A Tribute to Debbie Reynolds
Debbie Reynolds was born Mary Frances Reynolds on April 1, 1932, in El Paso, Texas, and there’s a lot of Texas left in her. After her family moved to California, she entered the Miss Burbank beauty contest in 1948, reportedly just to get the free blouse, silk scarf, and lunch given to contestants. Her Betty Hutton impersonation won the day, and she also won a contract with Warner Brothers.
The studio missed its chance, however, giving her only two small roles in the next couple of years, and failing to renew her contract. MGM then grabbed her up, gave her dancing and singing lessons, and cast her in Three Little Words and then Two Weeks with Love (both 1950). Her success in those parts led to her biggest break, a starring role opposite Gene Kelly and Donald O’Conner in what has come to be thought of as the greatest of the MGM musicals, Singin’ in the Rain (1952). Only 19 at the time, Debbie says it was one of the two hardest things she’s ever done (childbirth being the other). But it was worth it. For the next decade she was one of the most popular and highest-paid stars at MGM.
Notable films during this period included The Tender Trap (1955), The Catered Affair (1956), Tammy and the Bachelor (1957) (which also resulted in a Top 10 hit title song, Tammy) This Happy Feeling (1958), The Mating Game (1959), The Gazebo (1959), The Rat Race (1960), The Second Time Around (1961), How the West Was Won (1962), and My Six Loves (1963). The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) gave her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
Debbie had married Eddie Fisher in 1955. Their two children, Carrie and Todd, went on to achieve success in Hollywood themselves, but the marriage ended in 1959, in a well-publicized break-up involving Elizabeth Taylor. The publicity didn’t hurt her career, but the death of the Hollywood musical did. She shifted gears in the late 60s, turning to stage musicals, television, and later night clubs, voiceover work, and even an exercise video (1984). But she never really retired from films, and in 1996 starred in Albert Brooks’ comedy Mother, giving one of her greatest performances to date. More recently she teamed up with Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley MacLaine and Joan Collins on a TV movie written by her daughter Carrie Fisher, entitled These Old Broads.
Perhaps her greatest enthusiasm in recent years has been her collection of Hollywood memorabilia, consisting of more than 3000 costumes and 46,000 square feet of props and equipment, now housed in her Las Vegas Hollywood Motion Picture Collection.
Help us wish her a happy birthday, and be sure to visit the other three pages of this tribute.
Part I: Introduction
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find Her Movies
Part IV: Photos, Art, and Posters