Debbie Reynolds is the latest to join the cast of what promises to be an excellent film in the afterlife, as 2016 robs the realm of the living of its best and brightest.
Heartbroken at the death of her daughter and the world’s princess, Carrie Fisher, Reynolds is thought to have had a stroke – ultimately dying of a broken heart.
But I don’t wish to focus on the tragedy her family has endured this week. We should instead be thanking the universe for giving us such a wonderful woman in the first place.
Reynolds was strong and utterly devoted to both her family and her craft, as well as remaining level headed for the 65 years she spent in the public eye – despite some very public personal trials.
Let’s look back to where she began. Much like her daughter, she was not so much thrust into the public eye at the age of 19; but rather burst into it with a smile, a song, and waving her jazz-hands. Before she even hit her 20th birthday, Reynolds was cast as the talented wannabe-actress Cathy Selden in the immovable Singin’ in the Rain (arguably the best film ever made – though admittedly this argument is made predominantly by me as I fling open the bedroom curtains every morning singing ‘Good Morning’ at the top of my lungs.)
It’s the ultimate feel-good movie, and chances are you watched it on Christmas Day along with countless other people who get that warm and fuzzy feeling from such a glorious colourful spectacle – and one that was way ahead of its time in terms of post-modernism back in 1952.
But don’t let the wholesome figure of Cathy Selden fool you into thinking Reynolds was the same helpful sidekick type; nor was she the ‘love interest’ type. Reynolds was the leading lady of her own life, with a wicked sense of humour that she passed on to her children. An example of this is her alleged offer to forge co-star Gene Kelly’s autograph for a fan of the movie after he’d passed away.
In her 2013 autobiography, Unsinkable: A Memoir, Reynolds let her sense of humor shine: “These are my recollections. If you remember things differently, send me your version — but only if it’s funnier.”
Given the decade she was born, her contribution to feminism is like most things in her life: ahead of its time. She told The Express in 2015 that marriage isn’t the answer to happiness – and that her craft was always her first love. “The truth is I loved an audience,” she told the paper. “I loved music and dance and that was exciting to me. I wouldn’t care to be married again.”
Through her heartbreak and struggles, Debbie Reynolds was the epitome of a great performer. A stunningly talented actress, singer and dancer – the original triple threat – she devoted her life to her performances, and to her children, whom she cared about above all else. When her daughter’s mental illness surfaced, she became an advocate for those mental illnesses, whilst simultaneously doing everything she could to ensure her daughter’s happiness and health.
One sees so many false idols in show business these days, and sadly one as honest, real and talented as Debbie Reynolds is ever so rare. If Carrie Fisher was the world’s princess, Debbie Reynolds truly was our queen.