LOS ANGELES (REUTERS/AFP) - Debbie Reynolds, a leading lady in Hollywood musicals and comedies in the 1950s and 1960s including Singin’ In The Rain, has died at the age of 84.
She died on Wednesday (Dec 28, US time), a day after the death of her daughter, actress Carrie Fisher. Reynolds' son Todd Fisher confirmed his mother's death. He said: "It's true, she's with Carrie."
Reynolds was at Todd’s home in Beverly Hills, California, discussing funeral arrangements for Carrie Fisher, who died on Tuesday (Dec 27), TMZ reported. Someone in the house called 911 shortly after 1pm local time.
E! News said Reynolds was transported in fair to serious condition. TMZ reported that she had a possible stroke.
According to TMZ, Reynolds told her son before the fatal stroke: "I miss her so much, I want to be with Carrie."
Sources from her family told TMZ that her health had deteriorated from several strokes this year, and they believed her daughter's death was too much to bear.
Carrie Fisher, who rose to fame as Princess Leia in the Star Wars films and later battled through drug addiction before going on to tell her story as a best-selling author, died on Tuesday at the age of 60 after suffering a heart attack last Friday (Dec 23).
After Fisher’s death, Reynolds said on Facebook: "Thank you to everyone who has embraced the gifts and talents of my beloved and amazing daughter. I am grateful for your thoughts and prayers that are now guiding her to her next stop."
Reynolds had been in frail health in the past year, and she missed a dinner in November 2015 to receive an honorary Oscar.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said at the time that she was unable to attend because of “an unexpectedly long recovery from recent surgery”. The nature of her illness was not disclosed. Fisher told reporters in May 2016 that her mother was “doing really well” but she did not give details.
Reynolds, who received the Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award last year, first captivated audiences in 1952’s Singin’ In The Rain. She was later nominated for an Oscar and helped found a group that works to combat mental health issues.
Her 2013 autobiography Unsinkable: A Memoir detailed the highs and lows of her rocky personal life and a screen career forged in the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age which was still going well into the 1990s.
Known at one time as the foremost collector of Hollywood memorabilia, Reynolds married singer Eddie Fisher in 1955 and had two children, Carrie and Todd. The couple divorced in 1959 after he fell for Elizabeth Taylor.
Born Mary Frances Reynolds on April 1, 1932, in El Paso, Texas, the second child of railroad carpenter Raymond Francis Reynolds and his wife Maxine, she came to the notice of Hollywood studio MGM after winning a California beauty contest at age 16.
She had never danced professionally, according to the Internet Movie Database, when picked to star opposite Gene Kelly in classic musical Singin’ In The Rain. Several more MGM musicals followed, with Reynolds typically cast as a wholesome young heroine, before her Oscar-nominated turn in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964).
Married three times, Reynolds once said she had more luck selecting restaurants than men.
First, she had to overcome the humiliation of losing Eddie Fisher to her best friend and fellow screen icon, although the pair remained close until Taylor’s death in 2011.
In another turn of misfortune, Reynolds’s second husband, shoe magnate Harry Karl, gambled away most of her savings.
Her third marriage to real estate developer Richard Hamlett in 1985 was not much more successful, ending in divorce in 1996.
To support the family, Reynolds took jobs on the stage in Las Vegas, where she had her own casino that housed her extensive collection of memorabilia until it shut in 1997.
The haul is said to have included more than 3,000 costumes and 4,275 sq m worth of props and equipment.
Reynolds, admired for her versatility, starred in her own sitcom, The Debbie Reynolds Show, in 1969-1970, but it lasted just one season.
Her career in cinema was largely over by the 1970s, though she continued to star in TV movies and series. She also made regular personal appearances, acting on stage and portraying Liberace’s mother Frances opposite Michael Douglas in 2013’s Behind The Candelabra.
Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher And Debbie Reynolds, a documentary about her relationship with her daughter, premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and is due to air on HBO in March.