Debbie Reynolds and daughter Carrie Fisher linked by death
Published 10:41 am Thursday, December 29, 2016
By ANDREW DALTON
LOS ANGELES — Debbie Reynolds embodied the sunshine of postwar America on the screen as she matched steps with Gene Kelly in “Singin’ in the Rain.”
Carrie Fisher brought the sarcasm and cynicism of the Baby Boomers to her movies, books and stage shows, even when she was playing a princess in “Star Wars.”
The mother and daughter, separated by so many differences both personal and generational, are likely drawn closer in the public memory after their deaths on successive days.
Reynolds died on Wednesday at age 84, just as she and the rest of the world were starting to mourn her daughter Fisher, who died on Tuesday at 60, days after falling ill on a flight.
Even after a year of shocking and constant celebrity deaths, the one-two punch of Fisher and Reynolds brought a staggering finale to 2016.
Reynolds’ son Todd Fisher said his sister’s death was “just too much” for his mother.
“She said, ‘I want to be with Carrie,’” Fisher told The Associated Press by phone from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where Reynolds had just died after being rushed there earlier in the day. “And then she was gone.”
No cause of death has been revealed for either woman.
Both mother and daughter enjoyed the heights of show business success and endured the depths of personal troubles. Their relationship for years ranged from strained to non-existent, a theme frequently explored in Fisher’s writing, but late in life they became allies and close confidantes in their struggles.
Reynolds lost one husband to Elizabeth Taylor and two other husbands plundered her for millions.
Fisher struggled from early in life with addiction and mental illness.
“There have been a few times when I thought I was going to lose Carrie,” Reynolds said when Oprah Winfrey interviewed both mother and daughter in 2011. “I’ve had to walk through a lot of my tears. But she’s worth it.”
As Fisher tried to distance herself from Reynolds, she barely spoke to her mother for nearly a decade.
“It’s very hard when your child doesn’t want to talk to you and you want to talk to them, and you want to touch them, you want to hold them,” Reynolds told Winfrey. “It was a total estrangement.”
Reaction to Reynolds’ death was swift and emotional.
“Debbie Reynolds, a legend and my movie mom. I can’t believe this happened one day after Carrie,” Albert Brooks, who played opposite Reynolds in “Mother,” said on Twitter.
“I can’t imagine what Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds’ family are going through this week. I send all of my love,” Ellen DeGeneres tweeted.
Born Mary Frances Reynolds, she spent the first eight years of her life in Depression-era poverty in El Paso, Texas. Her father, a carpenter for the Southern Pacific Railroad, was transferred to California and the family settled in Burbank, near Warner Bros. studio.
The girl flourished, excelling as a girl scout and athlete, and playing French horn and bass viola in the Burbank Youth Symphony. Girlfriends persuaded her to enter the beauty contest for Miss Burbank, and she won over the judges.
She found superstardom quickly. After a handful of minor roles, MGM studio boss Louis B. Mayer cast her in “Singin’ in the Rain,” despite Kelly’s objections.
But at 19 with little dance experience, she managed to match Kelly and Donald O’Connor, two of the screens most masterful dancers, step-for-step.
“Gene Kelly was hard on me, but I think he had to be,” Reynolds, who more than held her own in the movie, said in a 1999 Associated Press interview. “I had to learn everything in three to six months. Donald O’Connor had been dancing since he was three months old, Gene Kelly since he was 2 years old.”
After her transition from starlet to star, Reynolds became popular with teenage girls and even more so when in 1955 she married Eddie Fisher, the pop singer whose fans were equally devoted.