Debbie Reynolds, the 84 year-old actress and musical legend who was the mother of the just-departed Carrie Fisher, died this afternoon after being hit with a stroke around 1 pm. It doesn’t feel like a stretch to imagine that the stress brought on by her daughter’s passing might have been a contributing factor. Debbie’s breakout performance in 1952’s Singin’ In The Rain (shot when she was only 19, which was also Carrie’s age when she made Star Wars: A New Hope) is her most referenced. Her biggest subsequent films were The Catered Affair (’56), Tammy and the Bachelor (’57), How the West Was Won (1963), The Unsinkable Molly Brown (’64), Divorce American Style (’67) and Albert Brooks‘ Mother (’96), and In & Out (1997). Ms. Reynolds became the Jennifer Aniston of the early ’60s when her husband, pop singer Eddie Fisher, left her for Elizabeth Taylor, who in turn became that era’s Angelina Jolie. Reynolds was also a popular nightclub and concert performer until relatively recently. A superb, warts-and-all portrait of Debbie and Carrie’s recent joys and travails is contained in Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens‘ Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, which will air three months hence on HBO. 2016 — the killer that keeps on killing.
Wiki excerpt: “Reynolds was not a dancer at the time she made Singin’ in the Rain; her background was as a gymnast. [Costar] Gene Kelly apparently insulted her for her lack of dance experience, upsetting her. In a subsequent encounter when Fred Astaire was in the studio, he found Reynolds crying under a piano. Hearing what had happened, Astaire volunteered to help her with her dancing. Kelly later admitted that he had not been kind to Reynolds and was surprised that she was still willing to talk to him afterwards. After shooting the ‘Good Morning’ routine, which had taken from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. to shoot, Reynolds’ feet were bleeding. Years later, she was quoted as saying that Singin’ in the Rain and childbirth “were the two hardest things I ever had to do in my life.”
Joe Leydon‘s slightly bawdy recollection of an encounter with Reynolds in ’96 is worth reading.