Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016)
At twenty, Reynolds' daughter, the late Carrie Fisher, starred in Star Wars. At twenty, Reynolds, who died one day after her daughter, starred in Singin' In the Rain. Blood will tell, it seems. There's a macabre sort of Hollywood finality in their virtual joint exit, as well as an oppressive exclamation point punctuating a year already infamous for the deaths of so many entertainment icons -- particularly pop singers like Reynolds. There's a permanent temptation to see the story of their lives in Fisher's novel Postcards From the Edge, or the adaptation she wrote for Mike Nichols' movie, in which Reynolds reportedly wanted to star as the mother character who finally was played by Shirley MacLaine. But Fisher herself downplayed the a clef aspect of the story, wanting recognition for creativity rather than reportage. Nevertheless, the Postcards legend keeps Reynolds somewhat in her daughter's shadow, and this week's news will do little to change that. It's worth emphasizing again that while Fisher graced the ultimate space opera movie, Reynolds was the romantic lead in the picture usually recognized as the greatest of all movie musicals, a major star of the 1950s and a fixture of the final years of the classic musical genre. At a certain point, around the time Carrie's dad, the singer Eddie Fisher, ditched her for the infamous Elizabeth Taylor, she arguably became more celebrity than entertainer, with fateful consequences for her daughter. Her late-life role as Carrie Fisher's mom only cemented that status, keeping her in the public eye between engagements in movies and television -- including a film written by Fisher in which she co-starred with Taylor. Since they'll be paired in people's minds forevermore, it might as well be said that Debbie Reynolds wasn't just Carrie Fisher's mom, but her peer as a star.