Hand color tinted photo of Debbie Reynolds, Actress, singer & dancer
Debbie Reynolds (born Mary Frances Reynolds; April 1, 1932) is an American actress, singer, and dancer. She is also a collector of movie memorabilia. Reynolds was also an MGM contract star.
Reynolds was born in El Paso, Texas, the second child of Maxine N. (née Harmon; 1913-1999) and Raymond Francis Reynolds (1903-1986), who was a carpenter for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Reynolds was a Girl Scout and a troop leader (a scholarship in her name is offered to high-school age Girl Scouts). Her family moved to Burbank, California, in 1939, and she was raised in a strict Nazarene faith. At age 16, while a student at Burbank’s John Burroughs High School, Reynolds won the Miss Burbank Beauty Contest, a contract with Warner Brothers, and acquired her new first name.
Debbie Reynolds regularly appeared in movie musicals during the 1950s and had several hit records during the period. Her song “Aba Daba Honeymoon” (featured in the the 1950 film Two Weeks with Love as a duet with Carleton Carpenter) was a top-three hit in 1951. Her most high-profile film role was in Singin’ in the Rain (1952) as Kathy Selden. In Bundle of Joy (1956) she appeared with her then-husband, Eddie Fisher.
Her recording of the song “Tammy” (from her 1957 film Tammy and the Bachelor) earned her a gold record and was the best-selling single by a female vocalist in 1957. It was number one for five weeks on the Billboard pop charts. In the movie (the first of the Tammy film series) she costarred with Leslie Nielsen.
In 1959 Reynolds recorded her first album for Dot Records, simply called Debbie, which included her own selection of 12 standards including “S’posin'”, “Moonglow”, “Mean To Me” and “Time After Time”. Bing Crosby paid tribute to Reynolds in the sleeve notes accompanying the album thus:
“ Someone recently said, and with reasonable accuracy I would think, that good singers make good actors. Evidence in support of this belief is available in the recent performances of Sinatra and Martin, for instance, but I would like to put forth also the proposition that the reverse is quite true: good actors make good singers. Assuming they can carry a tune. We all know that Debbie is better than a good actress — she’s VERY good, and we all know she can sing with a lilt and a listenable quality that’s genuinely pleasant and agreeable. Witness “Tammy”. It was small surprise to me then that when I listened to this beautiful album she has etched for Dot, I found myself captivated and enchanted. Quite obviously Debbie had spent a great deal of time selecting the songs to be included, because she’s made them her own, and invested them with a sincerity that’s inescapable — of contrasting moods to be sure, but the moods are there, and to me, mighty effective. And that, mes amis, is artistry. ”
Reynolds also scored two other top-25 Billboard hits with “A Very Special Love” (1958) and “Am I That Easy to Forget” (1960) — a pop-music version of a country-music hit made famous by both songwriters Carl Belew (in 1959), Skeeter Davis (in 1960), and several years later by singer Engelbert Humperdinck. During these years she also headlined in major Las Vegas, showrooms.
Her starring role in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) led to a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She then portrayed Jeanine Deckers in The Singing Nun (1966).
In what Reynolds has called the “stupidest mistake of my entire career”, she made headlines in 1970 after instigating a fight with the NBC television network over cigarette advertising on her eponymous television series; NBC cancelled the show.
She continues to make appearances in film and television, one of the few actors from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s “golden age of film” (along with Mickey Rooney, Lauren Bacall, Margaret O’Brien, Jane Powell, Rita Moreno, Leslie Caron, Dean Stockwell, Angela Lansbury, Russ Tamblyn and June Lockhart) who remain active in filmmaking. From 1999 to its 2006 series finale, she played Grace Adler’s ditzy mother Bobbi on the NBC sitcom Will & Grace (1998-2006), which earned her a Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series in 2000. She also plays a recurring role in the Disney Channel Original Movie Halloweentown film series as Aggie Cromwell. Reynolds made a guest appearance as a presenter at the 69th Academy Awards in 1997.
Reynolds has released several albums of both her vintage performances and her later recordings.
Awards and nominations
Reynolds won the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Catered Affair (1956).
She has received various nominations for awards including: an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy for The Debbie Reynolds Show (1970), a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for Mother (1996) and a Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, for her role of Bobbi Adler in the sitcom Will & Grace (2000). In 1996 and 1997, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy, in the American Comedy Awards.
Her foot and hand prints are preserved at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California. She also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6654 Hollywood Boulevard.
In November 2006, Reynolds received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from Chapman University (Orange, California). On May 17, 2007, she was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Nevada, Reno, (Reno, Nevada) where she had contributed for many years to the film-studies program. In her acceptance speech, she referred to the University as “Nevahda…Arizona”.
Reynolds has been married three times. She and Eddie Fisher were married in 1955. They are the parents of Carrie Fisher and Todd Fisher. A public scandal ensued when Fisher and Elizabeth Taylor fell in love, and Reynolds and Fisher were divorced in 1959. Her second marriage, to millionaire businessman Harry Karl, lasted from 1960 to 1973. At its end, she found herself in financial difficulty because of Karl’s gambling and bad investments. (Under the community-property laws of California, both spouses in a marriage are legally responsible for debts incurred by either.) Reynolds was married to real-estate developer Richard Hamlett from 1984 to 1996. They purchased Greek Isles Hotel & Casino, a small hotel and casino in Las Vegas, but it was not a success. In 1997, Reynolds was forced to declare bankruptcy.
Reynolds has been active in the Thalians Club, a charitable organization. She is a member of the Church of the Nazarene.
She has amassed a large collection of movie memorabilia and displayed them, first in a museum at her Las Vegas hotel and casino during the 1990s and later in a museum close to the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles. On several occasions she has auctioned off items from the collection. The collection will re-open in the Gatlinburg, Tennessee, area in the future.
Death and legacy
On December 23, 2016, Reynolds’s daughter, actress and writer Carrie Fisher, suffered a medical emergency on a transatlantic flight from London to Los Angeles, and died on December 27 at the age of 60. The following day Reynolds was hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, after suffering a “severe stroke”, according to son Todd Fisher. Later that afternoon, Reynolds died in the hospital. On January 9, 2017, her cause of death was determined to be intracerebral hemorrhage, with hypertension a contributing factor.
Reynolds is survived by her son Todd Fisher and her granddaughter, Billie Lourd, daughter of Carrie Fisher and Bryan Lourd. According to her son, the emotional stress caused by her daughter’s death the day before had seriously affected Reynolds and was partially responsible for her stroke, noting that her last words were, “I want to be with Carrie.” During an interview for the December 30, 2016 airing of the ABC-TV program 20/20, Fisher stated his mother joined his sister in death because Reynolds “didn’t want to leave Carrie and did not want her to be alone.” He added, however, that “she didn’t die of a broken heart” as some news reports had implied. Fisher further stated, “She just left to be with Carrie.”
Reynolds and Carrie Fisher were memorialized at a private event on January 5, 2017, and a larger joint memorial service will be held at a later date. The two were buried together at Forest Lawn Memorial Park – Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles.