They married early and often
Most people are satisfied with one or two marriages, but a few famous people have made a habit of the thing.These heavily-married people tend to be from Hollywood, it’s true. It also seems true that if you marry enough times you’re bound to get either an annulment or a shooting (or both) tossed into the mix. Here, then, is our loop of celebrities who have been married seven times or more.
Elizabeth Taylor’s 1944 movie National Velvet co-starred former child star MICKEY ROONEY. By then Rooney had already married and divorced actress Ava Gardner and was on to wife #2, Betty Jane Rase. He married six more times. There was plenty of drama along the way: Rooney’s fifth ex-wife, Barbara Ann Thomason, was murdered in 1966 by her lover, Milos Milosevic, who then committed suicide. Rooney wed country-western songwriter Jan Chamberlin in 1978 in what has proved to be his longest-lasting marriage.
ELIZABETH TAYLOR is America’s most famous serial spouse, perhaps because her eight unions included seven colorful husbands. Her first, Nicky Hilton, was heir to the Hilton Hotel chain. Next came actor Michael Wilding and then producer Michael Todd, who was killed in a 1958 airplane crash (in a plane he called The Lucky Liz). Todd’s friend Eddie Fisher caused a Hollywood scandal by divorcing actress Debbie Reynolds to become Taylor’s fourth husband. Taylor then left Fisher for Richard Burton, possibly her most famous love affair — the two were married twice, from 1964-74 and 1975-76. Husband #6 was John Warner, later a U.S. senator from Virginia. Taylor met her seventh and last husband, construction worker Larry Fortensky, while being treated at the Betty Ford Clinic; they were married from 1991-1997.
(Photo: Liz Taylor battles with husband number five, Richard Burton, in a scene from their 1966 movie Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?)
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, 19th-century Mormon leader BRIGHAM YOUNG “took more than 20 wives and fathered 47 children.” Numbers from other sources differ; some say Young had 40 or 50 wives in all, while the official history of the Mormon church puts the number at exactly 20. No matter how you count it, Young had a bundle of brides. His multiple marriages came courtesy of early Mormon doctrine, which strongly encouraged polygamy.
A more ancient religious leader with a bridal bonanza: KING SOLOMON. The Bible (in I Kings, chapter 11) reports that “King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh… among his wives were seven hundred princesses and three hundred concubines.” Multiple wives ran in the family: Solomon’s father David reportedly had 18 wives and arranged the death of Uriah the Hittite so he could marry Uriah’s wife Bathsheba, who became Solomon’s mother.
Back to the 20th century. Jazz clarinetist ARTIE SHAW was known for forming and dismantling great bands and marriages. His first marriage, to Jane Carns, came when Shaw was 19, and was quickly annulled. Later he married two of Hollywood’s greatest beauties, Ava Gardner (two years after her marriage to Mickey Rooney ended) and Lana Turner. His other marriages were to nurse Margaret Allen, actresses Evelyn Keyes and Doris Dowling, Betty Kern (daughter of Broadway composer Jerome Kern), and author Kathleen Winsor.
(Photo: Artie Shaw with Ann Rutherford (right) and future wife Lana Turner on the set of the 1939 film Dancing Co-Ed. Shaw and Turner were married in February of 1940 and divorced in September of the same year. Credit: MGM Studios.)
Artie Shaw‘s wife LANA TURNER was also much married. Shaw was her first husband, and she wed her second, Steven Crane, twice: their first marriage was annulled after Crane’s divorce from an earlier wife was declared invalid. Her other marriages included Bob Topping (#3), actor Lex Barker (#4), businessmen Fred May (#5) and Robert Eaton (#6), and nightclub performer Ronald Dante (#7). Turner is more famous for a man she didn’t marry: in 1958, between her marriages to Barker and May, Turner’s lover Johnny Stompanato was killed by her daughter Cheryl Crane. The killing was later ruled justifiable homicide.
Boxer KID McCOY led such a wild life that his exact number of marriages is unclear. Most sources agree that he was married either eight or ten times, thrice to the same woman. Yet like Lana Turner, McCoy is notorious for the death of a lover he didn’t marry: in 1924 he was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting of Teresa Mors, a woman who was merely living with him. McCoy served eight years in California’s famous San Quentin penitentiary before his parole in 1932.
Actress and gadabout ZSA ZSA GABOR has made something of a career of joking about her nine marriages; in 1970 she published a book titled How to Catch a Man, How to Keep a Man, How to Get Rid of a Man. Her first marriage came in 1937 to Turkish diplomat Burhan Belge. Her second husband was hotelier Conrad Hilton (father of Liz Taylor‘s second husband, Nicky Hilton) and her third was the actor George Sanders. (Sanders later married Gabor’s sister Magda.)
Zsa Zsa’s eighth marriage, to Felipe de Alba, was voided because her divorce from seventh husband Michael O’Hara was not final. In her 1991 book One Lifetime Is Not Enough, Gabor also notes that the de Alba marriage was performed by a captain at sea but not in international waters as required by law, making it doubly invalid. So technically Gabor has had only eight husbands, not nine. (In the same book she claims she had a fling with Richard Burton before Burton married Taylor.)
Zsa Zsa Gabor married her ninth husband, Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, in 1986 — nearly 50 years after her first wedding. He became her longest-lasting husband: they were married more than 25 years.
When perpetual talk show host LARRY KING filed for divorce from Shawn Southwick in 2010, he was ending his eighth marriage to seven wives over six decades. His first marriage (in 1952, when King was 19) was annulled. He followed that up with seven more marriages to six wives, including two marriages (1961-63 and 1971-71) to former Playboy bunny Alene Akins. Larry King has also kept up a busy broadcasting career since the late 1950s — which maybe explains all the divorces. The good news is, he and Southwick reconciled in 2010 and cancelled their divorce proceedings.
Honorable Mention: HENRY VIII. The Tudor titan not only married six women, he broke with the Pope and set up his own church to annul his first marriage — thereby making later marriages possible. (Later on, Henry took to beheading wives instead of rejecting them.) Henry’s matrimonial roll call: Catherine of Aragon (annulled), Anne Boleyn (beheaded), Jane Seymour (died after childbirth), Anne of Cleves (annulled), Kathryn Howard (beheaded) and Katherine Parr (who was neither killed nor annulled, and became the king’s widow when he died in 1547).
Interested in unusual marriages? Discover the cradle-robbing U.S. presidents who married women 15+ years younger than themselves.
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