Remembering Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds

If you’re caring for an elderly at-home patient, chances are good they – and perhaps you – remember a Hollywood star who shined brightly for decades and passed away just a few months ago. One who was, as some have called it, “reshone” through her also-talented actress daughter. The very same daughter who, as bad luck would have it, passed away just a day earlier than her more-famous mom.

We’re talking about Debbie and Carrie Reynolds.

Of course, individuals “of a certain age” are more familiar with Debbie Reynolds because her star had longer to shine. Her record of popular and critically-acclaimed films, shows, and appearances is unsurpassed. Ms. Reynolds’s career peak may have been her best-actress Academy Award nomination for playing the title role in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” (1964), a rags-to-riches western musical based on a true story.

Her best-remembered film is probably “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952), the classic MGM musical about 1920s moviemaking, in which she held her own with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, although she was only 19 when the movie was shot and had never danced professionally before. Her fans may cherish her sentimental good-girl portrayals, like the title role in “Tammy and the Bachelor” (1957), in which she played a Louisiana moonshiner’s wide-eyed granddaughter who spouted folksy wisdom.

Her roles seemed to mirror 1950s attitudes toward love, marriage and family. In 1955, she played a marriage-minded all-American girl opposite Frank Sinatra in “The Tender Trap.” In 1956, she starred with her new husband, Mr. Fisher, in “Bundle of Joy,” a musical remake of the 1939 comedy “Bachelor Mother.”

After the notorious 1958 Elizabeth Taylor- Eddie Fisher extra-marital-affair scandal, Ms. Reynolds rode on a crest of good will and was a popular co-star in a long string of films, mostly lighthearted romantic comedies, including “The Gazebo” (1959), “Say One for Me” (1959) and “The Pleasure of His Company” (1961). She also played the title role in “The Singing Nun” (1966), appeared in “Divorce American Style” (1967) and was part of the all-star ensemble cast of “How the West Was Won” (1963), a rare drama among her more than three dozen movie credits.

“Drama’s unhappy, and playing someone unhappy would make me unhappy,” she told The Boston Globe in 1990. “Ain’t for me, honey.”

She took a stab at series television with a sitcom, “The Debbie Reynolds Show” (1969), in which she played a wacky Lucy Ricardo-like wife who wanted to be a journalist like her husband. It lasted only one season. But she soon achieved a kind of immortality as the voice of Charlotte the selfless spider in the animated film version of E. B. White’s children’s classic “Charlotte’s Web” (1973).

Several husbands and a string of movies, TV appearances, and voice work kept Ms. Reynolds busy for decades, right through the 90’s and into the 21st century. In recent years, Debbie and Carrie were back in the limelight for their close relationship, despite all the trials and tribulations their family, and their relationship, had suffered. Their love, in part, was said to have saved Carrie from a life of addiction. It was also thought that the undying love of Debbie for her daughter is what killed her, barely a day after her daughter passed away, although her official cause of death was attributed to a stroke.

We remember Debbie Reynolds for her courage, compassion, and deep, abiding love for her family. She is missed by family, friends, and fans.

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