I’ve a Smile On My Face: Remembering Debbie Reynolds

I’m singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feelin’
I’m happy again

I’m laughin’ at clouds
So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love

Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place
Come on with the rain
I’ve a smile on my face

Debbie Reynolds sweet, melodic voice and bright, blue eyes have left us as the song from her most iconic song and dance number resonates with the joy she has found above the clouds; now with her beloved daughter, Carrie Fisher. Mary Frances “Debbie” Reynolds passed away on December 28 at the age of 84; just one day after the heartbreaking death of her daughter. “The last thing she said this morning was that she was very, very sad about losing Carrie and that she would like to be with her again,” Debbie’s son, Todd, said the morning of her passing. He recalls that it wasn’t but 15 minutes later and his mother suffered a stroke.
At a mere 19 years old, Debbie earned the coveted spot of partnering with Gene Kelley in the musical Singin’ in the Rain in 1952. While Debbie’s background was in gymnastics, Gene Kelley frequently insulted her dancing and later Fred Astaire found a crushed and broken-hearted Debbie crying under a piano. Fred volunteered his expertise and helped Debbie with her dance sequences for the musical. Gene Kelley was quite the bully behind the scenes. Debbie once wrote about their first on screen kiss in Singin’ in the Rain: “The camera closed in. Gene took me tightly in his arms…and shoved his tongue down my throat.” Young Debbie was not impressed with her so called suave co-star and squealed, “Eeeew! What was that?” She said she started spitting and yelled for a Coca- Cola to rinse out her mouth. “It was the early 1950s, and I was an innocent kid who had never been French-kissed. It felt like an assault.” She went on to describe the event: “I was stunned that this thirty-nine-year-old man would do this to me.” Debbie once said that Singin’ in the Rain and childbirth were the two most difficult things she ever had to do in her life. Starring alongside the infamous (and now forever tainted as tyrant in my mind) Gene Kelley brought instant fame to this brown haired beauty from Texas. She went on to star in numerous movies throughout her life as well as stage performances and radio hits.

Debbie had her share of heartbreak. A later co-star and close friend, Frank Sinatra, warned Debbie not to marry the sweet talking crooner, Eddie Fisher, but Debbie, only 24 and inexperienced, just couldn’t help herself. The marriage lasted only 4 years but resulted in the births of Carrie and Todd Fisher. The biggest scandal of the time occurred when Eddie left Debbie and the children for Elizabeth Taylor (Debbie’s best friend at the time). Debbie has said that she was more interested in being a mother than finding new husbands. She eventually reconciled with Elizabeth decades later and they became friends once more. The two even shared pumpkin pie together in Elizabeth’s bed when Elizabeth was too frail to move about. Debbie said they were watching Tom Cruise in the Last Samurai and the sword fighting didn’t interest the two old friends.

For me, Debbie Reynolds will always be remembered as Kathy Selden; a young woman who captures the heart of Don Lockwood (Gene Kelley) in Singin in the Rain. The intricate song and dance numbers with catchy show tunes and an image of yellow raincoats can bring a smile to any day dreamer while gray clouds overcast the blue skies above. Besides, who else can say they were French- kissed by Gene Kelley, mentored by Fred Astaire, and ate pie with Elizabeth Taylor while watching Tom Cruise on television? Although it be bittersweet, Debbie Reynolds heart is broken no more as she is with her beloved daughter above the rain clouds. As Debbie once sang: “Come on with the rain, I’ve a smile on my face.”

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