Actress and singer Debbie Reynolds dies, one day after daughter's death

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Acclaimed actor and singer Debbie Reynolds died at the age of 84 yesterday at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California. Her son, Todd Fisher, said around noon yesterday she suffered a stroke brought on by the stress of the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher.

Reynolds' credits include lead roles in films Singin' in the Rain, Bundle of Joy, and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, the last of which earned her an Academy Award nomination. She worked to preserve Hollywood history and memorabilia for posterity and, like Carrie Fisher, as an advocate for mental health awareness.

Debbie Reynolds at home in 1987.
Image: Allan Warren.

Born Mary Francis Reynolds in 1932, she was given the stage name "Debbie" by Warner Brothers director Jack Warner, which she would later say was done without her permission. She would go on to spend twenty years with MGM studios. Reynolds received a Tony Award nomination for her acting in the 1973 revival of Irene. Reynolds' business interests included owning various private museums of film memorabilia as part of her personal Hollywood history preservation project. She would often purchase and hold items such as Marilyn Monroe's dress from The Seven Year Itch and Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra headdress until they could be displayed to the public. More recently, she was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2000 for a Will & Grace recurring role and appeared as the main character's mother in HBO's Behind the Candelabra. She worked as a voice actress on animated productions such as the children's show Kim Possible and the more adult Family Guy. She was honored with the 2016 Academy Awards Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild in 2015.

In Reynolds' personal life, her first husband and father of her two children, Eddie Fisher, very publicly left her for her friend Elizabeth Taylor. She declared bankruptcy in 1997 after a failed casino project.

Carrie Fisher was an actor, author, and mental health advocate best known for acting in the Star Wars film series and for her novel Postcards from the Edge, which had a character inspired by her mother, Reynolds. Fisher was taken ill while flying from London to Los Angeles and died on Tuesday. Fisher and Reynolds did not speak for several years, though this rift was long over by the time of Fisher's death. According to Todd Fisher, he and his mother had been discussing his sister's funeral at his home shortly before the stroke; Reynolds said to him, "I miss her so much, I want to be with Carrie."

Reynolds is survived by son Todd Fisher and granddaughter Billie Lourd.

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