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Monday 26 August 2019

From Singin' in the Rain to How the West was Won: Debbie Reynolds' most iconic roles

Debbie Reynolds passed away on December 28 at 84.
Debbie Reynolds passed away on December 28 at 84.

Sasha Brady

Screen legend Debbie Reynolds died on Wednesday at the age of 84, shortly after saying she wanted to be with her daughter Carrie Fisher.

The Hollywood icon passed away following a stroke, just one day after her daughter Carrie, the 60-year-old actress best known for playing Princess Leia in Star Wars, died of a heart attack.

The 84-year-old Oscar-nominated singer enjoyed a glittering career as one of the most iconic stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood. She starred in a number of varied roles, including that of Kathy Seldon in the 1952 classic, Singin' in the Rain.

Reynolds received an honorary Oscar in 2015, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, but was too ill to attend the ceremony. Her granddaughter, actress Billie Lourd, accepted the award in her honour. She also received a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild that year.

"I'm so sorry that I'm sick, but I am thrilled beyond words, shocked, and you couldn't be more amazed that a little girl from Burbank even came near this sort of accolade," she said in a pre-recorded statement.

Here's a look back at some of her most memorable roles.

Singin' In The Rain (1952)

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Reynolds bagged her first leading role at just 19. She played Kathy Seldon, an aspiring singer who captures the heart of Gene Kelly's movie star Don Lockwood. It was her first role but it propelled her to fame and is endured as her fans' most beloved role.

She told the American Film Institute at the time that she was similar to her all-singing, all-dancing character: “I was just lucky that they put me in that part that suited me… If the part is you and you’re not afraid — and I wasn’t afraid… I felt it was me and I really just marched straight ahead and I wasn’t frightened of the huge task.”

The Tender Trap (1955)

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In this romantic comedy, Reynolds stars as aspiring singer and actress Julie Gillis who meets theatre agent Charlie Reader (Frank Sinatra), a notorious womaniser. Complications arise in the relationship when one of Reader's former flames causes trouble. Reynolds' vivacious performance is the perfect match for Sinatra's.

How the West Was Won (1962)

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The classic Western epic saw Reynolds play the part of a tough-as-nails dance hall performer named Lilith Prescott. The film's massive ensemble cast included Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, James Stewart, Eli Wallach, John Wayne, Walter Brennan, Agnes Moorehead, Lee Van Cleef and Spencer Tracy, among many other Hollywood icons.

The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)

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Reynolds showed off her dancing skills again for the 1964 musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown, in which she played the titular role of Margaret Brown, who survived the sinking of the Titanic. She was nominated for an Oscar for her role but lost out to Julie Andrews for Mary Poppins.

The Singing Nun (1966)

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The semi-biographical film stars Reynolds as Jeanine Deckers, a real-life nun who recorded the chart-topping song Dominique. Reynolds also bagged an entry on the Billboard 200 albums chart for her version of the song.

Divorce, American Style (1967)

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Reynolds starred opposite Dick Van Dyke as a couple going through a divorce in this satirical movie but they discover that custody battles and counselling sessions make them more unhappy than being married.

Charlotte's Web (1973)

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Reynolds masterfully voiced the spider in the children's animated film.

Mother (1996)

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Reynolds played Beatrice Henderson, whose son Josh (Albert Brooks) is getting divorced for a second time. He moves in with Reynolds only to discover that his marriage problems stemmed from his childhood. The role earned Reynolds her fourth and final Golden Globe nomination.

Will & Grace

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Reynolds joined the popular sitcom playing Bobbi Adler, the overbearing mother of Debra Messing's Grace. She continued to guest star on the show for eight years. She even won an Emmy for the part in 2000.

Messing took to Twitter to express her grief over Reynolds' death: “My heart is literally broken,” she wrote. “For eight years she was my mom. She was pure energy and light when she came on stage. She was… a consummate pro — old-school and yet had the work ethic and investment in her craft of a new fiery up-and-comer.

“I lost my [own] mom a few years ago. She loved that Debbie was my TV mom. I hope they find each other and hug and kiss and my mom says, ‘I got you, Debbie. Carrie’s waiting for you.’ RIP Bobbie Adler.”

Behind the Candelabra (2013)

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Reynolds starred alongside Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as Liberace's mother.

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