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Debbie Reynolds

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After a small role as Marjorie Main's niece in MR. IMPERIUM (1951), MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer cast Debbie in the studio's now- legendary musical spoof of 1920s Hollywood, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952), much to the chagrin of star Gene Kelly who wanted a professional dancer in the part.  Given three months to learn to dance well enough to keep up with Kelly and co-star Donald O'Connor, Debbie (at age 19) pulled off the impossible and kept step with the two seasoned pros, if not always as effortlessly as they made it seem.  Once again, her comic timing proved her saving grace, this time as a self-assured flapper and aspiring actress (temporarily working as a chorus girl) who disdains moviedom until she accidentally falls in love with silent screen star Kelly and gets a job dubbing the voice of his romantic leading lady (Jean Hagen) who is having serious trouble making the transition from silent movies to talking pictures.


In an ironic twist, though Debbie's character, Kathy Seldon, is supposedly dubbing the voice of Hagen's character, Lina Lamont, for the film within the film (titled "The Dancing Cavalier"), Hagen actually dubbed herself in the scene at right, speaking the lines both in Lina's squeaky character voice and in "Kathy's" clear, sweet dubbing voice.  (See the "Dubbing Lina" video clip below and note how it's not Debbie's voice doing the "dubbing.")

Video Clip from SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952):

Click here "Dubbing Lina" with Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Jean Hagen (a .AVI file courtesy MGM).

(For help opening any of the multimedia files, visit the plug-ins page.)

"You Are My Lucky Star"

At right, a still from the "You Are My Lucky Star" number which featured Debbie singing to Don Lockwood's picture on a billboard.  The four-minute number was cut from the final film, but can be seen in the video clip below.

Click here "You Are My Lucky Star (outtake)" (a .AVI file courtesy MGM).

"Good Mornin'"

At left, a still from the end of the "Good Mornin'" number which Debbie sang and danced alongside Kelly and O'Connor.  By far Debbie's biggest dance challenge in the film, the 'couch sequence' finale to this number took over fourteen hours of shooting to complete, and at the end of the day, Debbie collapsed with exhaustion.  Bed-ridden with an irregularly slow heartbeat, it was two days before she was able to return to work. (*2)

Buoyed by the success of "Aba Daba Honeymoon," Debbie performed her own vocals for the more upbeat numbers in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, including "All I Do Is Dream of You," "Good Mornin'" and "Singin' in the Rain in A-Flat."  However, her singing voice was dubbed (by vocalist Betty Noyes) for three of the film's ballads, including "Would You?", the "Would You?" reprise with Kelly, and the final "You Are My Lucky Star" duet with Kelly

Music Clips from SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952):

Click here"Singin' in the Rain in A-Flat" (clip) (a .MP3 file courtesy Rhino Records).
Click here"Would You?" (outtake) (clip) (a .MP3 file courtesy Rhino Records).
*This unused recording by Debbie was deemed inadequate by the studio which later brought in Betty Noyes to dub Debbie's voice for the number.

(For help opening any of the multimedia files, visit the plug-ins page.)


After her SINGIN' IN THE RAIN triumph, Debbie made a brief appearance as herself in MGM's Esther Williams vehicle SKIRTS AHOY (1952), singing a goofy jungle song with Bobby Van in an out-of-place specialty number.  She then received star billing for the first time in I LOVE MELVIN (1953), co-starring Donald O'Connor, about a Look Magazine photographer (O'Connor) who promises to get an aspiring actress (Debbie, at left) on the magazine's cover.

Memorable Quotations:

  • "How many times do I have to tell you I never want to see you again?" --as Susie Doolittle in GIVE A GIRL A BREAK (1953).
  • "Mr. Christopher, what do assistant butlers do?" --as Susan Landis in SUSAN SLEPT HERE.
  • "How do you want your scrambled eggs?" --as Susan Landis in SUSAN SLEPT HERE.
  • "I don't believe in marriage without love, do you?" --as Susan Landis in SUSAN SLEPT HERE.
  • "A girl's entitled to make one pass at her husband before he annuls her." --as Susan Landis in SUSAN SLEPT HERE.
  • "Mr. Christopher, why don't you admit you can't live without me like Virgil said?" --as Susan Landis in SUSAN SLEPT HERE.

After appearing in two more featherweight musical comedies in 1953, THE AFFAIRS OF DOBIE GILLIS with Bobby Van and GIVE A GIRL A BREAK with Marge and Gower Champion, Debbie was loaned to RKO (at a substantial profit to MGM) to play a rambunctious 17-year-old juvenile delinquent who spends Christmas with screenwriter Dick Powell in SUSAN SLEPT HERE (1954), a well-acted and popular but nonetheless middling sex farce.


  1. "A&E Biography: The Unsinkable Debbie Reynolds," (A&E Network Television, 1995). 

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Last updated: March 10, 2011.
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