One day after the death of her famous daughter Carrie Fisher, actress Debbie Reynolds — perhaps best remembered for portraying aspiring Hollywood starlet Kathy Selden in 1952’s “Singin’ in the Rain” — died Wednesday at age 84.
“She wanted to be with Carrie,” Reynolds’ son Todd Fisher told Variety.
Reynolds suffered a medical emergency, possibly a stroke, earlier Wednesday while she was at her son’s home in the Hollywood Hills. She was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she later died.
Without identifying the patient, Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman Margaret Stewart confirmed earlier that paramedics were sent around 1 p.m. to a home in the 1700 block of North Coldwater Canyon Drive in response to a female patient suffering a medical emergency.
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A short time later, actress Joely Fisher, Reynolds’ step-daughter and Todd Fisher’s half-sister, posted a photo of herself and Reynolds on Twitter, with the message, “God speed mama.”
Reynolds’ death came one day after the death of her daughter, “Star Wars” actress Carrie Fisher. Fisher, 60, never recovered after suffering cardiac arrest while on a flight from London to Los Angeles on Friday. Reynolds was reportedly at her son’s home Wednesday to plan Carrie Fisher’s funeral.
Todd Fisher told reporters his mother would always take care of Carrie, and with a history of health problems, the stress of her beloved daughter’s death was simply too much. According to Todd Fisher, his mother’s final thought was her desire to be with Carrie.
A Texas native, Reynolds grabbed the attention of talent scouts when she entered a Miss Burbank contest at age 16.
She earned her first screen credit in “Three Little Words,” starring Fred Astaire and Red Skelton. She followed that performance with “Two Weeks with Love,” featuring the hit song “Aba Daba Honeymoon.” That led to her casting as Kathy Selden, a young dancer looking to make it big in Hollywood, opposite Gene Kelly in “Singin’ in the Rain.” The role made her a star.
She went on to perform in dozens more films, including “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” which earned her Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. She also appeared in “How the West Was Won,” “The Pleasure of His Company,” “Divorce American Style” and “The Catered Affair.”
She also received Golden Globe nominations for “Three Little Words,” “Bundle of Joy” and “Mother.” She was nominated for her TV work on “The Debbie Reynolds Show.”
Reynolds most recently appeared in the award winning HBO movie “Behind the Candelabra,” portraying Liberace’s mother.
Reynolds married singer Eddie Fisher in 1955, but they divorced in 1959 after Fisher’s much-publicized affair with Elizabeth Taylor — one of Reynolds’ best friends. She married two more times, but both ended in divorce.
Reynolds received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild in January 2015. The honor was presented to her by Carrie Fisher, who will be forever remembered for her “Star Wars” role as Princess Leia.
“My favorite movie was Singin’ in the Rain,’ and I had a good time making that picture, wearing myself out,” Reynolds said at the ceremony. “Of course I had a wonderful hairdo in that picture. … I had a bun. At the back of my head I had a big bun, an ugly bun at the back of my head. So I warned my daughter, Carrie, who had just (received) a part in a picture, Princess Leia in `Star Wars.’ I said, `Carrie, be careful of any weird hairdos.’ So luckily George (Lucas) gave her two buns. Thank you, George.”
Reynolds received the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in November 2015, honoring not only her film achievements, but her community service work. She was honored most notably as a co-founder of the Thalians, a charitable organization aimed at promoting awareness and treatment of mental health issues. The group has contributed millions of dollars to the Mental Health Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and to UCLA’s Operation Mend, which assists veterans trying to recover from physical and psychological wounds of combat.
Reaction to Reynolds’ death quickly poured in from the Hollywood community. Albert Brooks, who shared the screen with Reynolds in the 1996 comedy “Mother,” wrote on Twitter: “Debbie Reynolds, a legend and my movie mom. I can’t believe this happened one day after Carrie. My heart goes out to Billie,” referring to Reynolds’ grand-daughter Billie Lourd.
Actress Marlee Matlin called Reynolds a “brilliant singer, dancer, actress. It’s SO sad. RIP.”
“I can’t imagine what Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds’ family are going through this week,” actress/talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres wrote. “I send all of my love.”
Actress Debra Messing, with whom Reynolds appeared in the TV comedy “Will & Grace,” wrote, “So heartsick. Debbie went to be with Carrie. It’s such a devastating 1,2 punch. She was my `mom’ for years & I loved her dearly. A legend.”
Fellow “Will & Grace” actor Sean Hayes added, “It is beyond astonishing that both (Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds) have left this earth. I overwhelmingly adored & admired them both.”
William Shatner called Reynolds “one of the last of Hollywood Royalty. It breaks my heart that she is gone. I’d hoped that my grieving was done for 2016.” Actress Anna Kendrick referred to her simply as an “American treasure.”
Talk show host Larry King added, “Debbie Reynolds was pure class. She was loving, talented, beautiful, unsinkable. I feel sorry for anyone who never got a chance to meet her.”
Another Hollywood icon, Carl Reiner, wrote that he was “shocked” at the deaths of Fisher and Reynolds.
“I loved & worked (with) both of these icons,” he said.
Reynolds received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1997 in the live performance category. It is located at 7021 Hollywood Blvd. Carrie Fisher did not have a star, but after her death, some fans created one on Hollywood Boulevard near Orange Drive and decorated it with flowers, photos and other remembrances.
–City News Service