Thursday, April 01, 2010

Happy Birthday Debbie Reynolds

There are few people I love more than those great ladies of Hollywood past; one such lady, Debbie Reynolds, is still very much singing and dancing and making us laugh in the present - well into the amazing sixth decade of her career. It is the sincere hope of the Pop Culture Institute that she will continue to do so for many years into the future as well...

PhotobucketOriginally from Texas, the Reynolds clan moved to Southern California when little Mary Frances was just seven; fresh out of the Girl Scouts the sixteen year old student at Burbank High School won a beauty contest which can be said to have launched her career since, because of it, she was also awarded a contract with Warner Brothers.

The newly re-christened Debbie's first big movie role, though, came in an MGM picture - Singin' in the Rain, which is the closest to perfect a movie musical ever got. By then, of course, she was already as established a hit-maker as Francesco Nitto, having taken Aba Daba Honeymoon all the way to #3.

Of course, there's more to a show business career than singing and dancing and making people laugh; where Reynolds' celebrity mettle was really tested was in the scandal department. Once married to singer Eddie Fisher - who famously left her for Elizabeth Taylor in 1955 - the petite blonde who was then America's Sweetheart clearly emerged from that one the winner in the public's eyes. Of course, it's the children who suffer in divorce, and this case was no different; both Carrie Fisher and her brother Todd were left more or less fatherless, but worst of all Carrie became a writer, which is surely the worst possible fate to ever befall anyone.

Alas, the wandering eye of Eddie Fisher was the least of Reynolds' problems; the lack of financial acumen displayed by her second husband Harry Karl left her in dire straits following their 1973 divorce, which necessitated a career in the cabarets of Las Vegas. There she not only displayed the traits for which she was by then rightly famous but also demonstrated a flair for mimicry, including (if show business lore is correct - and why wouldn't it be) a dead-on impersonation of her one-time media rival, Elizabeth Taylor.

After a botched attempt at starring in her own show, The Debbie Reynolds Show - which NBC pulled from the air in 1970 after Reynolds objected to its being sponsored by a tobacco company - she managed a fair number of appearances on other shows, including a memorable turn in a two-part episode of The Golden Girls, and a recurring role on Will & Grace as the diva-esque mother of Grace Adler, which was surely a stretch for her to play*.

*Seeing as she had no real-life experience as the mother of a bundle of neuroses with a penchant for becoming romantically entangled with gay dudes... Much.
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