For a final blow, 2016 struck again two days after George Michael’s death on Christmas Day, when it took actress Carrie Fisher on Dec. 27, and her mother one day later. To pay one of many tributes to these iconic actresses, this article will detail the lives of Debbie and Carrie who were more than their career-defining roles.
Debbie Reynolds was born in 1932 and spent the majority of her life in California. Despite growing up tomboyish with “no money, no taste and no training” as she put it, Reynolds won a beauty pageant at sixteen that lead to a contract with the Warner Bros Studio (after an amusing coin-flip between Warner Bros. and MGM). As a woman of many talents, she remained with Warner for two years until they ceased production on musicals.
Afterwards, she moved on to MGM for which she produced several hit records. In 1952, she starred in the classic musical “Singin’ In the Rain”, starring alongside Gene Kelly. In 1966, she played the titular character in “The Singing Nun”, during which she fought tooth and nail with studios to have them stop advertising cigarettes, concerned by the number of children who watched the show. She would eventually leave after a year and she was quoted as saying, “Maybe I was a fool to quit the show, but at least I was an honest fool. I’m not a phony or a pretender. With me it wasn’t a question of money, but integrity. I’m the one who has to live with myself.” It was the honesty from the start of her career that made her refreshing and appealing to audiences ever, earning her great respect.
She continued in stage work, musical films, comedy, and business ventures. In the midst of all this, she was married and divorced thrice. Her first marriage to singer Eddie Fisher, the first of three marriages, is what produced her two children, Carrie and Todd Fisher.
Carrie Fisher was two years old when her parents separated. Growing up she was known as the bookworm of her family, always buried in classic literature and writing poetry. Her first performance was on the Broadway revival production of “Irene” at age fifteen, starring none other than her mother. It was on broadway that she acted as a singer, but due to all her time spent on Broadway, she would eventually drop out of high school. At the age of 17 in 1973, Fisher applied to and spent 18 months at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama. Following that, she attended Sarah Lawrence College, though she never graduated.
Her first film debut “Shampoo,” a comedy in 1975, followed by her most iconic role in “Star Wars.” After its 1977 release, Fisher appeared in minor roles for films such as “Blues Brothers”, a Ringo Starr TV special, and of course the “Star Wars Holiday Special,” until “Empire Strikes Back” began production. Over this time and especially from “Return of the Jedi”, she gained a major following.
She took on supporting roles in films like “When Harry Met Sally,” “The Wedding Singer,” “Postcards From the Edge” (a film based on her book), among others, dabbling in Broadway works.
Throughout her life, Fisher struggled with issues such as bipolar disorder and drug usage, both of which she’s spoken about. Using the drugs to cope with manic of her disorder, Fisher struggled with sobriety and received a wake up call in 1985 when she overdosed on medications. She wrote several novels, many based on her life, that document her experiences in the field of fame, mental illness, addiction, affairs, etc. In 2016, Harvard awarded her with its Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism for her activism in these too uncommonly dealt with themes.
Carrie had one marriage with musician Paul Simon. The couple divorced after a year but dated on and off again afterwards. Subsequently, she had a relationship with Bryan Lourd, with whom she had a child, Billie Catherine Lourd, in 1992. The relationship, which lasted from 1991-1994 ended afterwards when Bryan Lourd left her for a man. The couple remained on decent terms and Billie, now an actress, has (had) a good relationship with both of her parents.
On the Dec. 27, Fisher died of cardiac arrest after four days of intensive care in the UCLA Medical Center. She was followed by Reynolds who suffered a stroke the day after. A documentary called “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds” was premiered at the 2016 Cannes’ Festival and was released on HBO, Jan. 7 of this year. With critical acclaim, it is recommended for those fans who appreciated all that Carrie and Debbie had to offer.
Both women will be greatly missed for their phenomenal contributions to acting, and charming personalities that captured the hearts of audiences everywhere. R.I.P Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.