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Glamour Girl—Debbie Reynolds

Sitting across from this sparkling, gay girl at luncheon, her eyes and conversation bubbling with all the excitement of her trip to Spain, I could hardly believe it was Debbie Reynolds—a girl who, just eight months ago, was the most heartbroken person I knew.

Can it be possible it was just last September that those black headlines crashed around Debbie’s heart?



If you count all the millions of words written about this startling triangle it could be seven years ago!

Right up to the time Debbie left for Spain on location for It Started with a Kiss I had been through so much heartache and unhappiness with her, practically step-by-step through the debacle, that I often wondered if she would ever get over it.

Even when she dropped by my house to see me right after her return from Europe, bringing with her those two chubby dolls, Carrie Frances and Todd, I didn’t get the strong impression I did the day I lunched with her in the MGM Commissary that Debbie has undergone the cure.

For the first time, I thought as I looked at her, I was not reminded of her private heartache. Here is a person with a brand new outlook on life as well as being one of the most sought after actresses on the screen.

Gone are the pigtails and the Capri pants! She was wearing a chic little red dress she had slipped into between scenes of It Started with a Kiss, her hair was beautifully groomed. Still wearing her camera make-up with the emphasized eyelashes and expertly curved mouth,

she looked, as Debbie seldom looked before, glamorous and exciting.

“The way you are looking these days, Debbie,” I said, “makes me think that one of these days you will marry again—you’ll find real happiness and your past will become just a bad dream.”

I must have caught her a bit off-guard because for the first time since I had joined her she halted all that wonderful talk about Spain and looked thoughtful.

She hesitated a moment before she smiled, “That’s a big question—right out of left field. But to give you a straight answer—I hope I marry again. I’m not soured on marriage, if that’s what you mean. There isn’t a woman alive who someday, someway, doesn’t hope to find happiness in marriage and I’m certainly one of them” Then she smiled at me.

“I do know one thing, however,” she went on with that honesty that has always marked my relations with Debbie, “and that is—Eddie Fisher always will be in my life! He is part of my past, my present and my future because of our children. But only, believe me, for that reason alone! Let me repeat, because of the childrenthere will always be a bond between us and now I have the confidence to feel that our relationship will once again be friendly.”

“The way things turned out, would you want to marry another actor, another star?’ I asked. “Or are you hoping to meet a man in some other line of work?”

“Who knows what the future will bring?” she said. “Certainly I can’t foresee it. If I fell in love with an actor, feel sure of happiness with him, I would marry another actor.

“It makes no difference to me what anyone says to the contrary—I had great happiness with Eddie! I want to say again—we were deeply in love when we married. But I really don’t want to go back over all that. It’s all been said. And done. I want to face the future. It’s suddenly so bright again.”

I said, “When do you think the turning point came, when you realized you can once again be happy?”

There was no hesitation about this. She answered quickly, “When I went to Europe. That moment seemed to be the ending of one phase and the beginning of a new one. It’s as though a door had closed and another had opened.”

Debbie conquers Spain

Once again she was all big-eyed excitement, the words tumbling out of her mouth in excitement over the wonderful reception she had received in Madrid, Paris and Rome.

“Everyone was so wonderful to me and somehow they made me feel that their kindness and flattery was to me as a person—not just another visiting actress from Hollywood. In Madrid, some young men came into a cafe where I was dining, hoisted me on their shoulders and carried me out to stand on top of their beautiful new car. I wasn’t at all frightened. They seemed so happy and friendly.”

I had seen a picture of this event in Life magazine which carried a six-page layout on the enthusiastic way the Spanish people had opened their arms to Debbie everywhere she went.

In fact the reception accorded her had been so unusally warm-hearted that the magazine had killed the cover planned on Millie Perkins and The Diary of Anne Frank to substitute Debbie’s singlehanded conquest of the Spaniards.

A wonderful company

“There were few embarrassing questions,” she went on happily, “Even the reporters asked about the children. And they kidded me—but kindly—about all the popcorn I ate and the Cokes I drank. They played Tammy over and over when I walked into cafes.

“Even strangers brought flowers picked from their gardens to my hotel suite and there were many sweet notes and messages. It was a wonderful company to be with, too—Glenn Ford, Eva Gabor, Gustavo Rojo. You know, Eva and I have become great friends since the start of the picture!”

I smiled to myself. This as much as anything proves the big change in Debbie. Can you imagine the pigtailed-and-slacks-wearing Debbie becoming friends with one of the worldly and sophisticated Gabor beauties?

But Debbie was continuing on happily: “Perhaps it was being surrounded with so much of this warmth and affection that made me pause to realize how lucky I am. I have so much! My two beautiful and healthy children. My mother. My comfortable home—security in my future. Don’t think I don’t realize that my career has taken a big upward swing. I am very grateful for this and for the financial security it brings.”

The change September brought

She was toying with the steak she had ordered for luncheon, her expression mature and serene for one so young.

She seemed to be almost musing to herself as she said, “I suppose the real change in my life came last September. That month not only brought the wrench of my parting from Eddie, but it was also the month MGM gave me my new contract and thereby seemed to hand me a whole new career.

“From that point on I was permitted to accept outside pictures. I was permitted to appear on TV, a good thing for me as I’ve always wanted to do it. It gave me the opportunity to select my own stories—and that carries responsibility. I’m thankful I have been so fortunate in my choice of comedies.”

Time for clothes

Debbie laughed heartily now, “I’ve even changed my wardrobe! Do you know in this picture I wear gorgeous Helen Rose clothes every bit as glamorous as Eva Gabor’s?”

That reminded me of something I’ve wanted to ask her ever since Debbie started dressing up—and how.

“Tell me something, Debbie,” I said. “Why are you now literally a fashion plate both on and off the screen when for so many years you seemed completely indifferent to clothes, particularly when you were married to Eddie?”

She nodded, “You’ve got a point there. I hadn’t thought of it much before—but when I was married to Eddie I was completely married. At one stage I was ready to give up my career and settle down to being just a housewife and a mother. To me, Eddie’s career was the important thing. Much more important than my own. My life was filled with him and the babies; they took up most of my time and thoughts, and I just wasn’t interested in clothes.

“You know, clothes take up a lot of a woman’s time. Selection, fittings, grooming—you have to spend hours at it if you are going to look as well as you can. I guess it can be summed up by saying—now I have the time for clothes.”

She smiled as she went on, “I’m going out again, too. Nothing serious. But old friends like Bob Neal take me dining and dancing and to see the new premieres. Helen Rose has made some wonderful gowns for me and helped me to become clothes conscious. I even bought some lovely things on my own in Paris. Being feminine, I like to hear people say, ‘How lovely you look, Debbie.’ Makes me feel good—even if it isn’t easy on the pocketbook.”

No time for love

I said to my beaming young friend, “Debbie, I just hope your heart won’t be caught on the rebound—and that you just continue for a long time to wear your pretty dresses, date nice young men and continue to have a good time.”

“Don’t worry about the rebound,” Debbie smiled. “I’m not dating anyone steady and I’ll continue to go out with many friends. I don’t want any serious romance right now. I am not ready for it. Besides, I won’t have time to fall in love. My working schedule takes me from one picture to another right up to the first of the year.”

She’s such a level-headed little thing in spite of her high good spirits these days. I couldn’t help commenting, “You must have a wonderful philosophy to have carried you through so much unhappiness without making you bitter.”

“I don’t think of it as philosophy,” she said, “I have faith. My parents brought me up to believe in God, to trust Him, to take my troubles to Him. I have done this and now I am blessed with spiritual trust. I expect to bring up my children with this same faith. One of the fine things I was taught is that God makes the shoulders, to fit the burden.”

I told her I am very proud of her be cause when I saw her wan, tear-streaked face right after Eddie’s announcement that he was leaving home, I wondered if she would be given the courage to carry her heartache.

She replied with great sweetness, “Don’t worry about me or feel sorry for me any longer. I’m truly happy, truly grateful—and oh, so lucky.

“I’m still thin—but not because of any troubles I’ve had. I’m having a little trouble eating—but only because I’m so excited all the time. Just like in Spain—all I seem to want to eat is popcorn and drink Cokes. But I’m seriously going to try to put on a little weight. Got to get in shape to meet the world,” she laughed.

One of the things she has to face in the immediate future, despite her assertion that her broken marriage is in her past, is the imminent marriage of Eddie Fisher and Elizabeth Taylor made possible by Debbie’s permission to grant him a divorce.

This she did at the airport immediately on her return from Europe when she was informed by reporters that Liz and Eddie had the evening before held a press conference in Las Vegas saying they had to have Debbie’s permission to wed in Nevada.

“I will give that permission,” Debbie said, solemn faced. “Then I hope I have heard the end of this.”

She said, “I still feel that way. I don’t want to go on talking about this forever and forever. But I do want to say to you that I do not wish anything bad to anyone. To the contrary, I wish them happiness. I hope they can be as happy as I am.”

Debbie believes firmly in Eddie’s talent as a singer and she expressed sadness that his career has suffered a setback with the loss of his TV show.

“I must have believed in his career and his talent if I was ready to practically put my own career on ice when I was married to him,” she said. “I thought he would go far and become a great star—and I still hope so.”

But that’s past—and it’s her own career that’s very much in the foreground now.

All dressed up and going places

“Even so, you can’t work, work, work all the time,” I reminded this eager beaver.

“Of course not,” she agreed. “I want to travel again—and soon. The only drawback to this is that I don’t want to ever leave the children for any length of time. I missed them so very much the five weeks I was in Europe.

She told me about her nurse Agnes, a German girl, who has been with her and the children for such’a long time, and who is now getting married.

“But she won’t leave me until I have finished my current obligations,” Debbie said. “Isn’t this wonderful loyalty? Baby Todd loves her and loudly calls for ‘Aggie!’ the first thing in the morning at the same time Carrie Frances calls ‘Mommy.’ Agnes and I then both go in different directions to get the children up!” she smiled.

The call came for Debbie to return to the set and she invited me to go with her. What a little clown she is! She took director George Marshall’s hat and put it on her head, executing a few crazy dance steps before taking her place in front of the camera.

But the minute work was called she stopped the nonsense and settled down. A wardrobe woman helped her into the beautiful green gown she was wearing in this sequence, then Debbie started struggling with the long gloves.

“Get Eva,” she called. “She’ll help me put them on right. Now there’s a long-glove gal!”

Coming over beside me, Debbie gestured to the lovely set, “This beautiful setting is supposed to be Eva’s home in Spain—just a little shack,” she laughed.

The picture I carried of her as I left was that of a laughing, happy Debbie, all dressed up—and definitely going places in more ways than one!