Arriving at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 18, Tracey Edmonds was ready to let off some steam. Hitting the MySpace Night at TAO that evening, Edmonds—still reeling from her Jan. 15 split from Eddie Murphy just two weeks after their nuptials—quickly retreated to the VIP area with pregnant actress Jessica Alba
and her fiancé, Cash Warren. (Edmonds produced Alba's 2007 film Good Luck Chuck
.) At one point, the two women were so engrossed in their conversation that Warren politely scooted out of the way, and Edmonds, who started off the evening all smiles, appeared visibly upset. "She's trying to have fun and take her mind off things, but inside she's really hurting," says a pal. "She just wants to move on, but it's really tough."
Surely it's not the happily ever after Edmonds, 40, and Murphy, 46, had envisioned while exchanging vows in a sunset ceremony on New Year's Day on a private French Polynesian island. And yet in the days since the romance came to a screeching halt, those close to the ex-couple say that behind the lavish wedding and public proclamations of bliss—"I'm so happy, I'm over the moon," Murphy told PEOPLE from their honeymoon—there were major red flags flapping in the island breezes. In fact, the couple had scarcely digested their four-tiered, sugar-orchid-topped wedding cake when the fighting began. The groom grew standoffish immediately after the nonlegally binding ceremony—part of a multiday affair, estimates one source, that cost $500,000—which was attended by 25 friends and relatives. "He would go off to smoke with his buddies," says one observer. Things only got worse after the wedding, says one friend: Guests who lingered on the island "could hear them yelling and her crying during the honeymoon evenings. It was pretty dramatic."
Another big warning sign: The couple had previously announced plans to tie the knot in a legal ceremony after returning to the U.S., but "we knew something was up when you couldn't get a straight answer about when the civil ceremony would be," says a guest. "They avoided that question through the whole time."
One source of tension, say friends, may have been conflict between Edmonds and Murphy's mother, Lillian Lynch, who attended the wedding along with Edmonds' mom, Jacqueline McQuarn. "[Lillian] basically said, 'It's me or her,' to Eddie," says a pal. Adds an Edmonds friend: "His mom never liked her or her mother, and she really went off on Tracey and Jackie. And Tracey was p-----. [Just before the wedding], there was a huge argument, and words were said and Eddie took his mom's side."
Also fanning the flames: "He didn't want her to keep her name, and she did because of [her] kids," says a friend. (Edmonds was previously married to singer-producer Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and has two kids with him.) And still another source says that the pair argued about where they would live—Murphy not only shares his L.A. home with his mom but with his friend (and groomsman), singer Johnny Gill, as well. "[Tracey] called it a 'family reunion' house because there were so many people living there," says an Edmonds friend. "She was going to move into Eddie's house, but she wanted everybody else out."
While there was a signed prenup in place, a source close to Edmonds says that for the bride, the marriage "was all about publicity. She always liked the attention ever since she was with Kenny." Attending last year's Oscars with Murphy, adds the source, "was huge for her."
With so many question marks, why go through with the wedding? "I think Tracey had a kind of fairy-tale attitude," says her friend. "Sort of like a teenager."
Murphy, too, seemed smitten: Accepting his SAG award for his role in Dreamgirls
last February, the normally ultraprivate actor thanked Edmonds for "fixing everything that was broken." He showed his affection in other ways as well. "He sent her giant bouquets every day," says a friend. "He bought her serious jewelry—really big stuff from Cartier and Harry Winston."
Still, like much of Murphy's romantic past, his whirlwind relationship with Edmonds was not without complications: He broke up with Spice Girl Melanie Brown, 32, around the same time he began dating Edmonds in late 2006. Then, in the midst of their courtship, he publicly questioned the paternity of Brown's baby, Angel Iris, who was born last April. A paternity test ultimately proved that Murphy is the father, and Angel—whom one source says Murphy has yet to meet—became yet another addition to the actor's large brood; he has five children—ranging in age from 6 to 18—with his ex-wife Nicole Murphy, 40, to whom he was married for 12 years before they split in April 2006.
Even as the dust continues to settle between the Murphy and Edmonds camps and despite the couple's joint postbreakup statement of "deep love, friendship and respect ... on a spiritual level," this much is certain: Don't expect a reconciliation anytime soon. Says a source close to Edmonds: "It's over."
- Jennifer Garcia/L.A.,
- Maureen Harrington/L.A.,
- Amy Elisa Keith/L.A.,
- Ulrica Wihlborg/L.A.,
- Tiffany McGee/New York City.