Oscar Actors: Cumulative Advantage–Reynolds, Debbie (Oscar, Tony, Emmy Nominations)

Career Summary:

Age at screen debut: 18

Age at breakthrough role: 20 (“Singin’ in the Rain”)

Age at first Oscar nomination: 32 (“Unsinkable Molly Brown”)

Age at last performance: 84 (documentary, 2016)

Tony Nomination: 42 (“Irene,” 1973)

Emmy Award nominations: 2

Golden Globe nominations and awards

Honorary Oscar

SAG Achievement Award


Mary Frances “Debbie” Reynolds, born on April 1, 1932, had enjoyed a career spanning 66 years.

At the age of 18, she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for “Most Promising Newcomer” for her portrayal of Helen Kane in the 1950 film Three Little Words.

Her breakout was her first leading role, as Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), at the age of 20.

Other successes include The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (1953), Susan Slept Here (1954), Bundle of Joy (1956 Golden Globe nomination), The Catered Affair (1956 National Board of Review Best Supporting Actress Winner).

In Tammy and the Bachelor (1957), her performance of the song “Tammy” reached number one on the Billboard music charts. In 1959, she released her first pop music album, titled Debbie.

She starred in How the West Was Won (1962), and The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), a biographical film about the famously boisterous Molly Brown, which earned her her first and only Best Actress Oscar nomination.

Her other films include The Singing Nun (1966), Divorce American Style (1967), What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971), Charlotte’s Web (1973), Mother (1996) (Golden Globe nomination), and In & Out (1997).

Reynolds was also a cabaret performer, founded in 1979 the Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio in North Hollywood.

In 1969, she starred on TV in The Debbie Reynolds Show, for which she received a Golden Globe nomination.

In 1973, Reynolds starred in a Broadway revival of the musical Irene and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical.

She was also nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for her performance in A Gift of Love (1999) and an Emmy Award for playing Grace’s mother Bobbi on Will & Grace.

At the turn of the millennium, Reynolds reached a new younger generation with her role as Aggie Cromwell in Disney’s Halloweentown series.

In 1988, she released her autobiography, titled Debbie: My Life. In 2013, she published a second memoir, Unsinkable: A Memoir.

Reynolds also had several business ventures, including ownership of a dance studio and a Las Vegas hotel and casino, and she was an avid collector of film memorabilia, after purchasing many items at the 1970 MGM auction.

Reynolds continued to perform successfully on stage, television, and film into her eighties. In January 2015, Reynolds received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. In 2016, she received the Academy Awards Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

A 2016 documentary about her life, titled “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds,” which turned out to be her final appearance, premiered on HBO on January 7, 2017.

Reynolds died after a stroke on December 28, 2016, one day after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher.

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