Debbie Reynolds belongs with names like Sandra Dee and Doris Day on any list of beloved, wholesome musical actresses. They all brought an all-American charm to everything they worked on and won over audiences every time.
Debbie’s breakout role was Singin’ in the Rain, and she worked through years of grueling filming to make a musical that now stands out among the classics. It was such a memorable performance that everyone suddenly knew the name of this everyday girl from TExas.
No man could resist her charms, but she struggled to find a husband who supported and cared for her. Join Facts Verse and Read on to find out how Debbie Reynolds made mistake after mistake (especially with men).
Mary Frances Reynolds was born on April 1, 1932. She grew up during the depression in El Paso Texas, but her family did their best to ensure they never wanted for anything. They eventually moved to Burbank, California, and lived close to the Warner Bros. Studio.
Debbie was a curious child and a bit of a tomboy. She engaged in a range of activities, including girl scouts and athletics. She also had a knack for music and played the French horn and bass viola in the Burbank Youth Symphony.
Her friends knew that she was beautiful without even trying and convinced her to enter the 1948 Miss Burbank beauty contest. She agreed because she had her eyes on the prize of a silk scarf, blouse, and free lunch. She got first place but had no idea how much it would change her life.
Warner Brothers and MGM scouts both wanted to sign the beautiful Miss Burbank. They flipped a coin to decide which studio she would work with, and Warner Bros. won. The studio head, Jack L. Warner, also came up with her nickname, Debbie.
Her film debut was a non-speaking part in June’s Bride. Her next role in The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady written specifically for her. It canceled after Warner Bros. decided to stop producing musicals, but that didn’t stop the eventual starlet.
Debbie then moved to MGM and worked with Fred Astair in Three Little Words. Her performance earned her a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer.
Her next role was perhaps her most famous; Singing in the Rain. She struggled to learn to dance and broke down when Gene Kelley insulted her, but Fred Astaire, whom she befriended while filming her last film, offered to help.
Gene was an infamous perfectionist who worked his costars in Singin’ in the Rain to the bone as the film’s choreographer. Debbie later joked that childbirth was the only thing she’d ever done that was as hard as meeting his expectations. She even broke several blood vessels in her feet during one scene and had to carried offset.
Singin’ in the Rain was a modest commercial success when it was released but eventually became a critical darling. It reached the top spot on the American Film Institute’s list of Great Movie Musicals and entered the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry in 1989.
Debbie also played the lead in another successful musical, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, in 1964. She received her only Academy Award nomination for the role and said it was her favorite to play. Her other projects include a lead role in the film The Singing Nun, a voice role as Charlotte in the 1973 animated ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ and a Tony nomination for playing the lead in the revival of Irene.
Debbie also got her own show, The Debbie Reynolds Show. It seemed like a great deal until she noticed that cigarette ads ran during the breaks. She left after a year, losing out on $2 million of potential money from a planned 2nd season, film, and new series. Join Facts Verse and Read on to find out how Debbie Reynolds made mistake after mistake (especially with men).
Debbie married Eddie Fisher in 1955. He was a popular singer and actor who had several successful records and appeared in plenty of TV shows.
Frank Sinatra allegedly warned Debbie not to marry Eddie while they were working on the 1955 film The Tender Trap together. He said that her future husband wouldn’t be faithful, but she didn’t heed his misgivings.
Eddie and Debbie had a daughter named Carrie in 1956, and they starred in a film called Bundle of Joy that seemed to mirror the experience. They also had a son named Mike Todd after his friend, Elizabeth Taylor’s husband.
When he died in a plane crash in 1958, Eddie insisted on leaving to marry Elizabeth. The fact that the 2 women were close friends made the affair sting even more.
It was a betrayal that lit up the tabloids. They portrayed Debbie as the victim and alleged that Elizabeth only married Eddie to get over her grief after losing Todd.
It took years for the 2 friends to make up, but the time eventually came. They met up on an ocean liner in 1964, and Elizabeth apologized and expressed her regret. They laughed at Eddie’s expense, and it healed their relationship.
Debbie’s son says that Eddie was the best of her 3 husbands despite the infidelity. He had pure intentions and never took any of her money.
Debbie Reynolds was a major film star, but she struggled financially after divorcing Eddie because he never paid child support. She needed to try and find a stable man to help support her family and eventually thought she had.
Harry Karl owned a successful shoe business. They were married in 1960.
Karl had been married to Marie McDonald on and off from 1954-1958. He allegedly kidnapped her and held her for ransom in 1957. No charges were filed, and many believe the story was a lie, but the drama did hint at later marital woes.
Harry had plenty of bad habits that eventually tore him and Debbie apart. He was a heavy drinker and compulsive gambler as well as being her second unfaithful husband.
Debbie divorced Harry in 1973 and ended up being $10 million in debt. She had to foreclose on her house and start touring nightclubs to make enough money to survive.
Like and subscribe to Facts Verse for more on the personal struggles of the biggest names in Hollywood. Keep watching to learn how Debbie Reynold made mistake after mistake (especially with men) and how it almost cost her her life.
Debbie’s son was shocked when he got a call in 1984 where she said she was getting married in 4 days. He thought his mother had sworn off marriage forever, but he went down to meet her 3rd husband right away.
His first impression was positive. Debbie also felt he would finally be the man she was looking for.
His name was Richard Hamlet. He was a real estate developer and convinced Debbie to invest in a Las Vegas hotel-casino. She once again avoided advice from friends to refuse the $10 million deal.
The casino was nothing more than a front to send her money out of the country. She’d found another compulsive gambler who had no qualms with stealing from her for his own gain.
He also had a dangerous temper and made her fear for her life. He took her to the balcony of the hotel one night after an argument. She was convinced he intended to push her off it to get her $1 million life insurance policy. Join Facts Verse and Read on to find out how Debbie Reynolds made mistake after mistake (especially with men).
Debbie divorced Richard in 1996. The fight over her remaining assets was long and arduous.
Debbie and Carrie
Debbie’s relationships with her husbands weren’t the only ones marked by trouble and pain. She did everything she could to be a devoted mother, including being her children’s scout leader, but it wasn’t always enough.
Her relationship with her daughter Carrie was particularly strained. There was a time when they didn’t speak for almost 10 years.
Substance abuse and mental health issues made it difficult for them to have a healthy relationship. They both appeared on Oprah in 2011, Debbie said that there were times she thought she would lose her daughter, but struggling to keep her was worth it.
Carrie wrote a semi-autobiographical novel Postcards from the Edge in the 80s. It later became a movie starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine.
Debbie’s career slowed down in her later years, but she never stopped making appearances. She performed in Vegas 3 months a year and got a street named after her; Debbie Reynolds Drive. She also earned an Emmy nomination for playing Bobbie Adler on Will & Grace in 2000 and later appeared in a semi-autobiographical made-for-TV film These Old Broads.
Debbie and Carrie finally found solace near the end of their lives. They even appeared together in a documentary titled Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. It aired on January 7, 2017.
The healing stopped abruptly in 2016 when Debbie learned her daughter’s plane had crashed while flying from London to LA. They rushed her to the hospital and put her in intensive care for 4 days, but it wasn’t enough. She died from cardiac arrest at the age of 60.
Debbie’s tragic death happened the very next day. She was making preparations for her daughter’s funeral and had a sudden stroke. She died in the hospital on December 28, 2016, at the age of 84.
Debbie was a beloved actress who had plenty of fans, and so was Carrie. They went to the internet to express their grief, and the celebrity world soon followed. Albert Brooks, Debbie’s costar in the film Mother, and other stars such as Ellen DeGeneres, offered their condolences on Twitter. Join Facts Verse and Read on to find out how Debbie Reynolds made mistake after mistake (especially with men).
Her son had an especially difficult time losing both his mother and sister within a few days. He made a statement and said that his mother’s final words were “I want to be with Carrie.” She also hand-wrote a note for him to deliver to her friend Robert Wagner.
Debbie is buried at the Forst Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills. Part of her daughter’s ashes are next to her. The rest sit in an oversized Prozac pill as a tongue-in-cheek nod to her struggles with mental illness. Join Facts Verse and Read on to find out how Debbie Reynolds made mistake after mistake (especially with men).
Have you watched Postcards from the Edge or read Debbie Reynolds’ autobiography? Let us know in the comments below. Like and subscribe to Facts Verse for more on the marital woes of your favorite film stars.