It came as an unwelcome shock to the film community that 84-year-old Debbie Reynolds died suddenly only one day after the death of her daughter, actress-writer Carrie Fisher.
The fact is that much like Molly Brown, Reynolds — a former Miss Burbank (Calif.) of 1948 — endured all manner of setbacks ranging from faithless husbands, devastating financial missteps, chronic career underestimation by those who should have known better — and the ultimate, the loss of her firstborn child.
So much for a career of “cheerfulness and bounce.”
French director Francois Truffaut fondly remembered the moment in 1952’s Singin’ In The Rain when, at the end of a physically demanding dance routine, she modestly straightened her disordered skirt to prevent her knickers from being shown.
Reynolds was always a solid dancer, singer and comedienne, not necessarily in that order. And the truth is that even if her only film had been Singing in the Rain, Debbie would still be remembered as one of Hollywood’s greats from the Golden Era.
But of course she made many more films (some 80 tv and movie credits in all) during her almost 70 years in show business. And she starred on Broadway and in nightclubs. And she was a famous advocate for saving Hollywood memorabilia, displaying the best of her private stash at a Las Vegas hotel she once owned.
In short, Debbie was one of an ebullient kind. She co-starred with some of the biggest stars (think of Frank Sinatra, Gregory Peck, Bette Davis and Dick Powell), she carried films as a solo star (think of Tammy and The Unsinkable Molly Brown).
In later life she became a character actress and excelled in films such as Mother, In and Out, and Behind the Candelabra.
And yet her personal life and her family got as much attention as her career. After a story book marriage to a famous pop singer, Eddie Fisher, and two children, she was thrust into the tabloid limelight when Fisher left her for their friend Elizabeth Taylor. It was THE scandal of the period.
She survived it and two subsequent marriages to husbands who squandered her money. She survived even more when Carrie Fisher wrote a fictionalized account of her life and portrayed her mother as a controlling, narcissistic movie star who couldn’t stand giving up the limelight.
EVERYONE thought that Shirley MacLaine (portraying Meryl Streep’s mother) in Postcards From the Edge WAS Debbie Reynolds.
Despite those revelations Debbie and Carrie had a close relationship and actually lived next door to each other.
Reynolds will be missed.