Written by: Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons
I don’t know where to begin.
Should I write again about the unfairness of 2016? Or that it’s so damned unfair Debbie Reynolds died a day after her daughter’s death? Or should I write about Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd and Fisher’s brother Todd, two people who are in a hell I would never wish on anyone?
I want to concentrate on life.
I want to remember Mary Frances Reynolds, a girl who had big dreams and wanted to be a movie star. Unlike most girls, her dream came true at sixteen when she won a beauty pageant and soon found herself at MGM. The path for her was paved to Hollywood and she had to follow it.
I want to remember her at eighteen singing “Aba Daba Honeymoon.” I want to remember her in Singing in the Rain when she jumped out of a cake then sang, “All I Do Is Dream Of You.”
If people get down about the world I want to tell them I get it, I understand–it’s so scary out there. But watch Singing in the Rain. Watch Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor sing “Good Morning.” Watch them dance. Look at them. There’s so much joy there. How can you be down when you watch them? They are the embodiment of euphoria, of bliss.
Early on, Debbie met and married Eddie Fisher. They did the movie Bundle of Joy (a musical remake of the Ginger Rodgers film Bachelor Mother) while making the film they were expecting their own bundle of joy: a little girl named Carrie. While pregnant with Carrie she also made Tammy and the Bachelor. She soon had a gold record with the song “Tammy” one of those songs that when it gets in your head, it stays there: I hear the cottonwoods whisperin’ above/Tammy! Tammy! Tammy’s in love!
However like a movie, the plot changed.
Eddie’s best friend Mike Todd died. Saddened, Debbie and Eddie named their baby boy Todd in his honor. Eddie felt like it was his duty to comfort Elizabeth Taylor, Mike’s widow and Debbie’s best friend. Soon he was comforting her a lot. Suddenly Debbie found herself a single mother with two children. It was pure drama. Poor Debbie! Bad Elizabeth! (Though they did make up years later.)
Debbie kept working. She kept making movies and put together a Las Vegas act. She put out more records. She married again to businessman Harry Karl, but he marriage was troubled due to bad investments on Karl’s par–then she suffered two stillbirths in a row.
In 1964 she made The Unsinkable Molly Brown, the story of the Titanic survivor who refused to go down with the ship. Debbie was like Molly Brown herself: she had grit, she was tough, and she was unsinkable. She garnered an Oscar nomination, only to lose to Julie Andrews’ Mary Poppins. However, Hollywood was changing. They were shifting away from musicals and concentrating on “topical” films.
Soon, stars like Reynolds found themselves relics.
So she kept on performing her Vegas act. When Carrie got older, she joined her mother in performing, then did a little movie called Star Wars. Suddenly, Debbie became known for something else: she was Princess Leia’s mom. For many children, Debbie was Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web, providing Charlotte a strong voice fighting for her friend Wilbur. She kept acting, kept singing, kept going…
In 1996 she suddenly had something in common with Courtney Love: they were both overlooked for Best Actress nominations. Love for her blistering performance as Althea Flynt in The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Debbie for her role as the distant mother in, what else? A film called Mother. In a lesser actress’ hands the role would’ve been reduced to simplistic comedy. However, Debbie added layers to a woman who had to put her writing dreams on hold to raise her children. The last scene is her writing. I love that ending. I don’t know if she and Love went out for drinks and felt sorry for themselves for not being nominated, but wow, that would’ve been a sight.
I want to remember Debbie and Carrie. They were a mother daughter duo who adored each other. It wasn’t easy: Eddie wasn’t there for Carrie and her brother Todd. Carrie dealt with drugs and being bipolar. No doubt it wasn’t easy for Debbie. But Carrie knew this from her mother: you had to keep going. You had to be unsinkable. Don’t let the bastards get you down. Keep buoyant. Get grit and stay in the game.