5 things to know about actress Debbie Reynolds

American actress Debbie Reynolds was just 19 when she co-starred with Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor in the classic musical Singin' In The Rain in 1952.
American actress Debbie Reynolds was just 19 when she co-starred with Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor in the classic musical Singin' In The Rain in 1952.PHOTO: EPA

American actress Debbie Reynolds, once known as America's sweetheart but now better known as actress Carrie Fisher's mother, died on Wednesday (Dec 28). Her death came just a day after her daughter Fisher died. 

The 84-year-old Reynolds had suffered a stroke and was rushed to hospital. 

She was just 19 when she co-starred with Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor in the classic musical Singin' In The Rain (1952). Here are five things about the legendary screen star. 

1. She was spotted by Warner Bros talent scouts when she won the Miss Burbank beauty pageant in California in 1948.

"I'm just here 'cause I won this contest, and I got a free blouse and scarf," she said in 2013 of her Warner screen test. "That's the only reason I'm here. I don't know what you guys are doing wasting your time on me."

At age 16, she was offered a contract for US$65 a week and her name, Mary Frances, was changed to Debbie by studio head Jack Warner.

 

2. She never won an Academy Award, only getting a nomination for her work in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964). But in 2015, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave her a humanitarian award for her philanthropic work, which included mental health advocacy.

3. Her husband Eddie Fisher's affair with film femme fatale Elizabeth Taylor won her sympathy worldwide.

Minutes after the singer announced they were separating, she appeared before reporters in front of her house. The picture of her in pigtails cast her as an innocent victim. She reportedly said: "I'm still very much in love with Eddie."

4. Singin' In The Rain (1952) brought her fame but she lamented later: "Singin' In The Rain and childbirth are two of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life."

She recalled dancing till her feet bled as she kept pace with her demanding co-star and co-director Gene Kelly.

"I was crying under the piano on one of my breaks, my feet were killing me and my back was like it was broken," she recalled.

5. She was a businesswoman, establishing her own hotel in Las Vegas with husband third Richard Hamlett and a museum which housed her film memorabilia collection till it was shut in 1997. In 1984, she created and starred in an exercise video, Do It Debbie's Way, and four years later produced the exercise video, Couples (Do It Debbie's Way).