Our Lucky Star, 1932 -2016
A vibrant talent of Hollywood’s silver age, Debbie Reynolds was a multi-talented presence in film and television for over six decades.
She was, as they say, a triple threat: A star who could sing, dance, and act. Known primarily for the film that made a dancer out of her (she wasn’t one prior), 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain, Reynolds burst from that cake and never looked back. She was radiant, impish, funny, and always relatable – even when her feet were secretly bleeding from the work. Not many female screen stars could boast such an image.
There’s a great sadness that her passing at age 84 is tethered to that of that of her daughter Carrie Fisher, who departed the galaxy one day earlier. Reynolds is certainly worthy of her own time and space for eulogy, outside of the fresher regard for Princess Leia.
Known primarily for the film that made a dancer out of her, 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain, Reynolds burst from that cake and never looked back.
Like her daughter, Reynolds is known mostly for that one specific part in that one zeitgeist-y movie that she nailed as a very young woman. To put it in contemporary terms, Singin’ in the Rain is her Star Wars. Historically, that film eclipses everything else she’s done. Even as a well versed film buff, it’s difficult for me in this moment to see around the film that gave us Kathy Selden and made Reynolds our lucky star. For me, like many, both Singin’ in the Rain and Star Wars are all-time favorites, and always will be.
Later in life, she was terrific in the title role of Albert Brooks’ Mother (1996). She held her own in the Western panorama How the West was Won (1962). They say she was remarkable in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), for which she was Oscar nominated. I guess that one, among so many other Reynolds films that time is threatening to forget, are now primed for us to catch up with.
Apparently there’s a new documentary film called Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds kicking around which chronicles the latter day famous-mother/famous-daughter relationship. That will hopefully be a handy avenue into her legacy, as is this excellent short piece by Fisher in tribute to her mother, produced for TCM. Watch, remember, and learn. And perhaps say a prayer for their surviving family members, forced to grapple with so much loss so suddenly.