Robert Pattinson found out that Kristen Stewart was having an affair after photographs were taken of her canoodling in a car with Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders. Reese Witherspoon allegedly discovered incriminating text messages between husband Ryan Phillippe and Abbie Cornish. Tiger Woods tried to convince his wife he was completely faithful but the sheer number of women claiming to have had affairs with him meant he finally had to put his hands up.
It’s tough being a celebrity (or married to one). Not only do you have the shock and hurt of being cheated on, but there’s often the humiliation of the press or public finding out about it before you do.
Back in Rome in 1962, when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton got together on the set of Cleopatra, the cast and crew were in on the secret long before their spouses had a clue. When the script called for Anthony and Cleopatra to kiss, the pair lunged for each other and didn’t appear to hear the director, Joe Mankiewicz, calling “Cut!”. (“I feel as though I’m intruding,” he quipped.) Burton indiscreetly bragged in the men’s makeup trailer that he’d ‘nailed’ his co-star in the back of his Cadillac. They used her secretary’s apartment for secret trysts and were often seen sneaking to each other’s trailers for ‘cocktail hour’ with shawls thrown over their heads.
Elizabeth’s husband, the singer Eddie Fisher, heard the whispers but dismissed them: she was the most beautiful woman in the world and there had always been rumours but he trusted her not to cheat. Big mistake.
After a close friend phoned to tip him off, Eddie turned to Elizabeth as they lay in bed one night and asked her directly: “Tell me the truth: is there something going on between you and Burton?”
“Yes,” she replied quietly.
It all got a bit less dignified after that. Eddie went to tell Richard’s wife Sybil, who wasn’t greatly surprised because her husband had slept with pretty much every leading lady he’d ever worked with (apart from Julie Andrews). Sybil was prepared to put up with it so long as it ended when filming was over.
It was Richard who wanted Eddie out of the way. He turned up drunk at a dinner party Elizabeth and Eddie were throwing and insisted she had to choose between them.
“Who do you love?” he slurred. “Show me who you love.”
And in front of their friends, and Eddie, she walked over and gave Richard a deep passionate kiss.
Eddie finally took the hint but it would be another year and a lot more heartache on all sides before Richard decided to leave his wife and family to be with Elizabeth. And we all know how that ended…
Years later, Eddie Fisher developed a stage act in which he joked about his ex, calling her “Elizabeth, the nympho of the Nile”. Sybil Burton took all Richard’s money in the divorce settlement and maintained a dignified silence right up until her death on 7th March this year at the age of eighty-three.