Debbie Reynolds biography
One for the Money
Date of Birth: April 1, 1932
Debbie Reynolds, born Mary Frances Reynolds, spent her early childhood in El Paso, Texas with her parents, Raymond Francis Reynolds and Maxene Harman Reynolds, and younger brother Bill. In the midst of the Great Depression, Reynolds's father lost his job and the family was forced to move in with her mother's parents. In 1939, her father moved to Southern California to work with the Southern Pacific Railroad. Towards the end of the year, the rest of the family headed to California to reunite with their father. About a year later, the family built a home in the town of Burbank.
Throughout school, Debbie took part in sports and music. Her love for music and movies pushed her to become an entertainer, often putting on comedy spectacles for family and friends. In 1948, she entered a "Miss Burbank" beauty pageant and won for her lip-syncing performance of Betty Hutton's "I'm a Square in a Social Circle". Two members of the judges panel happened to be scouts from MGM and Warner Brothers. They were so impressed with her performance and saw so much potential in her that she was offered a contract with Warner Brothers. After a coin toss, her name was officially changed from Mary Frances to Debbie, even though she didn't want her name changed. In 1948, Warner Brothers casted her as an extra alongside Bette Davis and Robert Montgomery in June Bride and in the following year as June Haver's younger sister in The daughter of Rosie O'Grady.
The studio then decided to end her contract after realizing the barriers of her age and inexperience. This turned out to be just a minor setback for Reynolds because shortly after, MGM signed a seven-year contract with the starlet for her performance in Three Little Words (1950) with Fred Astaire and Red Skelton. The studio went out of their way to find as many roles as possible for her. Later that year, Reynolds was cast to play Jane Powell's younger sister in Two Weeks with Love.
Debbie caught her big break with her performance in the famous 1952 musical Singin' in the Rain with Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor. By the mid-50s, Reynolds had become one of Hollywood's most sought after actresses, especially when her relationship with famed musician Eddie Fisher hit the tabloids. The pair married in 1955 and had a daughter, Carrie, in 1956 followed by a son, Todd Emanuel, in 1958. Shortly after Todd's birth, Eddie Fisher's best friend, who was married to Elizabeth Taylor, died unexpectedly in a plane crash. The grief brought Fisher and Taylor closer together and in 1959, he ended his marriage to Reynolds. That same year, Debbie became one of the top box-office celebrities.
In 1960, Debbie became a popular act in the Las Vegas nightclub scene, touring hotels and casinos with her performances. In the same year, she married millionaire Harry Karl and in 1962, she starred in How the West Was Won . She also went on to receive an Oscar for her role in the 1964 film The Unsinkable Molly Brown. In 1974, Debbie decided she wanted a piece of her film era and bought thousands of items from an MGM auction, including Judy Garlands's Dorothy dress and ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz . In 1973, she filed for divorce from Harry Karl. Eleven years later, she married for a third time to real estate developer, Richard Hamlett. The two bought and renovated the Paddlewheel Hotel in Las Vegas, which became her hotel and casino that showcased all of her collections from MGM. Unfortunately, their investment tanked financially, as did their marriage. The pair divorced in 1994. A few years later, Reynolds filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection and her casino was auctioned off for 10 million dollars to the Wrestling Federation.
Despite (or perhaps because of) her financial pitfalls, she continued to work on her acting, making several appearances in film and television. For instance, from 1999 to 2006, she played Grace Adler's eccentric mother on the popular NBC sitcom Will and Grace, a role which earned her an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series in 2000. She was most recently seen on the big screen as Grandma Mazur in the comedy One for the Money (2012), alongside Katherine Heigl and Jason O'Mara. Her final appearance was as Frances Liberace in the 2013 TV movie Behind the Candelabra, starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.
Debbie suffered a life-changing tragedy when her daughter Carrie suffered a major heart attack just before Christmas on December 23, 2016, passing away just days later on December 27, 2016. As Debbie was at her son Todd's house on December 28 going over Carrie's funeral plans, she began to have trouble breathing shortly after 1 p.m. She was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Hospital, where she died of a stroke several hours later. She was 84 years old.