Debbie Reynolds (1 April 1932 – 28 December 2016)
As if 2016 already hasn’t been a terrible year in terms of the stars we’ve lost, it seems that none can have been so tragic as the death of Debbie Reynolds. Coming just twenty-four hours after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher, Reynolds’ passing is as much a jolt to the system as Fisher’s unexpected demise. There’s a saying that no parent should outlive their children, and it looks clear that the shock of losing her daughter contributed to Reynolds being added to the (too) long list of people the entertainment world has been robbed of this year. But like everyone else we’ve had to say goodbye to, Reynolds has left us with an impressive body of work to remember her by.
Her career began when she was just sixteen years old and she won a beauty contest where she impersonated Betty Hutton. Four years later, and with no practical experience, Reynolds was chosen to be Gene Kelly’s dance partner in Singin’ in the Rain (1952). It wasn’t her first movie, but it was certainly her biggest challenge to date, and she was so good it was like she was making her twentieth screen appearance, and not her sixth. Success after success followed throughout the Fifties, but in the Sixties her career began to slow down. She found other projects to occupy her time, such as buying a Californian hospital with plans to turn it into a profitable business venture. She also founded the Hollywood Motion Picture Collection, a museum dedicated to movie memorabilia that included over three thousand costumes, from Judy Garland’s ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz (1939) to the white dress Marilyn Monroe wore in The Seven Year Itch (1955).
in the Seventies she made her Broadway debut, and though she appeared in only a handful of productions, her talent guaranteed her good reviews (it was also during this period that she picked up the nickname “Princess Leia’s mother”). Much later, she found her way into the consciousness of a younger generation through her recurring role as Grace’s mother in the TV show Will & Grace (1999-2006). She continued to work sporadically both in movies and on the small screen, but mostly she did voice work on animated productions such as Kim Possible (2003-2007), and even an episode of Family Guy.
She was a glamorous star who during her lifetime knew what it was to be down on her luck, even admitting at one point to living in her car. But throughout her career, whether she was up or down, Reynolds kept on smiling and proving herself to be a strong draw when a role came along. Her Fifties heyday was a remarkable period, and she was a remarkable performer during that period, and like many stars from that era, she became an instantly recognisable actress whose name equalled quality. Like everyone else we’ve had to say goodbye to this year, she’ll be sorely missed.
1 – Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
2 – Susan Slept Here (1954)
3 – The Tender Trap (1955)
4 – Bundle of Joy (1956)
5 – The Mating Game (1959)
6 – The Pleasure of His Company (1961)
7 – How the West Was Won (1962)
8 – The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)
9 – Divorce American Style (1967)
10 – Charlotte’s Web (1973)