Actress Debbie Reynolds dies just one day after daughter Carrie Fisher died
29 December 2016, Nirapad News: Debbie Reynolds, the indefatigable star of Singin’ in the Rain, who bounced back time and again on the strength of a career that spanned the golden age of the Hollywood musical to the new golden age of TV, died on Dec. 28 at the age of 84 in Los Angeles. Her death came just one day after she endured the cruelest blow possible, when her daughter, Star Wars actress and writer Carrie Fisher, died on Dec. 27 at age 60, following a heart attack.
“She’s now with Carrie and we’re all heartbroken,” her son, Todd Fisher, told the AP on Wednesday.
A onetime Oscar nominee, Reynolds appeared in more than 50 movies. She is best remembered for playing alongside Gene Kelly and Donald O’Conner in 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain. The joyful film is typically cited as the greatest movie musical of all-time. Other big-screen credits included The Unsinkable Molly Brown and How the West Was Won. She played the title role in the Albert Brooks comedy Mother and was unrecognizable as Liberace’s mother in the acclaimed HBO biopic Behind the Candelabra. She once knocked Elvis Presley from the top of the charts, earned Tony and Emmy nods, won a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild, as well as an honorary Academy Award.
Reynolds’ best role might have been that of survivor. “I’ll keep singing and dancing until I’m too old to stand up,” she said.
Born April 1, 1932, in El Paso, Texas, Reynolds’ family moved West when she was young, and she grew up in the shadow of the movie studios in Burbank, Calif. At 16, she won the title of “Miss Burbank” and was subsequently offered a contract by Warner Bros. Studios. Jack Warner, one of the founding executives there, had one stipulation for the girl then known as Mary Frances Reynolds.
“He hated the name Mary, the name Frances, and the name Reynolds,” Reynolds remembered. “He wanted to change the name to Debbie Morgan because Dennis Morgan was a big star then. … So I said, ‘You kept Warner, I’m not changing Reynolds.’”
The rechristened Reynolds had appeared in supporting roles in a handful of musicals when she was cast as the female lead in Singin’ in the Rain. (Coincidentally, she was the same age, 19, as daughter Carrie would be when she was cast in George Lucas’ blockbuster space saga.) Reynolds worked hard at her big break.
“I was practicing and rehearsing all the time, my feet were bleeding,” she recalled. “I was trying, but it was so much to learn.”
In the end, Reynolds looked to have no trouble keeping up alongside a legend, Kelly, and a veteran hoofer, O’Connor. She became a star and went on to star in movies with Frank Sinatra (The Tender Trap) and Bette Davis (The Catered Affair). Her 1957 romantic comedy Tammy and the Bachelor spawned the No. 1 pop hit, “Tammy.”
In 1954, at age 22, she became engaged to the singer Eddie Fisher. The two wed a year later, co-starred in the musical comedy Bundle of Joy, and started a family. Carrie Fisher was born in 1956; son Todd Fisher, a producer and director, was born in 1958. The couple’s union was often described as “perfect,” though neither Eddie Fisher nor Reynolds would later refer to it that way.
A month after their younger child was born, producer Mike Todd, Eddie Fisher’s good friend and Elizabeth Taylor’s husband, was killed in a plane crash. By that summer, Fisher and Taylor were spied nightclubbing together. The affair made headlines, and within months Reynolds filed for divorce, citing the damage done by “another woman.”
“In the old days, if Elizabeth saw a man she wanted, she got him no matter who she stepped over,” Reynolds said. “She admits that.”
While the scandal forever estranged Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, who died in 2010, she and Taylor — who would dump the singer for Richard Burton during the making of Cleopatra — later rekindled their friendship.
“The whole world blamed Elizabeth, but I didn’t,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds and Taylor acted out a fictionalized version of their relationship in the 2001 TV movie These Old Broads, written by Carrie Fisher.
“She laughs a lot about why in the world she wanted Eddie,” Reynolds told the Associated Press.
Post-divorce, Reynolds cranked out movie after movie, including the 1962 epic How the West Was Won, and married tycoon Harry Karl, namesake of the onetime retail giant Karl’s Shoe Stores. In 1964, she starred in The Unsinkable Molly Brown. The crowd-pleasing musical about a survivor of the Titanic disaster earned Reynolds her lone career Best Actress Oscar nomination and provided a fitting persona for her off screen.
Reynolds was credited with championing and raising millions for mental health treatment, work that later brought her the Jean Hersholt Academy Award honor. In January 2015, Reynolds was feted at the SAG Awards for lifetime achievement. Carrie Fisher did the presenting honors. (Fisher often celebrated her mother in her own work, though Reynolds maintained that the boozy, show-biz matriarch from Fisher’s novel-turned-movie Postcards From the Edge was a fictionalized character.)
“She has been more than a mother to me — not much, but definitely more,” Fisher joked at the SAG Awards. “She’s been an unsolicited stylist, interior decorator and marriage counselor. Admittedly, I found it difficult to share my mother with her adoring fans, who treated her like she was part of their family.”