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Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds

As star of more than 30 motion pictures, two Broadway shows, two series, as well as dozens of television appearances here and abroad, in 2004 Debbie Reynolds celebrates her 55th year in show business. Born Mary Frances Reynolds on April Fool's Day, 1932, in El Paso, Texas, she moved with her parents and brother to Burbank, California, when she was seven-years-old. An enthusiastic and highly energetic child, she excelled in sports, particularly sandlot baseball, Girl Scouts, baton twirling and in music, where her specialty was the French horn. Her early comedic talents first came to light when she auditioned for dramatic roles in school plays and found everyone laughing at her serious readings. Failing at that, she had to content herself with doing "everything from the wind machine to the thunder and lightning offstage," never quite making it to onstage appearances.

At age 16, she entered a local beauty contest sponsored by Lockheed Aircraft. Never considered one of the beauties, she won on the strength of a lip-synching routine. Two of the judges were talent scouts-one from Warner Bros., one from MGM. On the flip of a coin, the Warner Bros. scout, Solly Baiano, got first dibs at a screen test for Mary Frances. The test led to a contract and a name change to Debbie.

Reynolds made her screen debut with June Haver and James Barton in The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady. Her first big break came in an MGM musical starring Fred Astaire and Red Skelton, Three Little Words, in which she portrayed Helen Kane, the boop-boop-a-doop girl of the late '30s. A subsequent performance in a Busby Berkley musical, Two Weeks with Love, convinced the legendary L.B. Mayer to choose her for the leading female role in what became one of the greatest screen musicals of all time- Singin' in the Rain, starring Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor.

Over a 10-year period, Debbie made more than 25 films, and has continued to appear in a wide array of motion picture projects, including How the West Was Won; The Unsinkable Molly Brown (for which she was nominated for an Oscar); Susan Slept Here; The Tender Trap; Tammy and the Bachelor; The Pleasure of his Company; Mary, Mary; Divorce American Style; The Singing Nun; Goodbye, Charlie; The Rat Race; Mother; and In & Out.

Her recordings of Abba Dabba Honeymoon (from Two Weeks with Love) and Tammy both sold more than a million copies. In the mid-'60s, Reynolds put together her first nightclub act, which debuted at the Riveria Hotel in Las Vegas. In the more than 30 years since, she has been a headliner on the casino circuit from Reno and Tahoe and Las Vegas to Atlantic City to the famed London Palladium, as well as in concert in every major American city, touring on the average of 44 weeks a year.

In 1973, she took a break from her nightclub appearances to star in the Broadway revival of Irene, breaking all previous box office records for a Broadway musical. After an enormously successful national tour of the show, she returned to the musical stage with another hit revival, Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun, directed by the late Gower Champion (who also directed Irene). In 1983, she returned to Broadway again to star in the hit musical Woman of the Year and in 1989, she headed a national tour of The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

Reynolds' offscreen, offstage life has been as active and versatile. She is mother of two children, actress/writer Carrie Fisher and son Todd Fisher. In 1992, Carrie made her a grandmother, giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, Billie Catherine. Reynolds has been a lifelong supporter and fundraiser for the Girl Scouts and founder/president of the Thalians, a charitable organization which has raised millions for emotionally disturbed children and AIDS patients located at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.

Since the late '60s, she has also been actively involved in a project closest to her heart, the collection and preservation of memorabilia from Hollywood's first half-century of filmmaking, gathering thousands of costumes, props and mementos of the studios and their stars. A location is now in progress (near Grauman's Chinese Theater) and movie fans worldwide are excited to see this dream come true-the establishment of a Hollywood Motion Picture and Television museum, housing Reynolds' collection, the largest individual collection of such memorabilia.

In the late '70s, anticipating her eventual retirement from performing, Reynolds established the Debbie Reynolds Professional Rehearsal Studios in North Hollywood, which has since become one of the entertainment industry's leading rehearsal and professional training studios. In 1987, Reynolds turned author with her widely read memoir, Debbie, My Life (co-written with David Patrick Columbia), published by William Morrow & Company.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2004.

Debbie Reynolds Facts

Birth NameMary Frances Reynolds
BirthdayApril 1, 1932 (91)
BirthplaceEl Paso, Texas, USA
Height5' 2" (1m57)  How tall is Debbie Reynolds compared to you?

Selected Filmography

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Kiki's Delivery Service
Rugrats In Paris: The Movie
Singin' in the Rain
Behind the Candelabra
Charlotte's Web
Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds
Intimate Portraits
The Bodyguard
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