Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Debbie Reynolds: Gene Kelly could never have known

Tales of how hard Gene Kelly was on 19 year old Debbie Reynolds during the filming of “Singin’ in the Rain” are legend. He was a tough task master who gave this young, non-dancer no sympathy. Did he look at her and see a youngster who had not proven herself? Just another ingénue imposed upon him by the studio? He worked her hard and offered little encouragement to her while her feet bled and her heart sank.

Debbie and her task master
No doubt the master was right. But how could he have known that the wholesome and hardworking kid (who rose to the challenge and won his respect) would become the last joyous representative of the studio star system and the keeper of the flame? Yes, Olivia de Havilland is with us, as is Doris Day, but they never wore their stardom joyously. Olivia fought the studio system with all her might and then retreated to France. Doris never seemed to enjoy it and, instead, found her passion in caring for the animals and in her Carmel-by-the-Sea home far away from Hollywood.

Debbie at her spunkiest (and loveliest) in "The Mating Game"
Only Debbie, sprightly, spunky Debbie Reynolds, never quite the greatest talent at the studio, embraced her role as Hollywood movie star. And we loved her for it. She may not have been the best actress, comedienne, singer or dancer, but her exuberance was unparalleled.  As only a star can, she lit up the movie screen and later the television screen and the stage simply by being Debbie. We have come to learn that it wasn’t always easy for her and that her later appearances were not a true reflection of her condition, but she made the effort for us. The illusion was for us. That’s what a move star does and that’s straight out of the Mary Pickford-Joan Crawford playbook. 
Debbie and Molly Brown - both unsinkable
Not only did Debbie continue to give us a Hollywood movie star well into the era where such people ceased to exist, she also became the keeper of its history. Through her massive purchase and warehousing of the costume and set treasures of Hollywood and her failed effort to find a museum for these articles she knew had an important history, she acknowledged the importance of Hollywood, its glamour and legends. For a peek at only a part of Debbie's massive collection at auction, click hereMarilyn Monroe’s billowing subway dress from "The Seven Year Itch" sold for $5.52 million and the Audrey Hepburn Ascot gown from "My Fair Lady" went for $4.44 million. (The collection would ultimately fetch more than $30 million).
$4.4 million!
Thanks, Debbie. You were wonderful and I think we are not really aware of how much we will really miss you.