December 29, 2016

"I wanted to be a gymnast. I wanted to work on the bars and trapeze work – I loved all that stuff."

I highly recommend this podcast interview with Debbie Reynolds, who died yesterday. I know some of you may feel resistant to the interviewer, who is Alec Baldwin, but he's actually a wonderful interviewer. There's a transcript at the link in case you need the distance of the written word. Excerpt:
Alec Baldwin: And all you broads,* shall we say, came – these four broads came from an era when everything was just – was at its height. It was heightened, doing your hair and your makeup and your costumes and everything. It's not as...

Debbie Reynolds: Everything is super important and everything is done for you. When we were under contract most of us, Shirley MacLaine and Elizabeth Taylor, were at MGM and everything was done for us, the makeup, the hair. They'd send cars for us. We were very spoiled. We didn't know what to do when they dropped everybody when television came in '48.

Alec Baldwin: Sure. Can you remember what year, around? Was the end of the '40s?

Debbie Reynolds: '48, '49.

Alec Baldwin: The studio system died as you get into the '50s?

Debbie Reynolds: It slowly died a death. It was like interesting to watch. It was – I didn't realize it was the end. I didn't know that it was that.

Alec Baldwin: You didn't know what the change meant.

Debbie Reynolds: Well, I was a young girl, so I didn't and I wasn't an intellectual. I wasn't educated. I wasn't -

Alec Baldwin: You're from Burbank.

Debbie Reynolds: I'm from Burbank.

Alec Baldwin: You're a gal from Burbank.

Debbie Reynolds: Originally from Texas.

Alec Baldwin: And you wanted to be a gym teacher.

Debbie Reynolds: That's me. I always aim high.

Alec Baldwin: Me too.

Debbie Reynolds: I love gym. I love sports.

Alec Baldwin: I wanted to be a lifeguard. Sun, girls, swim.

Debbie Reynolds: Well, yeah. Yes. Well, I was never that ambitious that I wanted to be a lifeguard, but I wanted to be a gymnast. I wanted to work on the bars and trapeze work – I loved all that stuff.

Alec Baldwin: And what's the link for you as a young girl, because you started very young, as a young girl in Burbank and you're athletic no doubt, what's the first thing that happened that said "show business" to you?

Debbie Reynolds: Well, I never thought about me being in show business. I was a fan and I would go to the movies because my mother let me, but no one else in our church was allowed to go to films because movie stars were all evil creatures, just dreadful. My mother let me go to films.

Alec Baldwin: Your mother was very religious?

Debbie Reynolds: Very. My family, except my dad. My father used to say, 'No, no, no. I'm not going to go to church with you. I've told you that I'm not gonna go because all those good people will be killed if I walked in, the roof would fall in.'

Alec Baldwin: Have heart attacks.
______________________________

* He's saying "broads" because they were just talking about a TV movie Debbie made with Shirley MacLaine, Joan Collins, and Elizabeth Taylor called "These Old Broads." The movie, which came out in 2001, was written by Carrie Fisher.

28 comments:

Otto said...

"but no one else in our church was allowed to go to films because movie stars were all evil creatures, just dreadful."
Total BS. But she is correct when she said " I am not an intellectual"

rehajm said...

I know some of you may feel resistant to the interviewer...

He is brilliant in so many things and no exception here. It seems for all the care and fuss over their careers it never occurs to actors that their politics might be limiting.

rehajm said...

Is Debbie saying she lost out on a role to Gina Lollobrigida?

dustbunny said...

Taylor is doing her Sue Mengers imitation. Debbie was a great mimic, I remember her doing a number of what used to be called impressions.

William said...

That movie just went to the top of my Netflix queue. Thanks for posting.. Debbie could take comfort in the fact that she aged better than Elizabeth Taylor and, also, in the fact that she had a daughter who could write dialogue for her.....There's a Special Olympics quality about good looks in old age. It's the beauty of twenty year olds that wins the fame and the glory......Debbie definitely retained her looks and even her perkiness right to the end. Singing In The Rain is the Magic Flute of Hollywood musicals. It will play forever.

tcrosse said...

Debbie did a great Zsa Zsa imitation, in more ways than she intended.

EDH said...

Fascinating backstory that I never fully grasped until this week. Baldwin is a talented guy and personable when he doesn't have his nose out of joint.

Taylor is doing her Sue Mengers imitation.

Listening, I was going to say Ruth Gordon.

Hagar said...

Debbie Reynolds was first famous as "America's pin-up girl" in WWII.
But there was a lot more to her than that.

Hagar said...

Come to think of it, it must have been the Korean War. She was still a child in 1945.

Phil 3:14 said...

She was great in "Mother", wonderful foil to Albert Brooks' neurotic son.

Michael K said...

" Singing In The Rain is the Magic Flute of Hollywood musicals. It will play forever."

Yes and I am more depressed by her death than by her daughter's.

The studio system was killed off, not so much by TV, but by the federal government which sued to stop studios from owning chains of theaters. It would not be the last industry wrecked by government intrusion.

I am a fan of the movies of the classical era and have read quite a bit about it. The studios had whole groups of character actors who played roles as small parts in those old movies. That part of the industry is gone. The abysmal quality of movies in general goes back largely to that destruction. There have been good ones but they are an anomaly mostly.

rcocean said...

Great interview - thanks for posting. I really love Debbie's sense of humor and down to earth attitude. Compared to the stars of the 60s onward, the old stars seemed more "real" and interesting since they came from a variety of backgrounds.

And amazingly, Alec Baldwin is not an obnoxious asshole in the interview.

khesanh0802 said...

Fuck Alec Baldwin! There, I feel better.

rcocean said...

And no, the Studio system wasn't a good thing and it was mainly killed off by TV not by the Feds.

If you were an actor who wanted to show up and be handed a script, the studio system was great.

But if you were an actor who didn't like getting paid a relatively low percentage of the gross revenue, or didn't like being typecast or put in a bunch of crappy movies, the Studio was awful. The Studio's didn't just "blacklist" people in the 50s, the blacklisted actors/directors for all kinds of reasons. Cross a studio head and you'd find yourself unemployed and unable to work almost anywhere because the studio's illegally worked together.

William said...

Both Debbie and Carrie could project a girl next door quality. They both lived in a galaxy far, far away but they could project that image. Carrie's image as the girl next door in Star Wars was a hologram in more ways than one, but she was great as Princess Leia. Natalie Portman was a far more accomplished actress and prettier to boot. But who remembers her turn as a Princess in the Star Wars franchise. That was Carrie's only great screen role, but no one will ever be a more appealing Princess, ......There's some similarity between Singing In The Rain and Star Wars. They both present life as a fine adventure where everything turns out fine if you have the right girl at your side. Both Debbie and the youthful Carrie could sell that pretty fantasy.

MadisonMan said...

I read the transcript of that interview, and it's a great read. Thanks for the link.

Michael K said...

"Cross a studio head and you'd find yourself unemployed and unable to work almost anywhere because the studio's illegally worked together."

There were quite a few who did defy studio heads and they did act like thugs at times.

I can't accept a thesis that movies are better. A lot of bad actors got very rich. That's about it.

Earnest Prole said...

Alec Baldwin is a great interviewer, as he proves dozens of times in these Here’s The Thing episodes.

coupe said...
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coupe said...
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Ann Althouse said...

"Alec Baldwin is a great interviewer, as he proves dozens of times in these Here’s The Thing episodes."

I agree. I love the guy, based entirely on these podcasts.

harkin said...

Hope I don't get the Steve Martin treatment but I still remember being a kid and seeing How The West Was Won - DR in tights, singing to the miners in Hangtown or on a riverboat about a "home in the meadow" and thinking "damn, that's a woman".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQu6mc3VvU4

David said...

At age 16 Debbie won a beauty contest. Miss Burbank. That started it all.

At age 19, with little prior training in dance, she held her own with Gene Kelley and Donald O'Connor, two high level professional dancers, in Singing in the Rain. This made her a star.

Talent. Determination. Beauty. Luck. Persistence. A great combination.



Howard said...

In the interview, DR said she had trouble working with the over bearing director Henry Hathaway. When she had had enough bullying, she would "faint" and refuse to get up, even after inhaling smelling salts. She said she did this 7 or so times. Also, during a play where they did not have enough prep time, she faked getting knocked out to delay the opening. Perhaps this time, she gave herself a stroke.

harkin said...

Alec Baldwin is a great interviewer, as he proves dozens of times in these Here’s The Thing episodes.

Have to admit his dialogue with Dan Rather and his inability to own any of his egregious actions hoping to sway an election was one of the funniest unintentional comedies ever.

rehajm said...

Alec Baldwin is a great interviewer, as he proves dozens of times in these Here’s The Thing episodes.

Alec Baldwin on public radio will always and everywhere be Schweddy Balls.

Eddie said...

Thanks for the recommendation! It is a wonderful interview.

dustbunny said...

I just got around to reading the whole interview and it is as good as promised. It's rare to read things like this, maybe it takes a show business insider like Baldwin to produce something this insightful; an interviewthat isn't just fluff or publicity for a project.