Hollywood took a major blow this week when it lost not only Carrie Fisher of Star Wars fame but also her mother, Debbie Reynolds, who died just one day after Fisher. For younger audiences, they only know Reynolds for being the mother of Princess Leia or for her voice work for a variety of animated projects, but Reynolds had a long full life of other successful roles as well.
Debbie’s first acting role was playing the girlfriend of a character named Boo in the 1948 movie, June Bride, according to IMDB. It was an uncredited role, but it got her foot in the door. In 1951, Reynolds was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for “New Star of the Year – Actress” for her work in Three Little Words. It was just two years later that she would star in perhaps the actress’ most iconic role, that of Kathy Selden in the musical, Singin’ in the Rain with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. It is said that Kelly, who also served as co-director of the movie, was irritated by Reynold’s lack of dancing skills. Fred Astaire was visiting the set and found Reynolds under a piano crying and offered to help Debbie with her dancing. Kelly later said of his co-star, “Fortunately, Debbie was strong as an ox… also she was a great copyist, and she could pick up the most complicated routine without too much difficulty… at the university of hard work and pain.” Besides giving birth, she said that making Singin’ in the Rain was one of the hardest achievements she had ever conquered.
Debbie earned a gold record for her recording of “Tammy,” a song featured in her 1957 movie, Tammy and the Bachelor, which she co-starred in with future Naked Gun actor, Leslie Nielsen.
Debbie Reynolds also took on the roles of wife and mother. She married Eddie Fisher in 1955, and her daughter Carrie was born on October 21, 1956. Reynolds and Fisher starred in the comedy Bundle of Joy in 1956, which partially relied on Carrie’s birth to serve as a promotional tool. Her son, Todd, was born on February 24, 1958. She divorced Eddie in 1959 when it was revealed that he had an affair with Elizabeth Taylor; a scandal that caused the cancellation of Fisher’s TV show. Debbie was later married to Harry Karl, a millionaire, from 1960 to 1973. Her third marriage was to Richard Hamlett, a real estate developer, from 1984 to 1996.
Debbie Reynolds appeared on television numerous times playing guest starring roles and starred in her own sitcom, The Debbie Reynolds Show, from 1969-1970. Her other credits include roles on Aloha Paradise, Madame’s Place, Alice, The Love Boat, Jennifer Slept Here, Hotel, The Golden Girls, Wings, Roseanne, Touched by an Angel, and Will & Grace.
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In later years, Reynolds did a lot of voice work for various animated TV shows. The roles that she voiced include Charlotte in the children’s classic Charlotte’s Web, Lulu Pickles on Rugrats, Nana Possible on Kim Possible, Mrs. Wilson on Family Guy and most recently, Great-Great-Grandmommers Whimsical on Disney’s The 7D series. Younger fans are probably most familiar with Reynolds for playing the role of Agatha Cromwell in the Disney Channel Halloweentown made-for-TV movies. Her last acting role was playing Frances Liberace for the TV movie, Behind the Candelabra, in 2013.
[Featured Image by Richard Drew/AP Images]