Mary Frances “Debbie” Reynolds (April 1, 1932 – December 28, 2016)
A while back, I wrote a piece about Eddie Fisher’s life and loves, which naturally included mention of his ex-wife, Debbie Reynolds, and the 1959 scandal involving Elizabeth Taylor. At that time Debbie was actually a veteran of over 10 years in the business, but her image was still that of “America’s Sweetheart”, and everyone sided with her in the ensuing public battle.
But that article was mostly about Eddie, and it occurred to me that Debbie herself deserves a little more attention, because Eddie wasn’t the only one in the house with musical ability. She proved to be pretty good too.
Her career began when she moved from her native Texas to California in 1948 and became Two Weeks With Love, she was a capable enough vocalist to sing that forgotten film’s most-remembered song, “Aba Daba Honeymoon”.
That probably helped her earn her next role, co-starring with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Conner in the classic musical Singin’ In The Rain. Although the movie made her a star it was a tough act to follow, and she appeared in a series of lesser films. (Although in all fairness, not many movies would have measured up to that one.) She did appear with Frank Sinatra in The Tender Trap in 1955, but it wasn’t until a couple of years later that she landed a part in a film that also gave her a hit song.
In 1957, Tammy And The Bachelor paired up Debbie with a young Leslie Neilson (waaay before his Naked Gun days), and it not only created a franchise of Tammy films for other actresses, but the signature song, “Tammy”, became Debbie’s biggest hit, reaching number one on the Billboard charts.
Although Debbie made other musicals after that, including The Unsinkable Molly Brown and The Singing Nun, and has also performed on Broadway and in Vegas, she’s never again quite reached that height of popularity on any recording. But knowing her determination, she might make it yet.