Tuesday 20 August 2019

Teenage newbie sang, acted and danced her way to Hollywood fame

Debbie Reynolds with her then fiance Eddie Fisher in 1955 (AP)
Debbie Reynolds with her then fiance Eddie Fisher in 1955 (AP)

Debbie Reynolds, who died aged 84 a day after her actor daughter Carrie Fisher, was a Hollywood veteran best known for starring in the world-renowned musical Singin' In The Rain.

She was born Mary Francis Reynolds on April 1 1932, in Depression-era poverty in El Paso, Texas, but was quick to find stardom.

The actor and singer was only 18 when her role in 1950s film Three Little Words earned her a Golden Globe nomination for most promising newcomer.

One of her most memorable roles came two years later when she portrayed the fiery and talented Kathy Selden in Singin' In The Rain, which saw her dance and sing alongside Gene Kelly.

She became synonymous with the Hollywood cinema glamour of the 50s and 60s, taking over the big screen with roles such as Pansy Hammer in The Affairs Of Dobie Gillis (1953), Jane Hurley in The Catered Affair (1956), Tammy in Tammy and the Batchelor (1957), Molly Brown in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), and Sister Ann in The Singing Nun (1966).

It was her first marriage, to musician Eddie Fisher in 1955, that led to the births of her son Todd Fisher and of Carrie, who would herself find fame playing Princess Leia in Star Wars.

But the marriage, her first of three, ended sourly after Fisher had an affair with movie star Elizabeth Taylor.

The pair divorced in 1959 and s he continued to have a loving relationship with her own and her ex-husband's children, including Joely Fisher.

Reynolds married Harry Karl the following year and then Richard Hamlett in 1984.

As well as a successful career on Broadway, in her later years, she played the recurring role of Bobbi Adler, mother of Grace in the hit American sitcom Will & Grace.

She was also known for her charity work, devoting 56 years to The Thalians mental health charity, from its foundation in 1955 until 2011.

On December 28, 2016, she was rushed to hospital after suffering a suspected stroke at her son's Beverly Hills home where they were reportedly planning Carrie's funeral.

Star Wars actor and writer Carrie died aged 60 the previous day after suffering a heart attack on a transatlantic flight from London to Los Angeles.

Revealing his mother's death, Todd said: " She said, 'I want to be with Carrie' ... And then she was gone."

PA Media

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