In their final years, Debbie Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher were extremely close. So much so, that when the latter actress died suddenly in December 2016, her mother reportedly declared that she wanted to join her. Debbie herself then sadly passed away just one day later. Here, we take a look at their enduring bond as one of Hollywood’s most famous mother-daughter duos.
40. New Year’s Eve, 1952
In this promotional shot taken at the end of 1952, Debbie is celebrating the new year in style dressed in tinsel and blowing a party horn. And that year had been a memorable one for the actress. It saw the release of Singin’ in the Rain – which gave Debbie her first leading role.
39. Promotional shot, 1955
It’s fair to say that Singin’ in the Rain made Debbie a star, and throughout the 1950s she appeared in a series of MGM musicals. While the actress looks glamorous in this shot from the decade, she wasn’t a natural pin-up. In 1964 Debbie told The Fresno Bee, “When I started, I didn’t even know how to dress. I wore dungarees and a shirt. I had no money, no taste, and no training.”
38. Idlewild Airport, 1956
Debbie married the singer Eddie Fisher in 1955, and they were quite the celebrity couple of their era. Here, the couple are pictured at Idlewild Airport where they are swamped by fans ahead of a premiere for their movie Bundle of Joy. The crowd is formed by members of the 414 Eddie Fisher Fan Clubs in the New York area alone.
37. Family portrait, 1957
Eddie and Debbie welcomed their first child – a daughter named Carrie – in October 1956. And the happy young family is pictured here in a photo taken the following year. But little did the proud parents know at this point that Carrie would follow in their showbiz footsteps to become a movie star and celebrity in her own right.
36. Golden Globes, 1957
Film producer Mike Todd is flanked by his wife Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie following the 1957 Golden Globe Awards. The latter and her husband were good friends with the couple until it emerged that Elizabeth and Eddie were having an affair. The scandal cost Eddie his show, as well as his marriage to Debbie – who he divorced in 1959.
35. The Fisher family, 1958
Prior to the scandal though, Debbie and Eddie looked very much like a happy family. And the couple added to their brood in 1958 when they welcomed their son Todd. Reflecting on her parents’ fame in her 2008 book Wishful Drinking, Carrie wrote, “I am truly a product of Hollywood inbreeding. When two celebrities mate, someone like me is the result.”
34. At home with the Fishers, 1958
While Debbie and Eddie’s marriage wasn’t to last, they reconciled in later life. In 1972 Debbie told the Chicago Tribune of their split, “I think it probably was the best thing that ever happened to me. He did give me two great children and for that I will ever be grateful. Our door is always open to him.”
33. Los Angeles, 1958
This photograph was taken around the time of Debbie’s separation from Eddie. In later life, Carrie acknowledged the pain that her mother must have gone through as a result of her highly publicized split from her father. She also credited Debbie’s ability to keep going despite her heartache.
32. MGM Studios, 1958
In this shot, Debbie puts on a smile following her painful separation from Eddie. The actress claimed that while she loved being a mother, some aspects of marriage didn’t come naturally to her. In 2015 Debbie told the Daily Express, “My husbands all repeatedly said the same thing – that I was not a very passionate woman… It seemed that I was more interested in raising my children – not in pursuing my husbands.”
31. Carrie and Todd join Debbie on set, 1959
It’s fair to say Carrie and Todd’s childhood was far from ordinary – as this picture shows. The Fisher kids would regularly join Debbie on set, and in 1988 she told People that her kids “were raised in movies.” She added, “Birthday parties were always on MGM’s backlot … We were always playing there.”
30. Debbie and Todd, 1959
In this touching snap from 1959, Debbie looks adoringly at her son – who was named after Eddie’s best friend Mike Todd. The film producer was married to actress and Debbie’s good pal Elizabeth Taylor. The two actresses had been friends since their teens, but Elizabeth’s betrayal would later rock their relationship.
29. Los Angeles, 1959
In this touching image, Debbie is seen comforting Carrie at their West Los Angeles home following the toddler’s afternoon nap. While Carrie and Todd were growing up, Debbie was a working mom. She told People, “I’ve always been in show business, and I’ve been on stage and I don’t bake cookies and I don’t stay home.”
28. Hollywood, 1960
In this sweet snap from 1960, Debbie looks like she might take little Carrie and Todd for a spin around Tinseltown. The actress had been rehearsing for the Boys & Girls Club of Hollywood Benefit Performance. But while her children were born in the spotlight, she was keen to instil in them normal family values like religion and appreciation for what they had.
27. The Circus, 1960
Debbie and Carrie attended the opening night of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena in 1960. And by the looks of things, both mother and daughter were entranced by the performance as they’re seen clapping their hands enthusiastically.
26. Debbie and Carrie, 1972
According to Carrie, growing up with a movie star mom wasn’t easy. In Wishful Drinking she explained, “It was complicated to go out in public with my mother because she was so famous… She belonged to the world. It was like being in a parade. ‘Oh, my God,’ people would say to her, ‘I loved you in [The Unsinkable Molly Brown].’ Or, ‘I saw you in Vegas.’ So, it was not like having private time with mom. And I didn’t like sharing her.”
25. New York City, 1972
Given that Carrie disliked having to “share” Debbie, she and Todd relished in the time that they had alone with their mom. In Wishful Drinking Carrie said that they “stayed with her as much as possible – which frequently meant we watched her dress and make herself up… Todd and I wanted as much of her company as we could get. I slept on the rug on the floor next to her bed, and my brother slept on the couch near the window.”
24. London, 1972
For Carrie, it appeared that she dealt with her mom’s fame by separating the mother from the movie star. In a 2011 interview with Oprah Winfrey, the Star Wars icon recalled her mom’s glamorous closet. Carrie said, “She’d go in one end as my mom and come out the other – as Debbie Reynolds.”
23. The White House, 1974
Having famous parents does come with some perks though – as Carrie discovered in 1974 when she and Debbie got invited to the White House. And here, they are pictured here with President Richard Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon. A 16-year-old Carrie was apparently reluctant to meet the controversial commander-in-chief. However, her mother reportedly pushed her into the visit by taking away her credit card.
22. Broadway, 1973
In her teenage years, Carrie decided to follow in Debbie’s footsteps and become an actress. The mother and daughter are pictured here alongside their castmates in a photograph from the opening night of the musical Irene in 1973. Carrie got a part in the chorus, and according to Getty Images, Debbie said, “It’s wonderful [that] Carrie wants to be in show business.”
21. New York City, 1973
It seems that Debbie and Carrie’s opening night on Irene was well and truly a family affair. In this picture, they are joined by Todd – who presumably joined the audience at New York’s Minskoff Theater to provide some moral support for his mom and sister. Despite her 24 years in show business by that time, Debbie’s stint in the musical marked her first Broadway appearance, and she shared it with her daughter.
20. Shampoo, 1975.
Carrie bagged her first film credit in the 1975 comedy Shampoo. The movie – which starred Goldie Hawn, Julie Christie and Warren Beatty – was set on the day of the 1968 election when Richard Nixon became president. However, the film is more about sexual politics and provides a satirical take on the moral codes of the late-1960s.
19. Star Wars, 1977
It’s probably fair to say that Carrie’s breakout role came in 1977 when she starred in Star Wars alongside Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford. The actress loved the script for the George Lucas’ science fiction movie, but she didn’t expect it to be a hit with filmgoers. However, Carrie was wrong; Star Wars was a smash hit that continues to resonate with fans to this day.
18. Los Angeles, 1978
For her part, Carrie grew up in awe of her mother’s good looks. In her memoir, the star said of Debbie, “She was so beautiful, and I dreamed of looking like her one day… I was a clumsy looking and intensely awkward, insecure girl … I decided then that I’d better develop something else – if I wasn’t going to be pretty, maybe I could be funny or smart.”
17. Return of the Jedi, 1983
Given her insecurities, it may have come as a shock to Carrie when she became a sex symbol. She’s pictured here in the iconic metal bikini from Return of the Jedi – which has in itself become a cultural phenomenon. Furthermore, the so-called “Slave Leia” look has been the subject of several parodies and even has its own fansite.
16. Hollywood, 1989
Debbie and Carrie may be all smiles in this picture taken at the opening night of The Unsinkable Molly Brown at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater. However, the mother and daughter had come out of a period in which they’d hardly spoken for a decade. Carrie later told Oprah, “We had a fairly volatile relationship earlier on in my 20s… I didn’t want to be around her. I did not want to be Debbie Reynolds’ daughter.”
15. Postcards from the Edge premiere, 1990
The nature of Debbie and Carrie’s complicated relationship was laid bare in the 1990 film Postcards from the Edge. The movie was based on Carrie’s semi-autobiographical book of the same name – which was released in 1987. Meryl Streep starred as a Carrie-inspired character who moves back in with her famous mom following a period of rehab.
14. Three generations
Carrie welcomed her own daughter into the world with her then-partner Bryan Lourd in July 1992. Billie would be Carrie’s only child and Debbie’s sole grandchild. And like her mother and grandmother, she would eventually enter the world of show business – becoming an actress with credits like Scream Queens and American Horror Story.
13. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith premiere, 2005
Despite their issues, Debbie was there for Carrie through her hard times – which included the latter’s drug addiction and bipolar disorder. In 2011 Debbie told Oprah, “My lowest point in Carrie and my relationship was probably when we discovered that she was ill, or that she had this mental health problem, and that it was going to be with her forever. That was very hard. How is she going to get along in life? How can I help her in life? All I could do is love her and always shall.”
12. Dame Elizabeth Taylor’s 75th birthday party, 2007
Debbie put aside her differences with Elizabeth when the two met in the late 1960s or early 1970s on board the RMS Queen Elizabeth ocean liner. And similarly, she and Carrie eventually reconciled. The pair are pictured here in 2007 attending Elizabeth’s 75th birthday party in Henderson, Nevada. Debbie once told People, “It took like 30 years for Carrie to be really happy with me. I don’t know what the problem ever was.”
11. Wishful Drinking premiere, 2010
Carrie’s 2008 autobiography Wishful Drinking was based on her one-woman show of the same name. In 2010 HBO released a recording of the performance, and Carrie is seen here at the premiere of the documentary with Debbie. The Star Wars actress later told Oprah that she had never wanted to be famous – particularly after seeing her mother’s career diminish. She explained, “The scary thing about it is watching celebrity fade. You’re part of their audience.”
10. Beverly Hills, 2011
In 2016 Carrie explained to NPR that she eventually grew to admire Debbie. She said of her mother, “She’s an immensely powerful woman, and I just admire my mother very much. There’s very few [ladies] from her generation who worked like that – who just kept a career going all her life and raised children and had horrible relationships and lost all her money and got it back again.”
9. Creative Arts Emmy Awards, 2011
Debbie and Carrie attended the 2011 Creative Arts Emmy Awards together in Los Angeles, California. A year prior, Carrie had told The New York Times, “My mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That’s my word for it. She would go through these amazingly difficult things, and the message was clear: Doing the impossible is possible. It’s just not fun.”
8. Screen Actors Guild Awards, 2015
This touching image from the 2015 Screen Actors Guild Awards captures the bond between Carrie, Debbie and Billie. The three generations were attending the ceremony – where Debbie was being honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Once again, the outing was a family affair, with mother, daughter and granddaughter happily posing for photographs together at the event.
7. Screen Actors Guild Awards, 2015
It was a fitting tribute to Debbie that it was her daughter Carrie who presented her with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015. Accepting the gong, Debbie said, “My favorite movie was The Unsinkable Molly Brown… In that film, I got to sing a wonderful song called ‘I Ain’t Down Yet.’ Well, I ain’t. Thank you all so much for this wonderful award.”
6. London, 2016
Carrie spent the final weeks of her life promoting her book The Princess Diarist on a European Tour. She was flying to Los Angeles from London on December 23, 2016, when she suffered a cardiac arrest prior to landing. Carrie was subsequently taken to UCLA Medical Center, but she died four days later in intensive care at the age of 60.
5. Debbie Reynolds dies, 2016
In a poignant turn of events, Debbie passed away just one day after Carrie following a stroke. According to her son Todd, her final words were, “I want to be with Carrie.” He later told Good Morning America, “I don’t think she meant it quite like that, but in 30 minutes she went to go see her again.”
4.Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, 2017
A documentary about Debbie and Carrie’s unique relationship aired on HBO in January 2017 – just weeks after their deaths. Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds had debuted at Cannes Film Festival the previous May, and the former had been eager to make the film on account of her mom’s ailing health. Speaking to The Washington Post at Cannes, she explained, “I didn’t know how much longer she would be performing.”
3. Billie’s tribute to Debbie and Carrie, 2017
Following the sudden loss of her mother and grandmother, in January 2017 Billie paid tribute to Debbie and Carrie on Instagram. Posting a snap of the three of them, she wrote, “There are no words to express how much I will miss my Abadaba and my one and only Momby. Your love and support mean the world to me.”
2. Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher memorial, 2017
A public memorial was held for Debbie and Carrie in Los Angeles in March 2017. Family, friends and fans of mother and daughter gathered to celebrate the lives of the two legendary actresses. In this picture, a touching tribute to Debbie and Carrie is displayed on a screen at the event – showing the actresses in two of their most iconic roles.
1. The grave of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, 2017
Debbie and Fisher were laid to rest at a shared gravesite in Los Angeles, California. Though Scott had lost both his mom and sister, he found comfort in the fact that they were together. He told Good Morning America, “I’m not joking when I say [Debbie] left to be with [Carrie], and I’m happy about that. That’s the only thing I’m happy about.”