Debbie Reynolds was a rare star whose light stayed bright as the world transitioned from old Hollywood to new. She had a long and fruitful career — she was just 2 years shy of hitting 60 years in showbiz — bringing audiences to tears both from laughter and sadness at the theatre, the movies, and on T.V. To celebrate the late icon’s life and career, TCM is airing a full day of some of Debbie’s most iconic films, from The Unsinkable Molly Brown to Singin’ in The Rain.
The Tender Trap (1955) – Debbie Reynolds starred alongside Frank Sinatra, who fittingly plays Charlie, a suave theatrical agent in New York City with a constant parade of women to do the cooking and cleaning. But, when he meets a young actress at an audition (Reynolds), who has a tight timeline of retiring from performing to raise kids by age 22, he falls for the dame who changes his life. The film is most notably known for Sinatra’s song by the same title — one he continues to sing throughout his career — which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. While Reynolds’ character is basically an accessory for Frank Sinatra to sing at and mess around on but she puts up with it because she’s keeping a close eye on her biological clock — a far cry from the career-driven working girl in Singin’ In The Rain that put Reynolds on the map three years earlier.
Singin’ in The Rain (1952) – This wasn’t Debbie Reynolds’ first film but it was certainly the one to put her on the road to legendary movie icon. At the time, Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor were a tough duo to keep up with for anyone — male, female, veteran or rookie — but Reynolds, essentially a newcomer, did it. She had never been a trained dancer (she was a gymnast) before taking on the role of Kathy Seldon, but thanks to her hard work and training from Fred Astaire, she kept up with Kelly and O’Connor, two lifelong dancers. In fact, after 15 hours of shooting the “Good Morning” scene, Reynolds had to be carried back to her dressing room because her feet were bleeding. It was that kind of effort from all of the cast and crew (Donald O’Connor was hospitalized after filming his “Make Em Laugh” routine and Gene Kelly performed the titular song with a 103 degree fever) that brought in several award nominations (though none for Reynolds) and makes it the greatest musical of all time.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) – Decades before Kate and Leo clung to debris in the North Atlantic, Debbie Reynolds starred in this rags-to-riches musical comedy based on the life of the Titanic’s most famous survivor. Born poor but desiring so much more from life, Molly moves to 1880s-era Leadville, Colorado during a mining boom to find a wealthy husband. Despite her grand ambitions, she falls in love with and marries Johnny Brown, a working miner (played by Harve Presnell). But, luck is on Molly’s side when Johnny literally strikes gold. Debbie Reynolds received her only competitive Oscar nomination for this role, but lost to Julie Andrews, who won that year for Mary Poppins. The film’s anthem of resilience against all odds, “I Ain’t Down Yet,” became a staple of Reynolds’ later act and her personal motto.
Here’s the full Remembering Debbie Reynolds schedule:
6am It Started With A Kiss (1959)
7:45am Bundle Of Joy (1956)
9:30am How The West Was Won (1963)
12:30pm The Tender Trap (1955)
2:30pm Hit The Deck (1955)
4:30pm I Love Melvin (1953)
6pm Singin’ In The Rain (1952)
8pm The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)
10:30pm The Mating Game (1959)
12:30am The Catered Affair (1956)
2:15am The Singing Nun (1965)
4am How Sweet It Is! (1968)