Debbie Reynolds... a remarkable life.
Debbie Reynolds... a remarkable life.

Debbie Reynolds dead at 84: Hollywood loses bright light

DEBBIE Reynolds was a Hollywood icon whose real life was just as sensational as her on-screen appearances.

The actress, who came to the notice of Hollywood studio MGM after winning a California beauty contest at age 16, died today aged 84, just a day after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher.

Reynolds had never danced professionally, according to IMDB, when she was picked to star opposite Gene Kelly in 1952 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 in an interview she had more luck selecting restaurants than men.

She was only briefly married to Carrie Fisher's father, singer Eddie Fisher, but had to overcome the humiliation of losing him to her best friend and fellow screen icon, Elizabeth Taylor.

Fisher's marriage to Taylor only lasted four-years and the actress ended up leaving him for Richard Burton.

Reynolds ran into Taylor and Burton on board a cruise ship a few years later and the two ladies put aside their differences and partied together.

"I invited Elizabeth and Richard to our suite for cocktails and I don't think we even mentioned Eddie Fisher more than in passing," Reynolds wrote in her memoir, Unsinkable, "We drank champagne and had a lovely time."

Debbie Reynolds with Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain.Source:News Limited
Debbie Reynolds with Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain.Source:News Limited

Reynolds and Taylor remained close until her death in 2011 but Taylor reportedly never forgave herself for what she did to her friend.

"I'm so sorry for what I did to you with Eddie," Taylor said to Reynolds according to her memoir, "I just feel so awful when I think of how I hurt you and your children."

But Reynolds was able to forgive and forget, telling Taylor, "That was another lifetime, you and I made up years ago."

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 wasn't 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 3000 costumes and 4275 square metres worth of props and equipment.

Reynolds, admired for her versatility, starred in her own sitcom, The Debbie Reynolds Show, in 1969, but it lasted just one season.

Her career in cinema was largely over by the 1970s but she continued to star in TV movies and series.

Reynolds played Grace's mum in Will & Grace and appeared in shows including Roseanne, The Golden Girls and The Love Boat.

The legendary entertainer also voiced characters in Family Guy and Rugrats and portrayed 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.

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