Hollywood Icon Debbie Reynolds Dead at 84

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Debbie Reynolds
1986 Portrait of Debbie Reynolds at her home in Los Angeles. Photo: Allen Warren

Just 24 hours after the death of her daughter, Star Wars Princess, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds is dead after allegedly suffering a massive stroke.

Reynolds was at her son Todd’s home in Los Angeles planning the funeral of her daughter Carrie, who had died the day before. Reynolds began experiencing trouble breathing and was rushed to Cedars-Sinai hospital. She was said to be in “fair to serious condition” upon arrival.

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“She wanted to be with Carrie,” her son Todd Fisher told Variety.

Known for her roles in Singing in The Rain, How The West Won, and the Unsinkable Molly Brown, Reynolds found stardom in her role portraying Helen Kane in the 1950 film Three Little Words.

She made her Broadway debut in 1973 in a revival of Irene, a musical first produced 60 years before. For that production, she received a Tony nomination. She toured with Harve Presnell in Annie Get Your Gun, then wrapped up the Broadway run of Woman of the Year in 1983. In the late 1980s Reynolds repeated her role as Molly Brown in the stage version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown, first opposite Presnell (repeating his original Broadway and movie role) and later with Ron Raines.

Reynolds was the 1955 Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year. Her foot and handprints are preserved at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California. She also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6654 Hollywood Boulevard, for live performance and a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars dedicated to her. In keeping with the celebrity tradition of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival of Winchester, Virginia, Reynolds was honored as the Grand Marshal of the 2011 ABF that took place from April 26 to May 1, 2011.

In November 2006 Reynolds received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from Chapman University (Orange, California). On May 17, 2007, she was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Nevada, Reno, where she had contributed for many years to the film-studies program. In 2015 she was awarded her first and only Oscar with the honorable Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

She was born Mary Frances Reynolds on April 1, 1932, in El Paso, Texas, the daughter of Maxine (née Harmon; 1913–1999) and Raymond Francis Reynolds (1903–1986), a carpenter for the Southern Pacific Railroad. She was of Scottish-Irish and English ancestry, and was raised in a strict Nazarene church. Reynolds was a Girl Scout and a troop leader (a scholarship in her name is offered to high-school age Girl Scouts).

Her family moved to Burbank, California, in 1939. At age sixteen, in 1948, while a student at Burbank High School, she won the Miss Burbank beauty contest. Soon after, she had a contract with Warner Bros and acquired a new first name.

She is survived by her son, Todd Fisher and her grandaughter Billie Lourd.

Brad Delaney
Brad is the CEO and Editor-in-Chief of The Pacific Tribune. In addition to his work at The Pacific Tribune, he is President of Sound Strategy, a Seattle based creative design agency that builds and maintains websites and advertising for small and medium sized businesses around the world. In his spare time he serves as co-director and Board President of One Million Kids For Equality, a federally recognized 501c3 nonprofit that works to elevate the voices of LGBTQ youth and the children of LGBTQ parents.