It was already a very tragic week for Hollywood after news broke on Tuesday that Star Wars actress and pop culture icon Carrie Fisher had passed away at the age of 60. Fans mourned the loss of a powerful voice in the industry, a fierce, funny woman who brought life to Princess Leia and expanded on a rich, storied Hollywood legacy. But just when many thought that the week had brought enough tragedy, some sad and troubling news was reported yesterday afternoon. Word began to circulate that Debbie Reynolds, the mother of Carrie Fisher and a Hollywood legend in her own right, had suffered a stroke and had been transported to a local hospital. There was nothing to confirm the initial TMZ report, but late last night, the news that many feared was confirmed by the family- Debbie Reynolds has passed away at the age of 84, just one day after her daughter's death.
Debbie Reynolds was born in 1932, and she broke into the film industry at a very young age. After several small roles during the early 1950s, Reynolds got her big break in the form of the lead role in 1952's Singin' in the Rain, which is commonly regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. Reynolds played Kathy Selden, the young performer who falls in love with Gene Kelly's Don Lockwood and becomes a star in the early days of the talkies. After her immediate burst of fame, Reynolds also became famous for her tabloid relationship with Eddie Fisher, who later divorced her and married her close friend, Elizabeth Taylor (oddly enough, Taylor and Reynolds apparently remained friends). Reynolds received an Oscar nomination for 1964's The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and starred in other famous films such as Tammy and the Bachelor, The Rat Race, How the West Was Won, and Mother. To a younger generation, Reynolds is probably best known for Disney's Halloweentown franchise. Her last live-action appearance was as Frances Liberace in 2013's Behind the Candelabra, Steven Soderbergh's acclaimed biopic of famed performer Liberace.
In late 2011 and early 2012, I was 13 years old, and I decided that as a winter project, I would watch as many classic films as I could. I don't remember what exactly got me on this classic movie kick, but I watched a whole range of iconic films. Casablanca, Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon- the list goes on and on. One morning, I decided that I would rent Singin' in the Rain on iTunes, opting to watch the film on my small little iPod screen. I knew nothing about it beyond that it was a movie musical and it was ranked #4 on AFI's list of the greatest films of all time. And at the time, that was good enough for me. I pressed play, and I fell in love with the greatest Hollywood musical in history.
Singin' in the Rain is one of my favorite films, a beautiful burst of joy that encapsulates everything I love about old Hollywood. When people ask me what my favorite films are, it's always near the top of the list. Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor are magnificent in the film, but Reynolds is the real breakout star. She has such wonderful chemistry with Kelly and O'Connor, and her performance of "Good Morning" in the film is nothing short of a knockout. She was always a natural performer, and she was one of the last of the old Hollywood icons. Even after Kelly and O'Connor had passed away, it was always comforting to know that Reynolds was still around, keeping the spirit of that classic film and that famous era alive in modern Hollywood. This is a tremendous loss for the Fisher family and for everyone in the industry. Debbie Reynolds was nothing short of a legend, and she will be dearly missed.
Image Credit: IMDB