Eddie Fisher: Singer and actor whose career was overshadowed by his marriages and divorces

Eddie Fisher was a major figure in American entertainment for 20 years from the late 1940s, with a string of hit songs and albums, two television series, headlining stage shows and a few films. However, he never really recovered from the scandal of his first divorce.

Like many Russian Jews, Fisher's father changed his name when he arrived in America, though whether it was originally Fisch or Tisch is unclear. He never had great success: he got the entire family to work in a delicatessen that he set up with the compensation from a car accident but it failed after a year. According to Fisher, his embittered father "never had too much to do with us until I became famous."

The fourth of seven children, Fisher was a talented singer at school. He was conscious of his Jewish heritage: though he didn't practise, Fisher sang Jewish songs as a child and modelled himself on Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor ("the godfather of my career"): "I wanted to be like them ... showbusiness Jews". His ambition did not stop him appearing on the radio show Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, which launched many stars, despite the fact that Godfrey was a notorious anti-semite. Fisher's success on the show was another encouragement to leave school to pursue his career.

Fisher sang with a couple of big bands and in 1949 an appearance on Eddie Cantor's radio show gave him nationwide exposure. That led to a recording contract with RCA. His sweet tenor voice perfectly fitted the crooning, pre rock'n'roll industry and "Thinking of You" (1950) was his first notable success. The following year saw six Top 10 hits, including "Any Time" and "I'm Yours".

In 1951 he was drafted and served a year in Korea, becoming the soloist in the US Army Band. As with many star-soldiers, photographs of him in uniform helped both the war effort and his own career.

He continued to release records including Irving Berlin favourites and the inevitable Christmas album. He had over 30 hits in the US and a few in the UK. The Latin-tinged "Wish You Were Here" (1952) was his first No 1 single, as well as marking his UK breakthrough, while the mournful "I'm Walking Behind You" (1953), about a jilted groom, hit top spot on both sides of the Atlantic.

After discharge he joined the nightclub circuit, including stints in New York, Las Vegas and London. After he had guested on friends' television shows NBC offered him Coke Time with Eddie Fisher (1953-57), sponsored by the soft drinks giant. Even though it was cancelled after three series, he continued at the network with The Eddie Fisher Show (1957-59).

Fisher married Debbie Reynolds in 1955 and the following year he made his movie debut, co-starring with her in the musical comedy Bundle of Joy, which also spawned a soundtrack LP. But his career began to unravel. In 1958 they named their son Todd, after their friend the producer Mike Todd, who had died that year in an air crash. Todd's widow was Elizabeth Taylor and Fisher's sympathetic consolation developed into an affair until a full-blown scandal exploded over the gossip sheets. In 1959 Fisher asked for a divorce and married Taylor.

The scandal led to the cancellation of his television and record contracts. He responded by setting up Ramrod Records. Eddie Fisher at the Winter Garden was a live recording while Scent of Mystery was the soundtrack to a Smell-O-Vision film finally released as Holiday in Spain, for which Fisher sang two songs. The film's producer was Taylor's stepson, Mike Todd, Jr.

In 1960 Taylor starred in Butterfield 8 and Fisher was given a bit-part. But two years later they announced the end of the marriage. However, it was only in 1964 that they finally divorced, allowing Taylor to marry Richard Burton a fortnight later. Fisher became the butt of comics' jokes.

Abandoning Ramrod, Fisher had signed up briefly with Dot Records but in 1966 he returned to RCA. However, even cover versions of popular songs like "Tonight" by Bernstein and Sondheim, "Arrivederci Roma" and "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof could not recapture earlier successes.

In 1967 he married Connie Stevens but it only lasted a couple of years, though even that outlasted his fourth marriage. In 1968 he released a Jolson tribute album, You Ain't Heard Nothing Yet. In 1981 he wrote a necessarily bowdlerised autobiography, Eddie: My Life, My Loves, which in part he recycled as the more explicit Been There, Done That (1999). In 1983 a last comeback attempt fizzled out but the following year he objected to an unauthorised LP, though he lost, and After All appeared against his will.

Reynolds and Taylor made up and in 2001 co-starred in These Old Broads, a satire written by Carrie Fisher, Fisher's daughter with Reynolds, in which their characters mock an old mutual husband. Despite the later loss of limelight, Fisher's recordings continue to pepper re-releases of music from the 1950s and '60s.

Edwin John Fisher, singer and actor: born: Philadelphia 10 August 1928; married 1955 Debbie Reynolds (divorced 1959; one daughter, one son), 1959 Elizabeth Taylor (divorced 1964), 1967 Connie Stevens (divorced 1969; two daughters), 1975 Terry Richard (divorced 1976), 1993 Betty Lin (died 2001); died Berkeley, California 22 September 2010.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operation Caseworker

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Caseworker is req...

Recruitment Genius: Contact Centre Advisor

£19500 - £21500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading children's chariti...

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Senior Sales Broker - OTE £100,000

£20000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportuni...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor