Debbie Reynolds Passes Away After Daughter, Carrie Fisher

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Movie legend Debbie Reynolds, 84, died on December 28, the day after her daughter actress Carrie Fisher passed, while making funeral arrangements for her. Her son, producer Todd Fisher told Variety that, “She wanted to be with Carrie.”

Reynolds, whom many of us fondly remember as the invincible title character from “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” had been having health issues for the past few years and was taken to the hospital from her home in Beverly Hills after suffering a stroke.

The actress and singer was born Mary Frances Reynolds in El Paso, Texas in 1932 to Maxine and Raymond Reynolds. The family was poor; her mother took in washing to make ends meet while her father was a ditch digger. A few years later in 1939, they moved to California. When Debbie was in high school, her father entered her into a local beauty contest where a talent agent in the crowd became entranced with the 16-year-old. Shortly thereafter, he signed her to a contract with Warner Brothers in 1948. Jack Warner, head of the studio, nicknamed her “Debbie.”

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Reynolds appeared in a few musicals in the early 50s. Her big break came when she was cast in “Singin’ In The Rain” with legends Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. Regarding that role, Reynolds stated, “They hired a kitten for a lion’s role.” She could sing, but had never danced before. Screen legend Gene Kelly taught her how on-set and she would practice her routines for more than 10 hours a day.

Roles in movies like “Bundle of Joy” (gave her a Golden Globe nom), “Tammy and the Bachelor,” and the aforementioned “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” (gave her an Academy Award nom) cemented her status as a movie star.

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Her love life had more downs than ups but her children’s love kept her going. Her first marriage to Eddie Fisher in 1955, the father of Carrie and Todd, ended when he left her for her best friend Elizabeth Taylor when Carrie was two years old. Although their marriage only lasted four years, their volatile relationship had actually spanned decades. She then married Harry Karl (1960-1973), at the time a successful businessman with a secret gambling issue. He ran through both of their bank accounts. Divorced and broke, she took any job she could to keep her family afloat. Reynolds performed in Vegas, and starred in the Broadway revival “Irene” in 1973. Her third husband (1984-96), Richard Hamlett, Reynolds once described as “ a tragedy.”

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Carrie Fisher, on her mother, stated, “I believe my mother knows now but if she doesn’t, it would be good if she did: that I take her advice, that I follow her example, that I respect who she is … and if I’m like her in any way then I’m happy that I am.”  

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She adored her grand-daughter actress Billie Lourd.   In later years, Reynold guest starred in “Will and Grace” on TV, and co-starred with Albert Brooks in “Mother.” In 2014, She played Liberace’s mother in the HBO bio “Behind the Candelabra.”  

In an interview with the Daily Beast in 2011, Reynolds, when asked about her future stated, she wanted “To remain happy,” and to keep on performing, “As long as they’ll have me.”  

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