Famed actress Debbie Reynolds has died of a stroke at age 84, one day after the death of her actress daughter Carrie Fisher, Variety and other sources are reporting.
Reynolds was rushed to Los Angeles’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center early Wednesday afternoon after becoming ill at the home of her son, Todd Fisher, in Beverly Hills. Her death was reported shortly before 6 p.m. “She wanted to be with Carrie,” Todd Fisher told Variety. Carrie Fisher died Tuesday after suffering a cardiac episode on a flight from London to Los Angeles.
Reynolds was best known for her work in musical and comedy films. One of her earliest films, 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain, cast her opposite Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor and is considered one of the best movie musicals ever. She received her only Oscar nomination for another musical, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, released in 1964. In the latter film she replaced Shirley MacLaine, who would play a Reynolds-like character in the 1990 film adaptation of Carrie Fisher’s novel Postcards From the Edge.
Some of her roles had special resonance with LGBT audiences. She played Grace’s mother, Bobbi Adler, on several episodes of Will & Grace. Bobbi had a tendency to spontaneously sing show tunes, something that endeared her to Grace’s gay best friend and roommate, Will. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for the role in 2000. She also played the mother of a gay man at least twice —Liberace’s mother in the 2013 TV movie Behind the Candelabra and the mother of a fictional gay man in the 1997 Kevin Kline comedy In & Out.
Reynolds’s honors also included a Tony nomination for her performance in the musical Irene in 1973. Carrie Fisher had one of her first roles in the play.
Away from the stage and screen, Reynolds faced many personal troubles. Her first husband, singer Eddie Fisher, famously left her for actress Elizabeth Taylor in 1958. When her second marriage, to businessman Harry Karl, ended in 1973, she found that Karl had left her with a debt of $3 million from his gambling losses. “She worked it off by appearing 42 weeks a year in nightclubs and Las Vegas and Reno,” Variety notes. She opened a casino in Las Vegas in 1993, but it went bankrupt and closed four years later.
Reynolds kept on working, though, with a notable role as mom to Albert Brooks’s neurotic character in 1996’s Mother and extensive voice work for animated TV series. In 2015 she received the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award and was the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. She was involved in extensive charitable work, having joined other entertainment professionals in founding the Thalians, a group that worked to raise awareness of mental health issues, in the 1950s.