NEW YORK — Doug and Mary. Eddie and Debbie. Alec and Kim. Brad and Angelina. Liz and, well, take your pick.
As long as there’s been a Hollywood, there’s been scandalous Hollywood divorce.
“Then and now, they’re just under enormous scrutiny. And like many people, they often marry for reasons that are not solid,” said Jeanine Basinger, a professor and founder of the film studies program at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.
“They get caught up in their own images, in each other’s images and then they get caught up in the images of themselves as a couple. Sustaining that is very difficult,” she said from South Dakota, where she is on sabbatical.
In Hollywood, said Us Weekly’s entertainment director, Ian Drew, “very few couples are Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, staying together forever. Most couples come apart.”
Regardless of the he said-she said nature of Hollywood bust-ups, Basinger believes the public responds in the greatest numbers when private lives clash with, or play right into, public personas.
“I think to do a major story on a Hollywood split is hard because you really do need the kind of mystery, glamour and, sort of, surprise that doesn’t come along every day,” said JD Heyman, People’s deputy editor of entertainment. “You can’t make anybody’s divorce interesting.”
Let’s time hop through the hotbed of celebrity divorce:
DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS SR. AND MARY PICKFORD
In the 1910s and ’20s, mostly in the silent screen era, he was the fearless swashbuckler with a romantic streak and she was America’s sweetheart, the “girl with the curls.”
They married in March 1920, just days after her divorce from silent film actor Owen Moore was final, though she was still married when their affair began. Fairbanks, too, had been married before and by some reports it was Fairbanks who pressured Pickford to end it with Moore, risking her squeaky clean image.
“Everybody overlooked the fact that they’d had to divorce other people in order to marry one another,” Basinger said. “But their own divorce was a huge, huge deal.”
Hollywood chroniclers of the time blamed it, in part, on issues that remain today: Endless days spent away from each other working and promoting projects, along with alleged affairs.
ELIZABETH TAYLOR ET AL
Taylor, famous in film since she was a kid, was married eight times, including twice to Richard Burton.
“You got your options there,” Basinger laughed.
She divorced her first husband, Conrad “Nicky” Hilton, within six months of marrying him, amid allegations of abuse.
Then, of course, there’s Richard Burton.
“That’s the one that everybody focuses on,” she said. “There was alcoholism, infidelity and probably a kind of fundamental incompatibility that broke them up.”
EDDIE FISHER AND DEBBIE REYNOLDS
Speaking of Liz …
Fisher left the girl-next-door actress Reynolds, the mother of his two young children, for Taylor in 1959.
“She was the victim. That big, bad beauty, Elizabeth Taylor, was to blame,” Basinger said.
Reynolds herself has likened their split to the Jennifer Aniston-Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt triangle, telling Vanity Fair last year: “My three husbands all left me for another woman and obviously I wasn’t a very sexual lady.”
But Reynolds and Taylor, who had been besties, were able to reignite their friendship years later. When Taylor died in 2011, she left Reynolds a sapphire bracelet, necklace and earrings in her will.
Fisher and Reynolds had been promoted in domestic bliss, he a good friend of producer Michael Todd, the one husband of Taylor’s who died (in a plane crash).
“Elizabeth Taylor was portrayed very much as a home wrecker,” Basinger said. “She told Hedda Hopper, ‘What do you expect me to do? Sleep alone?'”
ALEC BALDWIN AND KIM BASINGER
More than 13 years after their nasty split, time has healed some wounds.
The two met on the set of the 1990 “The Marrying Man” and married three years later. Basinger filed for divorce in 2001.
The two fought over custody of their only child at the time, Ireland Baldwin. In 2007, when Ireland was 11, a bitter voicemail Alec left for her leaked online, calling her a “rude, thoughtless little pig” for not answering his call.
Alec later apologized. He told The Guardian in 2013 that the years of divorce litigation was so painful that he was “staring off a cliff for six years.” He wrote a book about the custody battle in 2008, “A Promise to Ourselves: A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce.”
JOHNNY DEPP AND AMBER HEARD
He left his longtime partner, Vanessa Paradis, then took the step of marriage with Heard. Were they more odd than fairytale? Definitely.
So when Heard filed for divorce earlier this year, alleging drunken rage and physical abuse, media and the public ate up the details, including Heard’s display of facial bruises and a video of a raging Depp she secretly shot at home.
They were married just 15 months. Their divorce played out over weeks, rather than years, because — poof — came the magic settlement, of $7 million Heard vowed to donate to charity.