Debbie Reynolds, star of such classic movie musicals as Singin’ in the Rain and The Unsinkable Molly Brown passed away today at the age of 84, only one day after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher.
While there is no official cause of death at this time, it is believed that Reynolds suffered a stroke while at the Beverly Hills home of Carrie Fisher earlier this afternoon. She was taken to Cedars-Sinai Hospital where she later died.
Reynolds was born on April 1, 1932, in Texas. She was discovered in a beauty pageant at age 16 and went on to play her star-making role as Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain only four years later. She was not a trained dancer at the time, so Fred Astaire coached her to help her keep up with co-star Gene Kelly.
While Reynolds was most well known for the abovementioned musicals, even receiving an Oscar nomination for The Unsinkable Molly Brown, her career spanned decades, beginning in the late 1940s. Following the success of Singin’ in the Rain, Reynolds continued to work often for the studio, appearing in a number of films over the next 20 years, including The Tender Trap opposite Frank Sinatra, The Rat Race alongside Tony Curtis, and the comedy Divorce American Style with Dick Van Dyke and Jason Robards.
In the ’90s, Reynolds turned her attention to television, appearing in such shows as The Golden Girls and Roseanne. More recently, she had a recurring role on Will & Grace, as Grace’s mother Bobbi Alder. Since then, she also brought her talents to numerous voiceover roles on shows such as Rugrats, Kim Possible, and Family Guy. In 2013, she played Frances Liberace alongside Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra.
Though later in her career, Reynolds earned high praise for her performance in Albert Brooks’ 1996 film Mother, in which she played Beatrice Henderson, the titular mother of Brooks character John. In his review of the film, Roger Ebert said, “[Reynolds]… has two scenes with Brooks that are triumphs of perfect tone and timing.” The role was a little like art imitating life, as Reynolds’ relationship with her daughter was often publicized and even served as inspiration for Fisher’s 1987 semi-autobiographical novel Postcards From the Edge. The 1990 film adaptation of the novel cast Shirley MacLaine in the role of Doris Mann — the character based on Reynolds. In a bit of Hollywood irony, MacLaine was the first choice of the producers for Reynolds’ role in The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
Reynolds leaves behind her son Todd Fisher, and granddaughter Billie Lourd.
R.I.P. Debbie Reynolds: April 1, 1932-December 28, 2016