Celebrity, Arts, Music, Drama
As star of more than thirty motion pictures, two Broadway shows, two series, as well as dozens of television appearances, here and abroad, in 2001 Debbie Reynolds celebrates her fifty-third year in show business. Burn Mary Frances Reynolds on April Fool’s Day, 1932 in El Paso, Texas, she moved with her parents and brother to Burbank, California when she was eight years old.
An enthusiastic and highly energetic child, she excelled in sports, particularly sandlot baseball, Girl Scouts, baton twirling and in music where her specialty was French horn. Her early comedic talents first came to light when she auditioned for dramatic roles in school plays and found everyone laughing at her "serious" readings. Failing at that, she had to content herself with doing "everything from the wind machine to the thunder and lightning offstage," but she never made it to an on-stage appearance.
At age sixteen she entered a local beauty contest sponsored by Lockheed Aircraft. Never considered one of the "beauties," she won on the strength of a lip-synching rendition of Betty Hutton singing "I’m A Square Peg In A Social Circle." Two of the judges that night were talent scouts from Warner Brothers and MGM. On the flip of a coin, the Warner Brothers scout, Solly Baiano, got first dibs at a screen test for Mary Frances. The test lead to a contract and the little girl’s name was changed to Debbie.
Debbie made her screen debut with Jane Haver and James Barton in "The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady." Her first big break came in an MGM musical starring Fred Astaire and Red Skelton, "Three Little Words," in which she portrayed Helen Kane, the "Boop-boop-a-doop" girl of the late 1930s. A subsequent performance in a Busby Berkley musical, "Two Weeks With Love," convinced the legendary L.B. Mayer to choose her for the leading female role in what became one of the greatest screen musicals of all time, "Singin’ In The Rain."
Over a ten year period, Debbie made more than twenty-five films, including "How The West Was Won," "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" (for which she was nominated for an Oscar), "Susan Slept Here," "The Tender Trap," "Tammy and The Bachelor," "The Pleasure of his Company," "Mary, Mary," "Divorce American Style" and "Good-bye Charlie."
Her recordings of "Abba Dabba Honeymoon" (from "Two Weeks with Love") and "Tammy" both sold more than a million copies. In the mid-1960s Debbie put together her first nightclub act which debuted at the Rivera Hotel in Las Vegas. In the twenty-five years since, she has been a headliner on the casino circuit from Reno and Tahoe and Las Vegas to Atlantic City to the famed London Palladium, as well as in concert in every major American city, touring on the average of forty-two weeks a year.
In 1973, she took a break from her nightclub appearances to star in the Broadway revival of "Irene," breaking all previous box office records for a Broadway musical. After an enormously successful national tour of the show, Debbie returned to the musical stage with another hit revival, Irving Berlin’s "Annie Get Your Gun," directed by the late Gower Champion (who also directed "Irene"). In 1983, she returned to Broadway again to star in the hit musical, "Woman of the Year." In 1989, a National Tour of the "Unsinkable Molly Brown."
Debbie’s off screen, off-stage life has been as active and versatile. Mother of two children, actress/writer, Carrie Fisher and son Todd Fisher. In 1992, Carrie made her a grandmother, giving birth to beautiful baby girl, Billie Catherine.
She has been a life-long supporter and fund raiser for the Girl Scouts, and founder-president of the Thalians, a charitable organization which has raised millions for emotionally disturbed children.
Since the late 1960s she has also been actively involved in a project closest to her heart, the collection and preservation of memorabilia from Hollywood’s first half-century of film making gathering thousands of costumes, props and mementos of Hollywood’s studios and their greatest stars.
She has also established "The Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Hotel and Casino," in Las Vegas which houses the largest individual collection of Hollywood Memorabilia.
In the late 1970s, anticipating her eventual retirement from performing, Debbie established The Debbie Reynolds Professional Rehearsal Studios in North Hollywood, which has since become one of the entertainment industry’s leading rehearsal as well as professional training studios.
In 1987, Debbie published her widely-read memoir, "Debbie, My Life," (co-written with David Patrick Columbia) with William Morrow & Company Publisher.
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