This one really hurts.
I can remember the first time I saw Debbie Reynolds. I was five. I was supposed to be in bed, but I had sneaked into my parents bedroom to watch TV while they were in the basement watching their own show. I didn’t know what was on, I didn’t care. I wanted to be a rebel.
This is probably the only childhood story in which Singing In the Rain is considered a form of rebellion. I watched all three hours on CBC. My mother, upon discovering me, was quite angry. I didn’t care. I had witnessed magic.
Debbie Reynolds’ persona in the 1950s was the sweet girl next door. Her persona later in life was formed by her tough as nails mindset, the one that survived humiliation by her cheating first husband and criminal second husband, her difficult but loving relationship with daughter Carrie Fisher, and shrewd business decisions, like buying a large chunk of the MGM collection at a 1970 auction, owning a wide berth of movie memorabilia like a pair of Dorothy’s ruby slippers and a blue cotton dress Judy Garland wore in a screen test. When she sold her collection in 2011, it exceeded a gross of $22 million dollars. Her later film career consisted of many smart comedies like Mother and In & Out, and a splendid turn as Grace’s mother on Will & Grace. She was a delightful chat show guest, full of stories. You could see where Carrie Fisher’s fearlessness came from when you saw her with her mother.
And of course, I’d be remiss and possibly hated by my children if I didn’t mention where they first saw her: as Aggie in the Halloweentown movies. These Disney channel films are truly terrible, but there’s Debbie, as big a personality as ever, having yet another generation love her.
But she will forever be my Kathy, the cute girl who keeps up with Gene Kelly’s Don and Donald O’Connor’s Cosmo during the “Good Morning” dance number, her feet bleeding, and had America fall in love with her.
What a dame. She will be truly missed. And my heart breaks for her, as her last day must have been the saddest of her life.
My heart goes to her son Todd and granddaughter Billie.