Mother-To-Be Debbie Reynolds Says!
“Carrie wants a girl! Todd wants a boy! . . . I guess there’s only one way to keep them both happy—I’ll just have to have twins!” laughs a radiant Debbie.
She had just learned that another wonderful dream is coming true—she and Harry are going to have the baby they’ve all dreamed of.
“Carrie wanted me to have a baby when I wasn’t even married,” Debbie said, laughing again. “Most little girls want their mamas to have babies—and I couldn’t exactly explain to her why for me at the time that was an impossibility. Now she and Todd can hardly wait! They want to help care for the baby, and Carrie’s announced that she’s ready to move in with Todd and donate her own brand new room for the nursery. I don’t know whether that will happen or not. We’ve just moved into our house, I haven’t finished furnishing our room yet and I haven’t had time to plan or arrange anything.
“As a matter of fact, I’d never have announced my pregnancy this early, but I simply had to if I was going to finish shooting ‘How the West Was Won’ and start on ‘My Six Loves.’ It meant accelerating production on both pictures!”
Debbie leans forward, mops the windshield with a handful of tissues, guns the car into Motor Avenue. Rain is coming down in a steady, relentless flood. It drums the top of the car, flows down the windows in streams. From time to time she again clears away the haze that gathers on her side of the windshield. I mop my side. We’re on our way to Culver City to pick up Mrs. Reynolds at the dentist’s. Debbie had taken her mother there earlier, then had gone back to pick up Carrie at kindergarten, now we are on our way through the deluge that had been going on for days, flooding streets and undermining hillside areas. Debbie has the car radio on, checking for Information on Venice Boulevard which we have to cross and which has already been blocked off from a number of approaches.
“We can go over Motor if that viaduct underpass isn’t flooded. If it is, we’ll cut back to Pico and go over Overland,” she says, slowing to plow through a good-sized puddle. But when I glance at her, I realize she is thinking of something else entirely, her face framed in a babushka glowing and happy. She looks nothing like the Debbie who was in the hospital last week with intestinal flu. This is the gay Debbie, the calm Debbie, the Debbie who has learned to do a thousand things in her busy week and do them all without pressing the panic button.
“Harry will be back Friday,” she is saying, more to herself than to me. “Am I glad he wasn’t there when the roof started leaking so badly! It was fixed yesterday, we replastered around the skylights and the water didn’t touch the wallpaper. . . . I’m dying to have him see the new lamp I got for our room.”
What she means is, she can hardly wait for him to come home. This is what the new home means. Harry and Debbie and children. Debbie had a lovely house before. But this is the first home she and Harry have made together, the first home she and Harry and Carrie and Todd have had—as she says “really together.” It’s been a tremendous amount of work, remodeling to their needs, finding the modern furniture and the Louis XV and Louis XVI accessories to give it just the right amount of warmth.
Sometimes children resist a change of homes. But Carrie and Todd went back and forth while the reconstruction was under way, Todd drove his bike like mad across the white marble floors and Carrie watched the decoration of her pink and white room. Harry and Debbie relished each new acquisition, the lovely chandelier for their dining room, the pieces of Rodin sculpture, the paintings, the exquisite little Piscasso miniature Debbie has placed on the piano. They love the view from the glassed-in living room, their garden and their pool and the Los Angeles Country Club in the distance.
“It’s such a beautiful house,” Debbie says, “and it’s been such fun. Harry has wanted me to do it just as I wish and there’s no problem, actually, of my liking something he doesn’t because our taste is just the same. We both love beauty, we were fascinated with architect Burton Scott’s design, but we didn’t want it just to be cold and palatial. Well, it isn’t. It’s a family home. Every tiny object we bring in seems to make it more homey. I can hardly wait for Harry to see what I’ve done while he’s been gone.”
She hasn’t seen him since she found out about the baby, she can hardly wait to have him come home. It won’t be true until he comes home and she sees his face. He’s been in New York for ten days, making arrangements for the ten new Stores. On March 3, Debbie and he will head back East together to open all ten of them. This is Debbie’s idea, something she begged to do when Harry was opening some new Stores in the Northwest. Why not let her come along to participate? Be part of the fun? Meet the customers? Why not? And she did, autographing thousands of pictures, kibitzing with people the way Debbie loves to do. She is quite aware of the executive load her husband carries on his shoulders. She wants to help in any way she can.
Yesterday she spent the afternoon filming tapes about Karl’s shoes. It doesn’t seem like work because she had Carrie with her. But it seemed like work to Carrie.
“Why do you do the same thing over and over and over and over?” she demanded.
“Well, sweetheart, in this business you have to do many things over until they’re just right for the cameraman and the sound man and the director.”
“Okay,” announced Carrie, who has evidently decided on her career. “If I have to, I’ll do it.”
When Harry left for New York this time, Debbie caught Carrie’s cold and it progressed from flu to virus to hospital, where they found she was anemic. No wonder. She’s been working very hard these last six months on “How the West Was Won.” Up at 3 A.M. when they’re out on location, home at 7 P.M., working sometimes until nearly midnight, doing dance numbers all in one day, never stopping.
“Everyone should have a checkup annually, I know that,” she admits “and you can bet Harry will see to it that I do from here on. But I have felt so well, I never bothered this year….”
Out in the rain her cheeks are pink, her eyes are bright, we splash across the parking lot as if she were just about to go into her “Singin’ in the Rain” number . . . time skids by . . . rain splashes our faces . . . “Singin’ in the Rain” was 1952—ten years ago—a Debbie Reynolds who was still fresh from Burbank. When stardom and love and marriage were all just dreams.
“I want to have six children.” I remember her telling me that when she was a teenager with pink cheeks and bright eyes—and all of it was still so far ahead.
“Of course I want to marry again someday. I want a husband and a normal family and more children.” She told me that in the lonely time when she was alone with the children and trying to keep their life balanced and happy.
And when she fell in love with Harry and married him she told me, “Certainly we plan to have a larger family, but it’s important first to have time to establish our life together, time to be with Carrie and Todd, a solid family. It’s important that this family unit be knitted strong, that the children feel rooted and sure of our love for them. Then, when all is settled and calm and secure—probably next year—then certainly we want a larger family. If it’s meant to be, and we certainly hope it is, we’ll have more children.”
Her timing was prophetic. It’s been exactly a year.
Mrs. Reynolds is with us now and we’re slushing back through the rain, faster than when we crossed the parking lot. It’s drilling into our backs, hurrying us along.
“I always felt that children were more important to me than any career,” says Debbie. “That’s how it has to be. Children come and your career takes a back seat.”
Mrs. Reynolds shields her eyes to look up at me through the rain. “I always used to say that when Mary Frances went to work, on that side of the hill she was Debbie; but when she came back, on our side of the hill she was Mary Frances.”
Debbie slips her arm through her mother’s. “It’s still the same way. I love working, I’m very excited about ‘My Six Loves.’ This was a story I enjoyed in Redbook and brought to the studio’s attention. It’s a happy story about a girl who gets involved with these children and my talented friend, Gower Champion, is going to direct. It’ll be a ball working with Gower and the six children, and I’m lucky that I’m married to a man who doesn’t object to my working. But on the other side of the hill I am Mommie, I’m Mrs. Karl. It’s everything I could ask and now the coming baby . . . I don’t have to tell you, you’ve seen me pregnant before. Having a family is a pleasure for me, not a task, and it comes at the very fullest time of my life.
“Not the busiest, I was the busiest the year I made five pictures and wasn’t married. But this last has been the fullest, most wonderful year. We’ve been to Miami several times, we’ve been to New York a half dozen times, we’ve made short trips with the children, we’ve established a rich, warm family feeling. Carrie’s in kindergarten and there are birthday parties galore. Now she wants acrobatic lessons—she says she wants to be an acrobat. Todd is in nursery school and being with other children is just grand for him. He’s not a baby any more. He’s a boy with a roomful of wooden soldiers, and he and Harry are just wonderful together. Pals. They go to the barber’s, they go to the golf course. Todd has a set of tiny clubs and he and Harry sock a pailful of halls.
“I would never have married a man who wasn’t a good father. Fortunately for me, Harry is more than good, he’s a great father, he adores the children, he never has to discipline them, all he has to do is speak and they fly. He’s a tall, quiet man who inspires confidence. As a matter of fact, they invited him to come and live with us long before I did. ‘Mommie has to marry him first,’ I’d say and they’d chorus, ‘Then marry him!’ But I had to be sure. When you’re marrying for the last time, you’d better be sure.
“And I was marrying for the last time. I’d found a man who creates the kind of atmosphere in which a family can bloom and flourish. He has a great philosophy—make the people you love happy and you’ll be happy. It works. For me too. If he and the children are happy, I am. It’s as simple as that. And you can imagine how happy he is about the coming baby. I phoned him in New York . . .”
He’ll be home Friday. Saturday will be a lazy day, probably indoors if the rain keeps on. Sunday, rain or shine, they’ll go to church together. Carrie and Todd attend Sunday School, Debbie and Harry attend church services. Religion is important to them. The fact that Harry was brought up in the Jewish church and Debbie in the Church of the Nazarene (which does not even sanction its members seeing movies) means nothing. Faith is something they share, faith and love and religious solidarity. In their kind of family there’s no such thing as one person going to one church and another to another. They share religion as they share every other facet of living. Debbie is the first to admit that in times of stress she has found strength and help through faith. Harry feels the same way. And they both feel that religion is an important part of a child’s serenity.
“Sometimes adults don’t realize how necessary God is to children, how much He means,” Debbie says. “I realized it the day I heard Todd say, ‘Look, Harry, look at that sun God made.’ For happiness, it seems to me, you must believe that there’s a greater Being, one source of power and happiness; that’s our reason for living. Even if people don’t believe that, they must believe in the Ten Commandments. If we all lived by them, how much better the world would be.”
Her children will be brought up to live by them, that’s one of the Karls’ few plans. Debbie’s a wise enough mother to know that you can’t plan most of a child’s life. No saying he’ll be this or act so. . . . The job of a parent is to watch the child, see which way it leans and provide every possible help in his development in that direction. You watch a child, you help him grow, you reason. . . .
“Carrie, what do you mean if you take a nap you won’t have time to play? You’ll he up at three, that’s to four, to five, to six, to seven, to seven-thiry—four and a half hours to play. You’re just making a big thing of it, getting excited. Just lie in bed and rest and you’ll have your time to play.”
She’s very firm. A child must be given reasons, but he must be disciplined, sent to a room to get happy, told stories about the mommie who didn’t love her little girl and never taught her any manners so the little girl grew up nasty and selfish and no one invited her to parties.
There is no such thing as favoritism, a mother loves her children, a mother divides her attention so they each get individual love, a mother lets the older children help with the new one and it belongs to them. This worked very well with Carrie and Todd, they adore each other, when by all the laws they should be knee-deep in rivalry. A mother treats her children with courtesy, with calmness. They must know they can depend on her. That’s how it seems to Debbie. It’s all part of the meaning of family, just as it was when she was growing up in Burbank.
So Sunday they will worship together. And one thing’s for sure—there won’t be people anywhere whose hearts are more filled with thanksgiving. Happiness means most to those who have known the other side of the coin. Here are two adults who have learned the secret of good living—make those you love happy. They’ve made two youngsters very happy, they’ve made each other happy, now here is this promise of additional happiness to come.
Debbie’s in M-G-M’s “How The West Was Won,” and “My Six Loves,” Paramount.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE MAY 1962