USA TODAY US Edition
The men in her life
Most discussions of Elizabeth Taylor inevitably lead to the actress’ storied love life. USA TODAY’s Jayme Deerwester runs down the ups and downs of her eight marriages and seven husbands.
Eight marriages and seven husbands is a love life full of ups, downs and varied backgrounds.
Conrad “Nicky” Hilton Jr.
Married: May 6, 1950
Jan. 29, 1951. Who he was: The socialite son to the founder of Hilton Hotels and greatuncle to Paris and Nicky. His pre-Taylor track record: Hilton publicly admitted sleeping with his father’s second wife, actress Zsa Zsa Gabor. The romance: Taylor and Hilton met at a Los Angeles nightclub in October 1949 and were engaged by February 1950. The wedding: Taylor, just 18, married Hilton, 23, at the Bel Air Country Club; the 700 guests included Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire and Spencer Tracy. What went wrong? Hilton’s drinking habit was evident as early as their wedding night, when he spent most of his time at the bar. He also gambled. In turn, he complained about her spending habits. Howit ended: She filed for divorce on Dec. 22,
1950, and refused to accept alimony.
Married: Feb. 21, 1952Jan. 26, 1957
Children: Two sons — Michael Jr. (1953) and Christopher (1955)
Who he was: A British commercial artist turned actor, Wilding appeared in films such as Sailors Three (1940), In Which We Serve (1942) and Piccadilly Incident (1946). He never achieved as much fame on this side of the Atlantic.
His pre-Taylor track record: Married to Kay Young from 1937 to 1951. The romance: Both were on the rebound. The wedding: A 10-minute civil ceremony at London’s Caxton Hall; Taylor wore a gray wool suit
hat went wrong? Passion. Taylor wrote in a 1965 memoir they “had a lovely, easy life, very simple, very quiet. Two babies were born. Wehad friends. We didn’t do much.” Then, unfortunately for Wilding, she met Mike Todd.
Howit ended: Divorce; they remained friends.
Married: Feb. 2, 1957
March 22, 1958 Children: Elizabeth Frances “Liza” Todd (Aug. 6, 1957) Who he was: The Oscarwinning producer of Around the World in 80 Days and an innovator on the technical side of show business. His pre-Taylor track record: Awidower, he married actress Joan Blondell in 1947. She divorced him in 1950, alleging abuse and extortion. The romance: Their whirlwind relationship broke up Taylor’s marriage to Wilding. The day after they separated, according to biographer Alexander Walker, Todd told her, “Don’t start looking around for someone to latch on to. You are going to marry only one guy, see, and his name is me.” The wedding: Taylor converted to Judaism to marry Todd, right after a quickie Mexican divorce. Howit ended: Todd died in a crash of a private plane in New Mexico in 1958.
Married: May 12, 1959March 6, 1964
Who he was: A ’50 singer and teen idol, he was also a TV personality, hosting an eponymous NBC show 1957–1959. His pre-Taylor track
record: Married to Debbie Reynolds, his co-star from the musical Bun
dle of Joy. The couple, who had a young daughter ( Star Wars’ Carrie Fisher) and son, socialized frequently with Fisher’s best friend, Mike Todd, and wife Taylor. After Todd’s death, Fisher and Taylor’s consolation turned to romance, sparking a public uproar that led NBC to pull the plug.
The romance: The love triangle, that era’s “Brangelina,” was “the juiciest scandal to hit Hollywood in years,” Fisher said in his autobiography. The wedding: In Vegas, in May 1959.
What went wrong? Taylor left Fisher for a relationship with Cleopatra co-star Richard Burton.
Howit ended: Divorce. Taylor and Reynolds eventually mended fences and mocked Fisher in a 2001 TVmovie, These Old Broads.
Marriage No. 1: March 15, 1964-June 26, 1974 Children: In 1964, the couple adopted a German toddler they named Maria. Who he was: A theatrical actor turned movie star and Taylor’s leading man in 1963’s Cleopatra. His pre-Taylor track record: A 14-year marriage to Sybil Williams until meeting Taylor on the Cleopatra set. The romance/wedding: Nine days after her divorce from Fisher, Taylor and Burton tied the knot in Montreal.
What went wrong? Taylor suspected Burton of affairs but, more significantly, Burton was distraught by the paralysis of brother Ifor, who slipped and fell in 1968 after their drinking session in Switzerland. Burton began drinking even more heavily after Ifor’s death in 1972. Howit ended: Divorce
Reconciliation: The two met up in Switzerland to discuss the financial settlement from their first divorce, both looking healthy and happy thanks to newfound sobriety. They fell in love again and went public in August 1975. After Taylor dodged a lung cancer scare, Burton proposed.
Marriage No. 2: Oct. 10, 1975-July 29, 1976 The wedding: 16 months after Divorce No. 1, they exchanged vows again in Botswana’s Chobe National Park. What went wrong this
time? Taylor felt she was able to handle the occasional drink, but Burton felt he couldn’t stay sober if she wouldn’t remain on the wagon with him. He met a young model, Suzy Hunt, whose straitlaced life seemed a better fit for his attempts to shun alcohol. Hunt accompanied him when he
left to do Equus on Broadway, and he soon asked Taylor for a divorce. How it ended: Divorce
Sen. John Warner
Married: Dec. 4, 1976Nov. 7, 1982
Who he was: AWorld War II and Korea veteran, Warner served in the Navy and Marine Corps before attending law school. He later became Secretary of the Navy. His pre-Taylor track record: Married to a banking heiress with whomhe had three children before divorcing in 1973. The romance: They married within six months of their first date, a bicentennial dinner at the British embassy.
Ms. Taylor goes to Washington: The actress helped Warner get elected to the Senate in 1978. She stirred things up at the Virginia Republican Party convention, showing up in a tiger-striped pantsuit to shake hands with delegates and gin up support.
What went wrong? Life among the real D.C. housewives didn’t sit well with Taylor, used to being the one in the spotlight. To ease the loneliness, “I ate and drank with abandon,” she wrote in her 1988 book Elizabeth Takes Off. “But what was really starving was my self-esteem.”
Howit ended: Divorce
Married: Oct. 6, 1991-Oct. 31, 1996 Who he was: A construction worker 20 years her junior. His pre-Taylor track record: Two divorces
The romance: The couple met as patients at the Betty Ford Center in 1988. After all her past drama, Taylor felt the down-to-earth Fortensky might be the right guy for her at that point in her life.
The wedding: Taylor’s friend Michael Jackson hosted the ceremony at his Neverland Ranch and escorted the Valentino-clad bride to the altar.
What went wrong? Taylor said the union ended “with a whimper,” but questioned his hiring of divorce lawyer Raoul Felder in the hopes of overturning the prenuptial agreement. “I don’t understand it,” she told People in March 1996. “He would have been comfortable for the rest of his life.” . Howit ended: Divorce. W And, she told People, “I will never get married again.”