Normally I save remembrances of lost Hollywood stars for social media like Twitter and Instagram, but the one-two punch to the gut of losing both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds within just a day of each other deserves its own blog post, especially because these two legendary actresses meant the world to me. First and foremost I must say, my heart goes out to Todd Fisher and Billie Lourd (who is the same age as me); I can’t even fathom losing my mother, let alone my grandmother or sister.
I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t know of Carrie’s or Debbie’s existence; I watched the original Star Wars trilogy and Singin’ in the Rain sometime in elementary school, so I’ve been familiar with both actresses since childhood, even though I didn’t delve into their other films until much later on. It’s no secret by now for anyone who’s read a few of my blog posts, but Singin’ in the Rain is my all-time favorite movie, it never fails to lift my spirits. And I’m a bit of a Star Wars geek too, and just about every year, I try to dedicate a day to marathoning the movies. So it’ll be bittersweet for me the next time I revisit these movies I love so much.
October 21, 1956 – December 27, 2016
Carrie Fisher will most be remembered for her portrayal as Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies, a role that made her a pop culture icon. Leia is one of my favorite fictional characters ever, and a big reason why I love Star Wars so much is because of Carrie. When I heard that the original trio was returning for The Force Awakens, I was most excited for Carrie’s reprisal of her famous role (though it was only a small appearance, it was still significant to the movie). My heart swelled seeing her big return to the silver screen as her most beloved character, accompanied by John Williams’ wondrous score (“Princess Leia’s Theme” from A New Hope is one of my favorite tracks from any movie score, and for The Force Awakens he incorporated it into a new track called “Han and Leia”). It’s evident that Carrie infused her own strong qualities into Leia, making what could have easily become a two-dimensional character into one that was a fully realized, compelling presence.
I’ve only seen Carrie in a few other movies, from sublime, smaller roles in Hannah and Her Sisters and When Harry Met Sally… to hilarious cameos in Scream 3 and Fanboys. And just a couple of months ago I saw her in Shampoo, her film debut, and a marvelous one at that. While she never got any other roles as massive as Leia, she still exuded such great talent in the movies she made, no matter the size of the role.
And while she was great as an actress, she was even greater as a writer. I haven’t had the chance to read any of her books yet, but I had the true pleasure of witnessing her greatness as a writer and comedienne in person when I saw her perform her one-woman show Wishful Drinking in Chicago a few years ago, which essentially chronicled her life in and out of the spotlight. I enjoyed every minute of her show, especially seeing how interactive she was with the audience. Fortunately, HBO filmed her show as a special so it’s available for anyone to enjoy (and for me to revisit). Additionally, Carrie then converted her stage show into a memoir, which I can’t wait to read in the near future.
April 1, 1932 – December 28, 2016
Debbie Reynolds is best remembered for her breakout role in Singin’ in the Rain, not missing a beat against the likes of Gene Kelly. I loved her as Kathy Selden, and often mimicked her dance moves from the “All I Do Is Dream of You” number. While I’ve seen this movie countless times and adored Debbie in it, I didn’t see much of her earlier work in the ’50s and ’60s until just a few years ago. As an avid Disney Channel viewer back in the day, the only other movies I had really seen her in were the Halloweentown movies. Knowing how long ago she made Singin’ in the Rain at the time I was watching those DCOMs, I remember thinking how great it was that she was still around making movies and that she was still as vibrant as ever.
Since my dive into classic films a few years ago, I’ve seen a good number of Debbie’s early work, though there’s still plenty more for me to look forward to (as well as the many movies she made following that era). Whenever I see TCM is airing a movie of hers I haven’t seen, I usually try to find some time to watch it. Even if the movie ended up not being up to par, Debbie was always a delight onscreen, and it made any mediocre movie worth sitting through. She’s wonderful in smaller musicals like I Love Melvin (which reunited her with Singin’ in the Rain co-star Donald O’Connor a year later) and Give a Girl a Break (which saw her dancing opposite the great Bob Fosse). She’s also fantastic in romantic comedies like The Tender Trap and The Mating Game. And while she’s best remembered for her roles in lighter movies, she’s great in heavier roles too, like The Catered Affair and her Oscar-nominated turn in The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Debbie was a truly gifted performer, excelling in any genre she was put in, always enrapturing the audience. I’m so glad she was able to work in show business for as long as she did; even if her roles got smaller as she got older, she continued to light up the screen with her presence.
I remember sometime during one of my childhood screenings of Singin’ in the Rain, my dad told me that Kathy Selden was the mother of Princess Leia, and thought that was just about the coolest thing ever. It still amazes me that these two talented, iconic actresses were related, and seeing photos of them together always brings a smile to my face. And while it hurts now that they’re not with us any longer, it’s at least a little comforting that they’re together.
So thank you, Carrie, for transporting me to galaxies far, far away. And thank you, Debbie, for always giving me such glorious feelings. I’m forever grateful that both of you blessed the world with your gifts onscreen, and most importantly, for your generosity offscreen.