Debbie Reynolds Overview:

Legendary actress, Debbie Reynolds, was born Mary Frances Reynolds on Apr 1, 1932 in El Paso, TX. Reynolds died at the age of 84 on Dec 28, 2016 in Los Angeles, CA .

Early Life

Debbie Reynolds was born Mary Frances Reynolds on April 1st, 1932 in El Paso, Texas. Her father, Raymond, worked as railroad mechanic and carpenter for the Southern Pacific Railroad while her mother, Maxine, remained at home to rear Debbie and her siblings. The Reynolds family often struggled financially - a situation that was only exacerbated by the Great Depression. When papa Reynolds was laid off from his job in the mid-1932, Debbie and the family were forced to move in with her maternal grandmother. The only daughter of five children, Reynolds quickly developed in to a little tomboy, often following her brothers around on whatever adventures then managed to get themselves into. In 1939 the family moved west to Glendale, where Raymond found work with the Southern Pacific Railroad. A year later they bought a house and settled in Burbank.

Reynolds quickly adapted to her new surroundings.  An extremely active student, Reynolds developed a talent for athletics and music, merrily joining her high school's band ensemble. She also became a Girl Scout and rose in the ranks to become a troop leader. During this time Reynolds also became something of class-clown, imitating radio comedians to get a rise out of her classmates and family. In 1948 she was able to put that talent to use when she whimsically entered the 'Miss Burbank' beauty pageant at the age of 16. For the talent portion of the competition, Reynolds lip-synced to a recording of Betty Hutton's I'm a Square in the Social Circle. Not only would she go on to win the tournament but attracted the attention of Hollywood's biggest studios. Talent scouts from both MGM and Warner Brothers took interest in the young beauty and, as legend has it, settled the dispute with a coin toss. Warner Brother won and soon signed Reynolds to a six-month contract.

Early Career

The first order of business at Warner Brothers was a name change and soon Mary Frances became Debbie Reynolds. She was also given dance and drama lessons, as Reynolds had little formal training in the art of performance. Her initial time at Warner Brothers was slow - the studio known for its gritty noirs was just simply unsure how to use the bubbly, young Reynolds. After taking her lessons, Reynolds would often meander around the lot, looking for something to do. She finally made her screen debut in late 1948 with an uncredited appearance in June Bride. Afterwards, the studio put her contract on a temporary hiatus. She returned to the studio in 1949 to act in her first speaking role, the 1950 comedy The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady. Although she was finally able to display some of her comedic talent, Warner Brothers was still at a loss on how to utilize her talents and decided to not sign Reynolds to another six-month option.

Although Warner Brother was at a loss on how to use her, MGM clearly saw her great potential and signed Reynolds to a one-picture deal. She then appeared opposite Fred Astaire, Red Skelton, and Vera-Ellen with a small speaking role in the 1950 musical comedy Three Little Words. She was then signed to a seven-year contract. While MGM she continued to be coached in arts of singing, dancing, acting and etiquette. She was then cast opposite Jane Powell and Ricardo Montalba in the comedy musical Two Weeks with Love. The film was a financial success with Reynolds' number Aba Daba Honeymoon considered one of its highlights. The song would also go on to be a pop radio hit. Later that year Reynolds then traveled over seas to entertain troops stationed in Korea as well as California. When she returned to the states she was cast opposite Lana Turner in the forgettable Don Hartman musical romance Mr. Imperium.


In 1951 Reynolds was cast in what would become her most memorable role, Kathy Selden in the 1952 Stanley Donen/Gene Kelly musical Singin' in the Rain. Although fondly remembered today, the production was not an easy one for Reynolds. MGM had cast Reynolds as the female first lead, despite massive objections from Gene Kelly, who thought she lacked the experience necessary to play the role.  The work was also unbearably grueling for Reynolds, who was forced to learn the incredibly intricate dance numbers choreographed by Kelly. A known perfectionist, Kelly became increasingly frustrated with the young actress due to her inability to learn her steps fast enough dance and eventually insulted her in front of the crew. Reynolds was so distraught that Fred Astaire found her crying under a piano and helped her learn her steps. When released the film was modest hit for MGM, with critics comparing it unfavorably to Kelly's previous film An America in Paris. Since, then however, Singin' in the Rain has become not only a staple in the realm of film, but pop-culture darling as well.

After the success of Singin' in the Rain, MGM began casting Reynolds in musical comedies of varying quality. She appeared in a series of second tier forgettable films such as I Love Melvin, The Affairs of Dobie Gillis, Give a Girl a Break and Hit the Deck. In 1955 she starred opposite Frank Sinatra in the Charles Walter musical comedy The Tender Trap. The next year she showed her hidden dramatic abilities with the Richard Brooks' The Catered Affair opposite Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine. That she also starred opposite her then-husband Eddie Fisher in Bundle of Joy. In 1957 she starred in the hit Tammy and the Bachelor and recording of the film's theme song, aptly named Tammy, won Reynolds' a gold record. Two years later she recorded her first full length album Debbie.


In 1958 Reynolds would make headlines for what has become one of Hollywood's biggest scandals, the Reynolds-Fisher-Taylor love triangle. Shortly after her Husband's accidental death in a plane crash, Elizabeth Taylor entered a very public affair with Fischer, despite his marriage to Reynolds. The scandal would dominate the front pages for months, ending with Reynolds filing for divorce and Fischer's marriage to Taylor.

During this time, Reynolds continued working on the MGM lot with pictures like The Happy Feeling, The Mating Game, and It Stared with a Kiss. She made her final film for the studio in 1959 starring opposite Glenn Ford in The Gazebo. After her contract with MGM expired Reynolds chose not to sign another contract with the studio, instead choosing to go freelance. With public sympathy running high for the recently wrong women of the Reynolds-Fischer-Taylor triangle, Reynolds next few films were all big financial hits despite their mediocre reviews. She also scored two more radio hits with the songs 'A Very Special Love' and 'Am I That Easy to Forget.' Reynolds scored a hug hit in 1962 as the riverboat songstress in John Ford's epic western How the West Was Won. Two years she gave a tour-de-force performance as the total character in The Unsinkable Molly Brown. For her efforts, she was nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award. Soon after the nomination, however, her career started to decline.

TV, The Stage and Vegas

As the 1960's started to come to an end, the American filmgoers taste in movies began to change. Reynolds high-octane, studio era persona was no longer viable in the Hollywood landscape and soon Reynolds looked to other venues for her career. In 1969 she starred in her own Television series, aptly titled The Debbie Reynolds Show. The show only lasted one season due to an advertisement dispute between Reynolds and NBC. During this time Reynolds also starred working regularly in Las Vegas as a nightclub singer and would work on an off the Vegas stages for more than three decades.

In 1973, after divorcing her second husband, Reynolds made her Broadway debut as the titular character in Irene. For the work, Reynolds received a Tony nomination and the Outer Critics' Circle Award for Best Actress in a Musical. Two years she toured London and Australia. For the remainder of the decade Reynolds worked mainly in Vegas.

Later Career and now

By the 1980s, Reynolds could be seen more and more on the small screen. She once again starred in her own series, Aloha Paradise, which only lasted one season. She made guest appearances on popular shows such as The Love Boat, Hotel, and Alice. She also had more stage success, starring in the touring production of Annie Get Your Gun followed by a success Broadway run of Women of the Year. In 1991 Reynolds purchased her own Casino, which served as something of Hollywood museum that housed Reynolds extensive prop and costume collection. After a few years, however, Reynolds fell on financial hard times and by 1997 she declared bankruptcy.

Reynolds quickly recovered, appearing on the big screen in films like In Out, Zack and Reba and even a Golden Globe nominated performance in Mother. In 2001 she appeared in the made-for-move opposite Shirley MacLaine, Joan Collins, and former headline rival, Elizabeth Taylor, in These Old Broads. During this time, she also had a popular reoccurring character as Grade Alder's Mother in the popular NBC series Will and Grace. In the early 2000s, she starred in the Disney channel movie trilogy Halloween Town and has remained busy into the new decade. According to her IMDB page, she is current, she rumored to appear in the comedy Big Finish opposite Bob Newhart. 

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



Although Reynolds was nominated for one Oscar, she never won a competitive Academy Award.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1964Best ActressThe Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)Molly BrownNominated

She was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. Debbie Reynolds's handprints and footprints were 'set in stone' at Grauman's Chinese Theater during imprint ceremony #128 on Jan 14, 1965.

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Debbie Reynolds Quotes:

Minerva Mulvain: Pneumonia, how old-fashioned.

Molly Brown: I mean more to me than I mean to anybody else.

[Molly is reading the newspaper reports of the free-for-all that took place at her social party]
Molly Brown: But it's lies, all lies! Everybody knows the Merry Christmas Saloon ain't no fancy house! And the things he quotes me saying! All those blanks that stand for bad words!
Molly Brown: Well... guess I did let a couple go.
[Reads from paper]
Molly Brown: "'One thing's for blank sure,' said Mrs. Brown. 'This time we ain't puttin' up with no blank blank Rocky Mountain rudeness!'" Ohhh! And the worst of all! It isn't even on the Society page! It's on the *Sports* page!

read more quotes from Debbie Reynolds...

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Best Actress Oscar 1964

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Debbie Reynolds Facts
President of The Thalians, an organization for the treatment of mental health at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles. Ruta Lee is the chairman. Both have been actively involved in building this celebrity run organization for over 30 years.

April 2002: Opened the Hollywood Motion Picture Collection near the new Kodak Theatre. The collection, which was collected and preserved primarily by Reynolds herself, features over 3,000 costumes including Carmen Miranda's turbans, a pair of Judy Garland's ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz (1939), John Wayne's guns and Marilyn Monroe's windswept dress from The Seven Year Itch (1955).

One of the few actresses to have danced with both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly in the movies, other actresses that have also done this includes Judy Garland, Cyd Charisse, Vera-Ellen, Rita Hayworth, and Leslie Caron.

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