Debbie Reynolds in Singing In The Rain alongside Gene Kelly (R) and Donald O’Connor (L)
Just a day after the death of her daughter Carrie Fisher, the Unsinkable Molly Brown stopped Singing In The Rain, forever. Debbie Reynolds suffered a stroke and died. She was 84. In my capacity as the editor for the popular Cultural Events In Los Angeles, I interviewed Miss Reynolds a few years back. She wasn’t young anymore but very vivacious, warm and kind. It is hard for me to believe that Hollywood Royalty and a survivor like her would have departed so suddenly and so quickly. The only explanation is a mother’s broken heart. (In the words of her son, Todd Fisher, “she wanted to be with Carrie.”)
Debbie Reynold’s career spanned over 60 years. She starred and appeared on the big screen, the stage and television. Her film and television credits are too many to list, so here are a few highlights:
Having won a beauty contest at 16, she signed a contract with MGM. She appeared in her first film The June Bride in 1948. Having played several supporting roles, she was offered a role in Singing In The Rain in 1952 (not a professional dancer, she danced alongside Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor and was great!)
Many other roles followed: Susan Slept Here (1954); Tammy and the Bachelor (1957); The Unsinkable Molly Brown in 1964 (earned her an Oscar nomination); TV’s The Debbie Reynolds Show (1969-1970); TV’s The Love Boat (1980-1983); TV movie Perry Mason: The Case of the Musical Murder (1989); TV series Roseanne (1997); TV movie These Old Broads 2001; TV series Rugrats (2000-2002); TV series Will & Grace (1999-2006); TV movie Behind the Candelabra (2013) and most recently, TV series The 7D (2015).
Debbie Reynold’s stage credits include: Irene (on Broadway in 1973); Debbie (on Broadway in 1976); Annie Get Your Gun (US Tour in 1977) and Woman of the Year (on Broadway in 1981).
Debbie Reynolds was nominated for many entertainment awards and has won:
- 1956 National Board of Review
- 1996 American Comedy Awards
- 1997 American Comedy Awards
- 1997 Satellite Awards
- 2014 Screen Actors Guild (Life Achievement Award)
- 2015 The Academy Awards (Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award)
Another token of the entertainment industry’s appreciation: Debbie Reynolds received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1997. (It is located at 6654 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood)
- Debbie Reynolds was one of few actresses to have danced – on screen! – with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. (The two greatest American dancers!)
- Debbie wanted to play herself in “Postcards from the Edge”, the 1990 film based on her daughter’s book / memoir. The role went to Shirley MacLaine.
- Debbie Reynolds was a passionate collector of movie memorabilia. Her collection was impressive and included signed movie posters, over 3,000 costumes and 46,000 square-feet of stored movie props and equipment. It was her dream to share the collection with the public. She tried several times to create the Hollywood Motion Picture Museum, but the project didn’t come to fruition. As far as we know, some of Debbie Reynolds’ extensive Hollywood collection was auctioned off.
The above, gives you a glimpse into her life as a successful and sought-after actress and a professional. But no one’s life is work alone.
The sweet girl next door really was who she appeared to be: a Girl Scout. Good, honest, caring and hardworking. Perhaps naïve belongs on the list, too. Her personal life brought her a lot of heartache and – in spite of her work, earnings and savings – severe financial hardship which at one point forced her to live out of her car.
At 23, Debbie fell in love with and married a popular pop-singer and actor Eddie Fisher with whom she had two children (Todd and Carrie Fisher). The couple was close friends with Mike Todd (Oscar-winning movie producer) and his wife, Elizabeth Taylor. Following Todd’s tragic death in an airplane crash, Fisher took upon himself to console Todd’s young widow. One thing led to another: Debbie Reynolds marriage to Eddie Fisher ended in divorce; Fisher married Elizabeth Taylor, and the rest is history. (The jilted wife, Reynolds and the seductress, Taylor eventually made peace during the filming of the 2001 TV movie These Old Broads.)
10 years later Debbie Reynolds decided to settle for a comfortable marriage to a shoe mogul, Harry Karl. Years into the marriage, Debbie found out that the originally prosperous businessman was a compulsive gambler who gambled away not only his fortune but hers as well… (It was in the aftermath of her second marriage that Debbie suffered the worst financial crisis of her life.)
Her third and final marriage – to real estate developer, Richard Hamlett – didn’t bring Reynolds happiness, either. (He was not only unfaithful and greedy but Debbie suspected he might have been willing to kill her to collect on her life insurance.) This marriage too ended in divorce (1996).
Debbie Reynolds, America’s Sweetheart, so pretty, talented, hardworking and good was very unlucky in love.
So, this is a much abbreviated life story of Debbie Reynolds, the talented and very successful goody two-shoes forced by life’s circumstances to work harder and longer than most and to become a successful entrepreneur just to amend for the financial losses her husbands caused. She succeeded at this, too. At the time of her death her fortune is estimated to be about forty million dollars.
Speaking of her daughter, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds once said: People used to call her “Debbie Reynolds’ daughter,” now they call me “Princess Leia’s mother!” In the end, they left this planet, together: “Debbie Reynolds’ daughter” and “Princess Leia’s mother”.
The staff of Anything L.A. Magazine and the staff of Cultural Events In Los Angeles express their deepest condolences to the family of Miss Reynolds: her children and grandchildren; to her friends, admirers and fans. A legendary STAR of Hollywood’s Golden Era is gone. We are heartbroken. The death of Carrie Fisher was a tragedy. The death of Debbie Reynolds is devastating. It is with heavy hearts that we say: Debbie Reynolds wasn’t just an actress, she had guts and spirit, she was an extra-ordinary person and we’ll miss her very much.
Anything L.A. Magazine’s Editor, E. Elrich