LOS ANGELES — Debbie Reynolds, one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the 1950s and 1960s, died Wednesday, one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher passed away, Reynolds’ son Todd Fisher said.
Reynolds, 84, was taken to a Los Angeles hospital Wednesday afternoon, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Todd Fisher told CNN, “My mother passed away a short time ago. She spoke to me this morning and said she missed Carrie.”
Fisher did not give a cause of death.
Reynolds had complained of breathing problems, an unidentified source told The Times.
“She’s with Carrie now,” Todd Fisher said.
Like Fisher, Reynolds was only 20 when the movie that would define her career made its debut: “Singin’ in the Rain,” the 1952 musical about the entertainment industry that co-starred Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor.
A host of roles quickly followed, with Reynolds playing opposite Frank Sinatra in “The Tender Trap” and Gregory Peck in the star-studded “How the West Was Won.”
Born in El Paso, Texas, as Mary Frances Reynolds, Debbie Reynolds started in beauty pageants before catching the eye of a talent scout while still in her teens. Reynolds was frequently cast in wholesome roles — she was frequently described as having a “girl-next-door” look — in projects including “The Singing Nun” and “Tammy and the Bachelor.”
The latter’s title song sung by Reynolds, “Tammy,” topped the pop charts. She earned an Oscar nomination in 1964 for another musical, playing the title role in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” (She later toured in a stage production of that story.)
Reynolds remained active well past her heyday in the ’50s and ’60s, including a flurry of roles in recent years. Those included playing Albert Brooks’ mom in the 1996 comedy “Mother,” and Liberace’s mother in the 2013 HBO movie “Behind the Candelabra.”
In 2001, Reynolds starred in the TV movie “These Old Broads,” which was written by Carrie Fisher, alongside Shirley MacLaine and Elizabeth Taylor.
That pairing was particularly notable, since Reynolds and Taylor had figured in one of the more public scandals of their era, when Reynolds’ husband, singer Eddie Fisher, left her for the newly widowed Taylor, grieving over the plane-crash death of her husband, producer Mike Todd. In another footnote, MacLaine had starred as a sort-of version of Reynolds in the movie “Postcards From the Edge,” which was adapted from Fisher’s semi-autobiographical book about her struggles as an actress.
“I could understand why he wanted her,” Reynolds told People magazine about Fisher and Taylor’s affair. “I couldn’t understand why she wanted him.”
All three of Reynolds’ marriages ended in divorce, including her second, to shoe mogul Harry Karl, who gambled away most of the couple’s money. Reynolds documented that interlude in one of her several books, a 1988 autobiography titled “Debbie: My Life.”
When film roles became scarce, Reynolds continued to perform on stage and in nightclubs — in part out of necessity to restore her depleted finances.
Reynolds was honored with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Humanitarian Award for her work regarding mental health issues, having co-founded a group devoted to it, the Thalians. Earlier that year Reynolds received the Screen Actors Guild’s Life Achievement Award.
Reflecting on her career at the time, she cited “Singin’ in the Rain” as her career highlight, telling the Hollywood Reporter, “It was the era when they would take an unknown girl and make a star of her overnight. I was lucky. God was very good to me.”
Survivors include her son, Todd, and her granddaughter Billie Lourd, who is also an actress.
Here is a look at the life of actress Debbie Reynolds.
Personal: Birth date: April 1, 1932
Birth place: El Paso, Texas
Birth name: Mary Frances Reynolds
Father: Raymond Francis Reynolds, a railroad carpenter
Mother: Maxene Reynolds
Marriages: Eddie Fisher (September 26, 1955-May 1959, divorced); Harry Karl (November 25, 1960-1973, divorced); Richard Hamlett (May 25, 1984-May 1996, divorced)
Children: with Eddie Fisher: Todd, February 24, 1958; Carrie, October 21, 1956-December 27, 2016
Other Facts: Warner Bros. talent executive William Orr was responsible for changing her first name from Frannie to Debbie.
Has been known to say, “Yes, I’m Princess Leia’s mother” when referring to her daughter, actress and author Carrie Fisher, who played the character in the Star Wars movie universe.
Since the 1950s, she has been involved with The Thalians, a group of entertainment professionals who support mental healthcare issues. She serves as president emeritus.
She is a proud former Girl Scout and has always supported scouting.
Has been nominated for an Academy Award, two Emmy Awards, and a Tony Award.
Timeline: 1948 – At the age of 16, she is crowned Miss Burbank, California. Talent scouts are in the audience, and this exposure leads to a film contract with Warner Bros. Her first movie role is uncredited, in “June Bride.”
1950 – Is let go from Warner Bros and placed under long-term contract by MGM.
1952 – Stars in “Singin’ in the Rain” as a singer and a dancer. When the movie started production, Reynolds didn’t know how to dance; she was taught by choreographer and lead Gene Kelly.
1957 – Reynolds and husband Eddie Fisher are bridesmaid and best man at the wedding of their good friends, Elizabeth Taylor and Mike Todd. After Todd’s death in 1958, Fisher and Taylor begin an affair which leads the breakup of his marriage to Reynolds and a subsequent marriage to Taylor in 1959.
1965 – Is nominated for a Academy Award for Best Actress for the 1964 film, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”
1969-1970 – “The Debbie Reynolds Show” airs on NBC.
1970 – Buys much of MGM’s memorabilia at auction and in 1972, forms the Hollywood Motion Picture and Television Museum, a non-profit corporation that collects props and costumes as other studios sold them off.
1974 – Is nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for the play, “Irene.”
1993 – Opens the Debbie Reynolds Hotel & Casino with her real estate developer husband Richard Hamlett, to showcase some of her memorabilia.
1995 – Opens the Hollywood Motion Picture Museum in Las Vegas.
July 7, 1997 – Files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after a deal to sell the hotel falls through.
2000 – Is nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress In a Comedy Series for “Will & Grace,” and a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Special for “A Gift of Love: The Daniel Huffman Story.”
June 12, 2009 – Her motion picture and television museum files for bankruptcy after funding collapses.
June 18, 2011 – The first of three planned auctions for the museum’s movie memorabilia collection is held.
December 2, 2011 – “Debbie Reynolds-The Auction Part II” is held.
January 22, 2012 – Reynolds tells the Los Angeles Times she doesn’t want to have any more auctions.
May 17-18, 2014 – Reynolds holds the final auction for her collection of Hollywood memorabilia. “Debbie Reynolds-The Auction Finale” includes famed pieces like Vivien Leigh’s “Scarlett O’Hara” black chiffon hat and three outfits worn by Joanne Woodward in “The Three Faces of Eve.”
April 2013 – Reynolds’ memoir “Unsinkable” is released.
2015 – Receives the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award.
2016 – Is awarded the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.