from Fisher on March 5, 1964 in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico, and married Burton 10 days later in a private ceremony at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal.” (a) Honestly, being condemned by the Vatican for “erotic vagrancy” is GOALS and (b) Congress needs to calm down.
6. 1975: Also Richard Burton. This is the part where I just tell you to read Furious Love once and for all! In short, they got a divorce in June,1974, then got back together and got remarried in Botswana in October, 1975, then broke up again and got divorced AGAIN in July 1976. But I will leave you with this quote from Elizabeth: “After Richard, the men in my life were just there to hold the coat, to open the door. All the men after Richard were really just company.”
7. 1976: Company comes calling the form of the Republican senator John Warner, who is the only one of her husbands to still be alive! Congrats, Senator! (He is also very moderate for a Republican, and endorsed Hillary Clinton and has endorsed Joe Biden, as well as his own successor, the Democrat Mark Warner, to whom he is not related.) Again per Wiki, “they were married on December 4, 1976, after which Taylor concentrated on working for his electoral campaign. Once Warner had been elected to the Senate, she started to find her life as a politician’s wife in Washington, D.C., boring and lonely, becoming depressed, overweight, and increasingly addicted to prescription drugs and alcohol.” They divorced in 1982, and Elizabeth had a period of being unmarried for the longest stretch of her life, until…
8. 1991: Larry Fortensky, whom Elizabeth met at Betty Ford, and who seems like he might have been a real mensch. She sold the photos from their wedding to People in an exclusive and used the million bucks to start her own AIDS foundation, building on the AIDS foundation she co-founded in 1985: amFAR. (Elizabeth was really on the forefront of celebrity AIDS activism.) I am moved by this piece from Dr. Wi Kipedia: “Taylor and Fortensky divorced in October 1996, but remained in contact for life. She attributed the split to her painful hip operations and his obsessive-compulsive disorder. In the winter of 1999, Fortensky underwent brain surgery after falling off a balcony and was comatose for six weeks; Taylor immediately notified the hospital she would personally guarantee his medical expenses. At the end of 2010, she wrote him a letter that read: “Larry darling, you will always be a big part of my heart! I’ll love you forever.” Taylor’s last phone call with Fortensky was on February 7, 2011, one day before she checked into the hospital for what turned out to be her final stay; he told her she would outlive him. Although they had been divorced for almost 15 years, Taylor left Fortensky $825,000 in her will.” Also: Their wedding was officiated by Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson. It was at Neverland Ranch, as you’d guess from the People cover where Michael Jackson is also featured along with the bride and groom. There’s a lot to unpack there!
This post originally ran on September 16th, 2020 — but it’s one of my favorites, so we’re pulling it back out of the vault!