Just over 24 hours after the death of her beloved daughter Carrie Fisher (1956-2016), the incomparable Debbie Reynolds has died at 84, TMZ reports. Earlier today, Reynolds had been rushed to the hospital via ambulance after a possible stroke suffered while discussing the funeral arrangements for Carrie. According to TMZ, which had a direct line to Debbie's son Todd (b. 1958), Debbie had said — just 15 minutes prior to her stroke — that she missed and longed to be with Carrie.
Ironically, mother and daughter are starring in the soon-to-be-released documentary Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (2016), which I was privileged to see with Carrie onstage and Debbie on the phone less than three months ago. The modern twist on Grey Gardens (1975) was already a must-see ... now, how could you miss it?
Debbie Reynolds, who had been one of the last of a handful of top-tier stars active during the Golden Age of Hollywood, got her big break in Three Little Words (1950) as a teenager playing “I Wanna Be Loved by You” songstress Helen Kane (1904-1966).
That film was released the same year as the big hit Two Weeks with Love, a romantic trifle co-starring Carleton Carpenter (b. 1926) that contained the classic duet “Aba Daba Honeymoon,” the popularity of which propelled the pair onto a vaudeville tour to promote the film.
Top: Singin' in the Rain lobby card with Gene Kelly (1952); 2nd from top: The Singing Nun (1966); middle: Mother (1996); bottom L-R: In & Out (1997), Goodbye Charlie (1964)
Two years later, she was a sensation in Singin' in the Rain (1952), widely considered one of the best musicals — indeed one of the best films — ever made. In it, she had to perform alongside veterans Gene Kelly (1912-1996) and Donald O'Connor (1925-2003), but more than held her own.
For decades to come, she would be a cheerful ambassador for the movie, helping to keep its legacy alive. In the film, she was dubbed by Betty Noyes (1912-1987), which was ironic since the plot was about the foibles of the transition from the Silent Era to the age of talkies, and included Debbie's character secretly dubbing the singing voice of the vocally challenged character played by Jean Hagen (1923-1977).
Debbie in 2012 (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)
Reynolds had other big hits with The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (1953); Susan Slept Here (1954); The Catered Affair (1956); Tammy and the Bachelor (1957), for which she sang the #1 smash pop hit “Tammy”; How the West Was Won (1962); and one of her biggest successes, 1964's The Unsinkable Molly Brown, for which she was nominated for her only competitive Oscar. Like Anne Bancroft (1931-2005), Sophia Loren (b. 1934) and Kim Stanley (1925-2001) that year, she lost to Julie Andrews (b. 1935), who was honored for Mary Poppins (1964).
In 1973, Reynolds was the voice of that wise, wonderful spider in the indelible animated children's classic Charlotte's Web. [A later generation of youngsters will remember Reynolds for her appearances in the Disney Channel Halloweentown films (1998-2006).]
Edward Albee, probably America's most esteemed living playwright, died Friday at 88 at his home on Long Island.
Albee's greatest works included the Pulitzer Prize winners A Delicate Balance (1966), Seascape (1975) and Three Tall Women (1991), and of course his pop cultural atom bomb Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the 1962 Broadway masterpiece turned into an equally impressive film starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
Woolf? was criticized at the time for its crude language, and at least one critic sniffed that its central couple—male and female—were stand-ins for a bitchy gay couple.
RIP Edward Albee, towering playwright and creator of this monumental literary line of dialogue: https://t.co/AE5A9DrMMW