The writer of “Silver Screen Reflections” remembers actress Debbie Reynolds, who died on Wed., Dec. 28 at the age of 84.
The actress died one day after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher.
According to Variety, she was born Marie Frances Reynolds in El Paso, Texas in 1932. When she was eight years old, her family moved to Burbank, California. After winning the Miss Burbank contest in 1948, she was spotted by a talent agent from Warner Bros. Pictures. Studio head Jack Warner changed her name to Debbie Reynolds.
On the move to MGM
After her Warner contract lapsed, she signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. One of her earliest well-known roles was in the 1950 musical “Two Weeks with Love,” alongside Ricardo Montalban, Jane Powell and Carleton Carpenter. One of the most memorable songs out of that film was “Aba Daba Honeymoon,” which was sung by Reynolds and Carpenter.
Singin’ In the Rain (1952)
Reynolds would go onto greater fame by being cast as the romantic lead in the 1952 MGM musical “Singin’ in the Rain,” alongside Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor (Kelly co-directed the film with Stanley Donen). One of many memorable dance numbers in the film was the “Good Morning” number. “Singin’ in the Rain” was a smash success and propelled her into stardom.
“Tammy and the Bachelor”
In 1957, Reynolds would star in the Universal comedy “Tammy and the Bachelor,” alongside Walter Brennan and Leslie Nielsen. According to a Turner Classic Movies online biography of Reynolds, the title song became a smash success (it was released as a single) and stayed at number one on the hit charts for five weeks.
Other notable roles
In 1962, she starred in the Cinerama western epic “How the West Was Won.” Two years later, she would play the role of Molly Brown in the Lawrence Weingarten-Charles Walters film adaptation of the Broadway musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” According to Andrea Mandell’s USA Today article on Reynolds, the actress would compare her own experiences to the character that she played in the aforementioned 1964 filmed musical adaptation. One year later, she played Belgian nun Sister Ann in the biopic “The Singing Nun.”
Debbie Reynolds’ collection of Vintage Hollywood Memorabilia
Throughout the latter part of her career with various roles in film, television and on the Broadway stage, she would collect memorabilia from Hollywood’s golden age. According to a report in 2011 from the BBC, Reynolds started her collection in 1970 by acquiring vintage props and costumes at auction, shortly after her old studio; MGM was suffering from a series of corporate takeover battles.
She would acquire other costume and Hollywood artifacts from other studios and individuals throughout the years, ranging from Judy Garland’s ruby red slippers in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), Marilyn Monroe’s dress in “The Seven Year Itch” (1955) and Charlie Chaplin’s bowler hat. The same year that she did her television interview with the BBC, she sold many of the historic props and costumes that she owned for years at auction. Reynolds wanted to present the collection in a large museum setting and regretted that she did not accomplish that goal.
Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher
In 1955, Debbie Reynolds married singer Eddie Fisher. The couple had two children, Carrie (in 1956) and Todd (in 1958). Reynolds’ marriage to the crooner did not last long due to Eddie’s scandalous affair with actress Elizabeth Taylor. According to A&E Biography, Reynolds would marry footwear executive Harry Karl after divorcing Eddie Fisher. She divorced Karl in 1973 due to his excessive gambling habits. In 1985, Reynolds married her third and final husband, real estate figurehead Richard Hamlett. The two would file for divorce in 1996.
Her daughter Carrie would go onto a groundbreaking career, playing the role of Princess Leia in George Lucas’ original “Star Wars” film trilogy. In addition to being a successful author and screenwriter, Fisher would reprise her role of Leia in “Star Wars: “The Force Awakens” (Episode VII, 2015, directed by J.J. Abrams), this time as a General. Reynolds son, Todd would become a successful television and film director.
The estranged bond between Reynolds and her daughter were chronicled in Carrie Fisher’s novel, “Postcards from the Edge,” which was made into a feature film by Mike Nichols in 1990, with Meryl Streep playing the role of Suzanne Vale and Shirley MacLaine as Doris Mann, based off of Fisher’s real life accounts. In later years, both Fisher and Reynolds would rekindle their relationship.
Shortly before the untimely deaths of Fisher and Reynolds, both actresses were chronicled in an upcoming HBO documentary, “Bright Lights: Starring Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.”
Predeceased by her daughter Carrie, Reynolds’ survivors include her son Todd, and granddaughter Billie Lourd, who is currently starring in the Fox series “Scream Queens.”
“Silver Screen Reflections” remembers Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016).
An upcoming post on the Turner Classic Movies/Fathom Events coast-to-coast revival screening of “Singin’ In the Rain” (1952, featuring Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelley and Donald O’Connor) will appear sometime soon on “Silver Screen Reflections.”