Actress and singer Debbie Reynolds who died on December 28 at the age of 84, a day after the death of her 60-year-old daughter, actress Carrie Fisher – has been an icon in America.
Since her role in the film Singin’ in the Rain in 1952 catapulted her to instant stardom, Reynolds went on to add one milestone after another to her career as an actress and a singer.
She is adored in America because despite being a celebrity and part of Hollywood, she was seen in the public as someone morally pure.
Debbie Reynolds was never in any controversy and what added to her persona and immense popularity was the kind of humanitarian works she took up.
She also established herself as a business woman and film historian having a huge collection of film memorabilia.
Here are 10 interesting facts about Reynolds’ long journey in showbiz:
1. Her original name is Merry Frances Reynolds. She was born on April 1, 1932, in a poor family in El Pesa, Texas. Her father was a ditch digger.
2. After she was discovered in a beauty and talent contest in 1948, Warner Brothers and MGM wanted to sign her for their films.
Her debut the same year in June Bride was un-credited. After starring in four more films including The Daughter of Rosy O’Grady, Three Little Words, Two Weeks with Love and Mr.Impreium, 18-year-old Reynolds became a star with the release of Singin’ in the Rain – a satire on Hollywood movies’ transition from a silent era to talkies.
3. Reynold’s singing career took off after her song Tammy became the best-selling single by a female vocalist in 1957 earning her a gold record. The song was from the film Tammy and Bachelor that also starred her.
4. Debbie Reynolds received a nomination for Academy Award for Best Actress for her lead role in 1964’s The Unshakable Molly Brown.
She later admitted that she was not the original choice for the move but a replacement of Shirley MacLaine, who could not do the role for some reasons.
The director of the movie, Charles Walter, was initially skeptical of her potential, but as the filming progressed he was hugely impressed with her acting abilities.
5. Besides being an actress and singer, Reynolds was a popular live performer. She was also known for mimicking other celebrities like Mae West, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Bette Davis on stage.
6. Reynolds took the downslide in her film and television career gracefully and made her Broadway debut in 1973 by reviving Irene, a musical that was produced six decades back.
Her daughter Carrie Fisher too made her debut in the musical, which broke records of the highest weekly gross of any musical till that time.
Reynolds reprised her role in the stage version of Unshakable Molly Brown in 1989.
7. Reynolds married thrice. She first married singer Eddie Fisher in 1955 but the couple divorced four years later after it was found that Fisher was having a relationship with actress and her good friend Elizabeth Taylor.
The extra-marital affair and public sympathy for Reynolds led to the cancellation of Fisher’s television show.
Reynolds then married businessman Harry Karl in 1960, but they got divorced 13 years later. Her third and last marriage was with Richard Hamlett, a real estate tycoon, from 1984 to 1996.
8. Reynolds had two children from the first marriage – Carrie and Todd Fisher – and she shared a special relationship with both of them. She had her fatal stroke following Carrie’s death. “I want to be with Carrie,” her son quoting her saying.
9. Carrie’s semi-autobiographical novel, Postcards from the Edge, in 1987 is based on her relationship with her mother. Carrie also wrote the screenplay when it was adopted into a comedy-drama film in 1990 starring Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep.
The film got the nomination for Academy Award for Best Actress for Streep. It also got nominations for BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for MacLaine and Best Adapted Screenplay for Carrie.
10. Debbie Reynolds had a large collection of movie memorabilia including thousands of posters, photographs, and costumes.
Among the notable collectors’ items were Charlie Chaplin’s bowler hat and Marilyn Monroe’s iconic white skirt from the 1955 movie, The Seven Year Itch. In the film, the picture of the lifting up the skirt by a breeze caused by a passing train made both Monroe and the skirt immortal.