- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Legendary Hollywood actress Debbie Reynolds died of a stroke Wednesday, just one day after the death of her daughter, actress Carrie Fisher.

She suffered a stroke around 1 p.m. PST Wednesday while at the Beverly Hills home of her son Todd Fisher, helping with planning for her daughter’s funeral.

Mr. Fisher confirmed several hours later that his mother had died.

“She spoke to me this morning and said she missed Carrie. She’s with Carrie now,” he said. “We’re all heartbroken.”

The 84-year-old Ms. Reynolds had reportedly been distraught since her daughter, an iconic actress herself as Princess Leia in “Star Wars,” had died Tuesday after suffering a heart attack last week on a plane flight.

Born Mary Frances Reynolds in El Paso, Texas, the fresh-faced blonde became a star in 1952, playing the female lead opposite Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor in “Singin in the Rain,” a film now routinely called the greatest of all Hollywood musicals.

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“They took this virgin talent, this little thing, and expected her to hold her own with Gene and with Donald O’Connor, two of the best dancers in the business,” Ms. Reynolds once said. 

She remained one of Hollywood’s top box-office draws throughout the 1950s and 1960s and her personal life became one of the most-publicized in town.

Ms. Reynolds specialized in musicals, getting her sole Academy Award nomination for the western-themed Meredith Willson film “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” Its defiant song “I Ain’t Down Yet” became an unofficial anthem for Ms. Reynolds, and her 2013 autobiography was titled “Unsinkable.”

Her other musicals included the titular roles in “Give a Girl a Break” and “The Singing Nun.” Although “Tammy and the Bachelor” was a romantic-comedy, not a musical, Ms. Reynolds did have a No. 1 hit on the pop-music charts with the theme song “Tammy.”

One of her most-seen later roles was as the voice of Charlotte in the 1973 animated adaptation of “Charlotte’s Web.”

Her other films included a segment of “How the West Was Won” opposite Gregory Peck, “The Catered Affair” a Paddy Chayevsky drama with Bette Davis, and the title role in the Albert Brooks’ comedy “Mother,” for which she received one of her five Golden Globe nominations.

“Debbie Reynolds, a legend and my movie mom. I can’t believe this happened one day after Carrie. My heart goes out to” granddaughter Billie Lourd, Mr. Brooks wrote on Twitter.

Ms. Reynolds received a Tony nomination for the 1973 revival of the musical “Irene,” nabbed an Emmy nomination for her recurring role in “Will and Grace,” and in 2015 received lifetime prizes from both the Screen Actors Guild and from the film Academy — the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

She was involved in one of the 1950s biggest romantic scandals, as her first husband, singer Eddie Fisher, left her in 1958 for the recently-widowed Elizabeth Taylor, Ms. Reynolds’ friend at the time.

The scandal was so great that Mr. Fisher, the father of both Carrie and Todd, lost a TV variety show he had been hosting. According to the Associated Press, the cover of Photoplay magazine read: “Smiling through her tears, Debbie says: I’m still very much in love with Eddie.”

In an interview with the Huffington Post shortly after Taylor’s 2011 death, Ms. Reynolds said the two reconciled while sailing on the Queen Elizabeth liner.

“I sent a note to her and she sent a note to me in passing, and then we had dinner together,” she said. “She was married to Richard Burton by then. I had been remarried at that point. And we just said, ‘Let’s call it a day.’ And we got smashed. And we had a great evening, and stayed friends since then.”

The two even appeared in the 2001 TV movie “These Old Broads,” along with Joan Collins and Shirley MacLaine, about a reunion show among some aging, feuding actresses.

“Truly heartbroken to hear @DebbieReynolds1 has died. She was a wonderfully warm friend and colleague. Praying for Todd & Billie,” Ms. Collins wrote on Twitter.

Ms. Reynolds’ second and third marriages, to Harry Karl and Richard Hamlett, also ended in divorce. Mr. Karl’s gambling, Mr. Hamlett’s profligacy and some failed business ventures forced Ms. Reynolds to declare bankruptcy in 1997.

“All of my husbands have robbed me blind,” she said in 1999. “The only one who didn’t take money was Eddie Fisher. He just didn’t pay for the children.”

Daughter Carrie wrote a thinly-fictionalized semi-comic account of their on-and-off relationship titled “Postcards from the Edge,” which became a best-seller and later a major film with Ms. MacLaine in the “mother / Debbie Reynolds” role.

• Victor Morton can be reached at vmorton@washingtontimes.com.

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