Legendary star of stage and screen Debbie Reynolds—one of the last of the great MGM musical stars—has died, according to her son, Todd Fisher. Her death comes just a day after the passing of her daughter, actor and writer Carrie Fisher.
Variety reports that after suffering a stroke at the home of her son during the afternoon of December 28, Reynolds was rushed to Cedars-Sinai hospital where she later died.
Reynolds and Fisher, who lived next door to one another, were the subject of the HBO documentary Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. Described as “an affectionate, often hilarious, and unexpectedly moving valentine to the mother-daughter act to end all mother-daughter acts,” it is slated to air in May 2017.
Born April 1, 1932, Reynolds turned winning a Miss Burbank beauty contest into a contract with Warner Brothers. But it wasn’t until her fifth credited screen role that she became a star. Appearing opposite Gene Kelly as the talented Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain, Reynolds sang and tapped her way into the hearts of movie audiences around the country and over the course of decades.
More hit roles followed, including Tammy and the Bachelor—which yielded the hit title song—The Tender Trap, The Catered Affair (later made into a Broadway musical), the film adaptation of The Unsinkable Molly Brown (for which she was nominated for an Academy Award), and The Singing Nun. Earlier this year, she was awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Academy Awards. She also provided the memorable voice to Charlotte, the wise spider in the animated adaptation of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web.
She made her Broadway debut in the 1973 revival of the 1920s musical Irene, for which she was Tony-nominated. The nostalgic musical opened March 13, 1973, as the inaugural production of the Minskoff Theatre, where it ran for 594 performances. That show also saw her daughter, Carrie Fisher, make her Broadway debut in the show's ensemble.9
She returned to the Minskoff in 1976 for a limited, 14-performance engagement of Debbie, a nightclub-style revue of musical highlights from her career.
In 1983, Reynolds served as a replacement for Raquel Welch (herself a replacement for original, Tony-winning star Lauren Bacall) in the Broadway musical Woman of the Year, before ending the decade by taking Unsinkable Molly Brown on a national tour.
Reynolds had remained active in recent years, frequently appearing as a guest star on Will and Grace as Grace’s opinionated mother and as the mother to Michael Douglas’ Liberace in the celebrated TV movie Behind the Candelabra. Reynolds was the recipient of the 2015 SAG Award Life Achievement Award. She also became the face of film memorabilia, purchasing multiple lots at the 1970 MGM auction and preserving such legendary pieces as Charlie Chaplin’s bowler hat, Marilyn Monroe’s white dress from The Seven Year Itch, and a wardrobe test pair of ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.
Reynolds cemented her status in Hollywood lore by being one-third of a triangle that found newly widowed Elizabeth Taylor and Reynolds’ then-husband Eddie Fisher falling in love, a situation that Reynolds wryly recounted in her memoir Debbie: My Life.
WATCH REYNOLDS SING “YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU” FROM IRENE AT THE 1973 TONY AWARDS:
WATCH REYNOLDS SING “GOOD MORNING” WITH DONALD O’CONNOR AND GENE KELLY IN SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN: