My mother loved movies from when she was young, what we call classics now. One of my early movie memories was being sick at home with a stomach bug one Easter. While my brother and sister were off hunting eggs, my mom introduced me to one of her favorites – Tammy and the Bachelor. As mom pointed out the gorgeous clothes, clever lines and how simple but beautiful the story was, I fell in love with it all. That day Tammy and the Bachelor became one of my all-time favorite movies, and Debbie Reynolds one of my all-time favorite actresses.
Over the years I saw more of her movies, and each time I became more enthralled with her work and the stories she told. Her acting was simple and pure, and somehow larger than life at the same time. The simple sad words of Tammy as she sang by a moonlit window. The strength and heartbreak of Molly Brown as she grew and changed before refusing to go down on the Titanic. And of course the beautiful innocence of a small-town girl dreaming of stardom in one of the best know and just plain best movie musicals ever made – Singing in the Rain. Stories so beautiful and full of life it was impossible to not get completely mesmerized.
As a teenager I read her first autobiography and admired her even more. From the literal blood, sweat and tears during Singing in the Rain, to the little details she put into films, I learned about dedication to craft. From the grace she displayed when her first husband, Eddie Fisher, left her with two small children while he went off to be with Elizabeth Taylor – and the strength of character she had later in life when she faced Taylor in the bathroom of a ship as they sailed across the Atlantic. There was her poor choices in men that became obvious when two husbands left her penniless and forced to start all over, all with her kids by her side.
I was a fan of her daughter Carrie since I was a little girl. I read and heard about their relationship through books both wrote and through interviews. And yes, there were periods of time when they didn’t speak. But they never stopped loving each other. They always had each other’s back. Through the ups and down…through marriages and addiction, mental illness and bankruptcy, they always found their way back to one another.
When I learned that Carrie passed, I knew that Debbie wouldn’t be far behind. I had a feeling that Debbie hadn’t been well (it’s been over a year since I’ve heard that she was performing). I knew that they were close, and I know as a mother, having to bury your child would be horrific and a stress that many could not survive. I had a feeling that another amazing and talented actress would soon be moving on. I just didn’t think it would be so soon.
There are so many people who don’t give “old movies” a chance. But they are missing out on so much. They’re missing out on talent and and glamour that seems to be so rare in Hollywood today. They’re missing out on woman who was unsinkable as the characters she played. They’re missing out on movies that have can capture the imagination and unite a mother and daughter.