Debbie and Carrie

Knapps

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31, Dec 2016

Celebrity deaths had made news this year but the consecutive deaths of Hollywood legends Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds genuinely shocked fans and the industry. Much has been said and speculated on the bond they shared; with both individuals being extremely forthright about the highs and lows they went through apart and together. Their relationship, for all its turbulence, exemplified the uniqueness of the mother-daughter bond.

What are the consecutive tragedies that struck Hollywood?

  • First Carrie Fisher, an American actress, writer, humorist and producer most known for her essaying the role of Princess Leia in the Star Wars series passed away. She had a heart attack on December 23 while on a flight and passed away on December 27.
  • Her mother Debbie Reynolds, actress, singer, businesswoman, film historian and humanitarian who shot to fame when she played Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain passed away a day later. She suffered a “severe stroke”, according to her son Todd Fisher, and was admitted to the hospital on Wednesday morning. That afternoon she breathed her last. Todd Fisher said that shortly before she died she had said “I want to be with Carrie”.

For film buffs Reynolds was a celebrity star, but people within the industry knew her for the philanthropic causes she took up. She worked with The Thalians, an organization dedicated to mental health causes for more than six decades. She was also passionate about preserving Hollywood heritage. In January 2015, she received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. In 2016, she was the recipient of the Academy Awards Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Fisher was widely applauded for her openness on the issue of mental health. In 2016, she received the Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism from Harvard College for “her forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism which have advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy.

The documentary Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds is scheduled to air on HBO on January 7, 2017

Why was Fisher chiefly known as the daughter of “Hollywood Royalty”?

She came into the world as a celebrity child and had to live with the image throughout.

  • Debbie Reynolds was not just a movie star; she defined the essence of a movie star. She was very frank about her humble upbringing and completely unconventional at the time she started. One of her friends said, “I say this in all sincerity. Debbie can serve as an inspiration to all young American womanhood. She came up the hard way, and she has a realistic sense of values based on faith, love, work and money. Life has been kind to her because she has been kind to life. She's a young woman with a conscience, which is something rare in Hollywood actresses. She also has a refreshing sense of honesty.” She indeed became an icon; a living legend who earned sky-high fame.
  • Eddie Fisher was a singing sensation whose records sold in millions and made him one of the most celebrated pop singles artists in the early half of the 1950s. His voice earned him teen idol status.
  • When Fisher married Reynolds, he went from being singing sensation to America’s sweetheart. The celebrity marriage had all the ingredients of being a picture-perfect one – two healthy kids, wife and husband who made the most adorable pair.

For Carrie, this was something she had to deal with despite her own most famous on-screen identity as the famous Princess Leia. As both her parents were the centre of attention, even first impressions of her would be with reference to one or both of them. Like in an interview when she was promoting Star Wars she was told – “Forgive me for just staring at you, but I know your mom and I know your dad well, and when somebody looks at an offspring for the first time, they say, ‘Let’s see, do I see some of the mother ’ You got your father’s eyes for sure.

When did Debbie enter Hollywood?

Background

  • Born on April 1 1932, she was christened Marie Frances Reynolds. Her father was a carpenter for the Southern Pacific Railroad and her mother, a laundry woman. She said, “We may have been poor," she said, "but we always had something to eat, even if Dad had to go out on the desert and shoot jackrabbits.”

Hollywood

  • She entered the Miss Burbank contest and won it for her rendering of “My Rockin’ Horse Ran Away” in Betty Hutton style.Solly Baiano, talent scout for Warner Bros spotted her and a $65-a-week contract plus a name change to Debbie – against her wishes – followed. The experience mostly involved addressing envelopes and showing visitors around; and her roles in front of the camera were minor ones.
  • She moved on to MGM and it was here that she landed with the legendary lead role in “Singin’ in the Rain”. Gene Kelly, the choreographer and male lead made her adhere to a stringent dance training regimen, which she acknowledged was necessary.
  • The next defining moment in her career was her role as Tammy in the romantic comedy “Tammy and the Bachelor”. The role also possibly stereotyped her into playing similar characters in the films that followed. Replacing Shirley MacLaine’s role as Molly in the 1964 movie “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” she won the masses with her portrayal of a woman who went from rags to riches and became a survivor of the Titanic sinking.A signature song “I Ain’t Down Yet” from the musical comedy was something she replayed and relived through the black phases of her life.

Where did Carrie struggle with coming to terms with her pedigree?

  • Both Fisher and Reynolds had spoken about how Carrie hated to share her mother with others. But Carrie did not have a choice in this matter as Reynolds had made a name for herself in the movie industry followed by fame through the small screen. For Carrie, this meant sharing the weight of her mother’s fame which in itself was a challenge.
  • Fisher commented on being a child to celebrity parents – “The family is organized [around] the parents, [whereas] normally the family is organized around raising the child”
  • Being part of the celebrity lifestyle meant drugs and marijuana formed a significant part of Carrie’s life in her teens. At 28, she needed rehab and even though she made it through, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had a very hard time dealing with it. It was at this point that she greatly distanced herself from her mother.
  • While Debbie felt frustrated and pained, when she was rebuffed by her daughter who she wanted to console and communicate with, Carrie felt her mother’s crazy life – at that point Debbie’s second husband Harry Karl was plundering her money and cheating on her – was overwhelming her to a point where she just wanted a release. Fisher said,I didn't want to be around her, I did not want to be Debbie Reynolds' daughter.

Who did Debbie feel Carrie was and vice-versa?

Debbie and Carrie were very open about their relationship; they celebrated the highs and sought to work around the lows. When they appeared on stage together, they had to hold their own as individuals. Despite this they learnt from each other.

  • Carrie said to her mother in the Oprah Winfrey show – “I make choices; I do what I want to do. I am a strong person, I’m not afraid of almost anything, and that’s a lot because of your example.” In an earlier interview she had said, “The funniest thing is my mother goes on the road and works; she gets up, puts her face on and her hair on and is so alive, at a time of her life when lot of people are getting ready not to be, My mother is better than ever.” She added, “I believe my mother knows now but if she doesn’t, it would be good if she did that I take her advice, follow her example, that I respect who she is and if I’m like her in any way it makes me very happy to be so”.
  • Debbie reflected on the highs and lows of their relationship in the Oprah Winfrey show concluded, “I would say that Carrie and I have finally found happiness. I admire her strength and survival. I admire that she is alive, that she has chosen to make it. It would have been easy to give up and give in and to keep doing drugs. I always feel, as a mother does, that I protect her. I want happiness for my daughter — I want Carrie to be happy.” She had said in an earlier interview – “There have been a few times when I thought I was going to lose Carrie. I’ve had to walk through a lot of my tears. but she’s worth it.”

How special is a mother-daughter bond?

  • The relationship’s highlight is its resilience. From the unabashed love displayed and constantly demanded in childhood through the turbulent teens where the relationship shows its worst side to the mature stage where daughters realize and appreciate the struggles their mothers undertook for them, the strength of the relationship stands out.
  • Researcher Karen Fingerman, Ph.D. found that conflicts and complexities did not stop 80 to 90 percent of the middle-aged women she spoke to report having good relationships with their mothers – though they wish it was better.
  • Fingerman says women are more successful at holding relationships that involve a great extent of intimacy and the mother-daughter bond is a testimony to that. "There is great value in the mother-daughter tie because the two parties care for one another and share a strong investment in the family as a whole”, she said.
  • Mothers are more patient to their daughters flaws than the other way round, reveals Fingerman’s research.
  • Findings in her research include 88 percent of adults report that their mother has been a positive influence, 92 percent say they feel the current relationship with their mothers is positive, 88 percent of mothers say their family is adequately appreciative, 53 percent of adults say their mothers influence exceeded their fathers and while only 45 percent of men find their mother more influential than their father, 60 percent of women assert this.

At no point of time, this relationship can be easily described; but one can vouch for its strength and love that makes it special.

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Tags | Carrie Carrie Fisher Debbie Debbie Reynolds

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