2016 has been a year of tragic deaths, with well over 100 celebrities lost from our arts and music culture.
Tuesday we mourned the loss of Our General, Carrie Fisher and yesterday we heard the horribly tragic news that her mother, Hollywood icon Debbie Reynolds, had also passed away.
Reports indicate that Reynolds was at the home of her son Todd Fisher organising the details of Carrie’s funeral when she suffered a stroke. Confirming the passing of his mother, Todd released a statement saying that “She wanted to be with Carrie.”
For those of us who are a little older, we remember Debbie for her massive hit musical Singin’ in The Rain. It is actually a favourite among quite a few of the staff here at 4YE.
Born Mary Frances Reynolds in 1932, she started on her road to fame when she was crowned Miss Burbank in 1948 and was signed to Warner Bros. They changed her name to Debbie. She was the quintessential American Sweetheart and became a star after appearing alongside Gene Kelly in Singin’ In The Rain in 1952.
She married singer Eddie Fisher and had two children, Carrie and Todd. Fisher and Reynolds divorced after he left her for Elizabeth Taylor, which was, at the time a massive scandal in Hollywood. Carrie Fisher would later liken it to the saga associated with the Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie love triangle.
Apart from movies, Debbie Reynolds was also a singer and following the release of the 1957 Tammy and The Bachelor, she released her single Tammy. This single went to number 1 and gave her a gold selling record. Her album, entitled Debbie was a huge hit around the globe.
In 1964 she starred in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, another musical comedy which earned her her first and only Oscar nomination. She also had her own TV series, The Debbie Reynolds Show. The series was short lived as when Reynolds discovered they were selling the advertising to cigarette companies she defaulted on her contract and walked away from the show which she part owned with NBC.
In her later career, Reynolds also did voice work for many animated films including the 1973 version of Charlotte’s Web as well as doing voices for the English version of anime Kiki’s Delivery Service among others.
She went on to be not only an iconic actress but business woman, film historian and also a champion for mental health. She was among a group of actors who founded the Thalians, a charitable organisation aimed at raising awareness and providing treatment and support for those suffering from mental health issues. Reynolds was elected president of the organisation in 1957 and served in that role for more than five decades.
In 2015, she was honored with the SAG Life Achievement Award, which was presented to her by her daughter. In her speech Carrie said, “She has been more than a mother to me, not much, but definitely more. She’s been an unsolicited stylist, interior decorator, and marriage counselor. Admittedly, I found it difficult to share my mother with her adoring fans, who treated her like she was part of their family. She has led two lives, public and private, sometimes concurrently, sometimes not.”
After yesterday’s news about her daughter, I truly believe that Debbie Reynolds actually died from a broken heart. We have lost another huge talent and in the final days of this annus horribilis.
I will leave you with one of my favourite songs and performances of Debbie Reynolds…
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