Mary Frances Reynolds in El Paso, Texas, 1 April 1932.
Attended high school in Burbank, California.
Married 1) the singer Eddie Fisher, 1955 (divorced 1959), daughter: the
actress Carrie Fisher, son: Todd Fisher; 2) Harry Karl, 1960 (divorced
1973); 3) Richard Hamlett, 1985.
1948—film debut in
; contract with Warner Brothers, 1948–50, and with MGM,
1950–59; nightclub work since 1961; 1969–70—actress
The Debbie Reynolds Show
; 1973—star of
on Broadway; 1981—in TV series
Raymax Productions, 6514 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood, CA 91606,
June Bride (Windust) (as Boo's girl friend)
The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady (Butler) (as Maureen O'Grady); Three Little Words (Thorpe) (as Helen Kane); Two Weeks with Love (Rowland) (as Melba Robinson)
Mr. Imperium (Hartman) (as Gwen)
Singin' in the Rain (Donen and Kelly) (as Kathy Selden); Skirts Ahoy! (Lanfield) (as herself)
I Love Melvin (Weis) (as Judy Leroy); The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (Weis) (as Pansy Hammer); Give a Girl a Break (Donen) (as Suzy Doolittle)
Susan Slept Here (Tashlin) (as Susan); Athena (Thorpe) (as Minerva Mulvain)
Hit the Deck (Rowland) (as Carol Pace); The Tender Trap (Walters) (as Julie Gillis)
The Catered Affair (Richard Brooks) (as Jane Hurley); Bundle of Joy (Taurog) (as Polly Parrish); Meet Me in Las Vegas ( Viva Las Vegas ) (Rowland)
Tammy and the Bachelor (Pevney) (as Tammy)
This Happy Feeling (Edwards) (as Janet Blake)
The Mating Game (George Marshall) (as Marietta Larkin); Say One for Me (Tashlin) (as Holly); It Started with a Kiss (George Marshall) (as Maggie); The Gazebo (George Marshall) (as Nell Nash)
The Rat Race (Mulligan) (as Peggy Brown); Pepe (Sidney) (as guest)
The Pleasure of His Company (Seaton) (as Jessica Poole); The Second Time Around (Sherman) (as Lucretia)
How the West Was Won (Hathaway, Ford, and Marshall) (as Lilith Prescott); My Six Loves (Champion) (as Janice Courtney); Mary, Mary (LeRoy) (title role)
The Unsinkable Molly Brown (Walters) (title role); Goodbye Charlie (Minnelli) (as George)
The Singing Nun (Koster) (as Sister Ann)
Divorce American Style (Yorkin) (as Barbara Harmon)
How Sweet It Is! (Paris) (as Jenny)
What's the Matter with Helen? (Harrington) (as Adelle Bruckner)
Charlotte's Web (Nichols and Takamoto) (as voice of Charlotte)
That's Entertainment! (Haley Jr.) (as narrator)
Sadie and Jon (Moxey—for TV)
Perry Mason: The Case of the Musical Murder (Nyby—for TV) (as Amanda Cody)
The Bodyguard (Jackson) (as herself); Battling for Baby (Art Wolff—for TV)
Heaven and Earth (Stone) (as Eugenia); Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul (Gregory Orr—doc)
That's Entertainment! III (Friedgen and Sheridan) (as host)
Mother (Albert Brooks)
Wedding Bell Blues (Lustig) (as herself); In & Out (Oz) (as Bernice Brackett)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Gilliam) (as voice of herself); Zack and Reba (Bettauer) (as B. Blanton); Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie (Kowalchuk) (as voice of Mrs. Santa Claus); Halloweentown (Dunham—for TV) (as Aggie Cromwell); The Christmas Wish (Barry—for TV) (as Ruth)
Keepers of the Frame (McLaughlin) (as herself); A Gift of Love: The Daniel Huffman Story (Korty) (as Shirlee Allison)
If I Knew Then , New York, 1963.
Debbie: My Life , with David Patrick Columbia, New York, 1988, 1989, 1991.
Rosen, Marjorie, Popcorn Venus , New York, 1973.
Farber, Stephen, and Marc Green, Hollywood Dynasties , New York, 1984.
Current Biography 1964 , New York, 1964.
Chambers, Andrea, "Debbie Reynolds, Hollywood's Perennial Girl-next-door, Looks Back on a Life of Broken Promises," in People Weekly , 24 October 1988.
Norman, Barry, "Films," in Radio Times (London), vol. 248, vol. 3499, 12 January 1991.
Stanley, J., "Dishing from Debbie," in Emmy (North Hollywood), vol. 13, no. 5, October 1991.
"The Reynolds Rap," in Film Threat (Beverly Hills), no. 8, February 1993.
Hample, Henry S., "Debbie Reynolds," in Premiere (New York), vol. 7, January 1994.
Schwager, J., "Still 'Singin',"' in Boxoffice (Chicago), vol. 130, May 1994.
Bennetts, L., "Debbie in the Desert," in Vanity Fair (New York), vol. 57, October 1994.
Corliss, Richard, "Debbie Does Vegas," in Time , 24 April 1995.
"Debbie Reynolds Chats with Daughter Carrie Fisher," in Good Housekeeping , February 1997.
Furnish, D., "The Texan Who Became Debbie Reynolds," in Interview , January 1997.
Wayne, G., "A New Debbie Dawning: Debbie Reynolds and Her Maternal Flame," in Vanity Fair (New York), February 1997.
Spada, James, "The Unsinkable Debbie Reynolds," in McCall's , March 1997.
* * *
Debbie Reynolds may have been crowned Miss Burbank of 1948, but the qualities she brought to her movie debut that same year were more those of the cheerleader than the beauty queen. Her ebullient girlishness hit exactly the right note in the musicals and comedies which became her staple, and her popularity was so immediate that she was given starring roles while still a novice. Her early parts did not vary much, but her charm was so effortless that she could nudge a movie into the next higher notch of entertainment by the sheer force of enthusiasm. Her singing and dancing were no more than competent yet she was repeatedly cast in musicals, perhaps because her sprightly and buoyant character so readily lent itself to the musical's unreal milieu.
Her gifts as a mimic, mined more thoroughly in the nightclub acts of her later career, are already in evidence in the delightful I Love Melvin , as is her inherent sense of comedy timing. She shows precocious skills as a farceur in such films as The Affairs of Dobie Gillis and Susan Slept Here , when the script requires only that she be adorable.
Her zeal began to seem a bit forced in The Tender Trap , The Catered Affair , and A Bundle of Joy . A slurpy sentimentality crept into her vehicles, beginning with Tammy and the Bachelor . She could be theatrical and obvious in The Gazebo , How the West Was Won , and Mary, Mary . Still, her talents remain formidable. Witness her popular star turn as The Unsinkable Molly Brown , a role she played on screen and stage. And when she allows herself an offbeat role, as in the witty What's the Matter with Helen? , the results can be agreeably loopy.
Reynolds's career of late has not focused on feature filmmaking. Since the 1970s, she has led a crusade to restore and preserve the objects and real estate of Hollywood history, including buildings, costumes, posters, and props. She also has assembled an impressive collection of vintage movie memorabilia. These activities have made her one of the most respected citizens of Hollywood. Professionally, her career has been relegated almost exclusively to the stage and club dates, and to her appearances in two aerobic exercise videotapes. She also wrote an autobiography, Debbie: My Life .
Still, her beauty and exuberance merely await the right screen role. Having acquitted herself so admirably with Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain when she was no more than 19, what might she be capable of now?
—Frank Thompson, updated by Audrey E. Kupferberg