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Thursday, 29 December 2016

Vale Debbie Reynolds - Noel Bjorndahl remembers a stellar career (reposted from Facebook)

I'm trying to come to terms with the death of Debbie Reynolds the day after the death of her daughter Carrie Fisher: it has had me weeping copious and genuine tears. What a trouper she was. My earliest memory, at a Saturday matinee, was the hilarious sequence in I Love Melvin (Don Weis) where she becomes a human football-it's got to be seen to be believed.

Mary Frances Reynolds was born a Texan. Her ability to project cheerfulness appeared to be genuine and when her big break came in the glorious Singin' in the Rain (directed by Stanley Donen and star Gene Kelly), she proved to be a strong match for the outstanding terpsichorean skills of Kelly and Donald O'Connor, unleashing the kind of vigour that brought about a star-making performance. I soon found out there had preceded and followed a long succession of musicals. I finally caught up with all of them. In Three Little Words (director Richard Thorpe), her voice was dubbed for the numbers as it was for Singin' in the Rain, the enjoyable Give a Girl a Break (Stanley Donen again), I Love Melvin (another favourite), and The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (Don Weis again). 


I thoroughly enjoyed her antics in Frank Tashlin's cheeky comedy Susan Slept Here, playing a young teenage delinquent teen (again) who is reluctantly taken in over Christmas by Dick Powell (then more than twice her age and then some). It was again a boundary pusher for the staid 50s and the cast managed to get away with it. As the musical as a popular genre wound down, Debbie showed commitment in Say One for Me with Bing Crosby (director Frank Tashlin again), Hit the Deck (Roy Rowland), and The Tender Trap (a pretty silly film and mismatch opposite Frank Sinatra, playing a New York bachelor on the make). It was quite tasteless. Her role in Tammy and the Bachelor in 1957 was very popular but it has not aged well. Debbie's best musical in later years was The Unsinkable Molly Brown (Charles Walters, 1964). She was also terrific in Minnelli's underrated Goodbye Charlie, which sadly laid an egg at the box office. Tastes were changing but Debbie had matured into a very good performer and brought what little class it had into Blake Edwards's This Happy Feeling, as well as a straight role in Robert Mulligan's The Rat Race. Vale, Debbie.

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