The back-to-back deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds have brought forth deep emotions from many film fans, myself included.
Growing up as a child of the '70s, the most important movies in my life were MGM musicals and STAR WARS. In a little over 24 hours, the mother-daughter pair who were among the brightest stars of both have left us. I've found my eyes welling with tears multiple times over the last couple of days.
SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952) was the very first MGM musical I ever saw on a big screen at a revival theater. I was about nine years old, and the movie had a huge impact on my life, helping cement my early love for musicals. (For those who want to celebrate Debbie's life seeing this film on a big screen themselves, TCM and Fathom Events will host nationwide screenings on January 15th and 18th.) One of the first things I thought of when I heard of Debbie's passing was her singing "Good Morning." She and costars Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor light up the screen in that infectiously joyous number.
Everything about SINGIN' IN THE RAIN lingers in the mind, even moments as short as Debbie sing-songing "Here we are! Sunset and Camden!" when she wants Don Lockwood to get out of her car.
But there was so much more to her career. When I think of Debbie, a kaleidoscope of images cross my mind: Singing "Aba-Daba Honeymoon" with Carleton Carpenter in TWO WEEKS WITH LOVE (1950); performing (albeit dubbed) "I Wanna Be Loved By You" with Carpenter in THREE LITTLE WORDS (1950); singing the title song in one of my favorite childhood movies, THE TENDER TRAP (1955); her unforgettable rendition of "Tammy" in TAMMY AND THE BACHELOR (1957); singing "A Home in the Meadow" in HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962); and I especially remember the lifeboat scenes and ending reunion with Harve Presnell in THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN (1964), which my parents let me stay up and watch when I was quite young.
TWO WEEKS WITH LOVE:
THE TENDER TRAP:
TAMMY AND THE BACHELOR:
HOW THE WEST WAS WON:
In recent years, SUSAN SLEPT HERE (1954) has become one of my favorite movies to watch at Christmastime. Watching Debbie's transformation from unruly teen to young woman in love is a delight; I laugh just thinking of moments such as her reacting to home movies of glamorous Anne Francis.
Some of those favorite movie scenes are gathered in the new TCM Remembers tribute video.
Seeing Debbie and her UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN costar Harve Presnell in a stage production of ANNIE GET YOUR GUN in the late '70s is a treasured memory; it was a huge thrill to watch her perform live. As I recall, she might have gotten a bit overexuberant with her ad libbing, but she was obviously having a grand time on stage, and the audience did as well.
For my children, Debbie was not just the star of the MGM movies they watched on VHS and later DVD, but the voice of the title character in CHARLOTTE'S WEB (1973) -- which I somehow missed myself as a child -- and the star of Disney Channel's HALLOWEENTOWN (1998) and ensuing movies.
And, of course, she became known to all not just for her own stellar career, but as the mother of "Princess Leia."
Debbie's passing the day after her daughter is tragic for her family, including Carrie's brother Todd and daughter Billie, who must simultaneously cope with the loss of not one but two beloved family members. At the same time there's something beautiful about Debbie, who has been in poor health, immediately going to be with the daughter with whom she shared so much.
This beautiful photo of a very young Carrie watching her mother perform onstage has been making the rounds of social media today:
While we all grieve the passing of these two very special performers -- and also give thanks for the joy they leave behind -- how lovely it is to think of mother and daughter reunited so quickly.
Debbie Reynolds movies reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: JUNE BRIDE (1948), TWO WEEKS WITH LOVE (1950), I LOVE MELVIN (1953), GIVE A GIRL A BREAK (1953), THE AFFAIRS OF DOBIE GILLIS (1953), SUSAN SLEPT HERE (1954) (also here), THE TENDER TRAP (1955), HIT THE DECK (1955), and TAMMY AND THE BACHELOR (1957).
Other notable Debbie Reynolds films not mentioned above include ATHENA (1954), THE CATERED AFFAIR (1956), BUNDLE OF JOY (1956), THE MATING GAME (1959), THE RAT RACE (1960), THE PLEASURE OF HIS COMPANY (1960), MY SIX LOVES (1963), THE SINGING NUN (1966), HOW SWEET IT IS! (1968), and ONE FOR THE MONEY (2012).
December 30th Update: TCM will honor Debbie Reynolds with a day-long tribute on January 27th.
January 26th Update: TCM Tribute to Debbie Reynolds on January 27th.