Effervescent actress-singer-dancer-movie memorabilia collector Debbie Reynolds is Turner Classic Movies’ Star of the Day on Friday, August 18, as TCM continues its “Summer Under the Stars” series. TCM is presenting 13 Debbie Reynolds movies. (See Debbie Reynolds Movie Schedule further below.)
Fans of Gene Kelly’s Singin’ in the Rain (1952) will be able to watch the romantic comedy-musical for the 118th time. I’m not one of them; in fact, I much prefer Kelly and Stanley Donen’s On the Town (1949), and I’d say that George Sidney’s Show Boat (1951) and Donen’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) are my favorite musicals of the 1950s.
But fan or no, there’s much to enjoy in Singin’ in the Rain, including Reynolds and Donald O’Connor’s performances, several great songs from the 1920s, and Jean Hagen’s high-pitched mix of Norma Talmadge, (the British) Mabel Poulton, and Corinne Griffith. The iconic “Singin’ in the Rain” number is one of my least favorite moments in the film; I like that song much better when sung at the finale of The Hollywood Revue of 1929.
George Marshall’s The Gazebo (1959) is a moderately entertaining crime comedy starring Reynolds and Glenn Ford, then a top box office attraction. Released that same year, Marshall’s The Mating Game, co-starring Reynolds, Tony Randall, Paul Douglas, and Una Merkel, is much more enjoyable.
Charles Walters’ The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) earned Reynolds her only Best Actress Oscar nomination, less for her characterization, I believe, than for her boundless energy. As Molly Brown, Reynolds sings, dances, romances, laughs, cries, jumps about, and even survives the sinking of the Titanic. How could she not have received some form of industry recognition? Harve Presnell co-stars.
Bud Yorkin’s Divorce American Style (1967) earned a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination for Robert Kaufman (story) and Norman Lear (screenplay). In addition to Reynolds, the cast includes Dick Van Dyke, Jean Simmons, Jason Robards, and former MGM musical star Van Johnson – curiously, someone Reynolds had never worked with before.
Henry Koster’s The Singing Nun (1966) fared well at the box office, but it was no The Sound of Music; Reynolds has the title role, a Hollywood version of the real-life Belgian nun Sister Luc-Gabrielle (nee Jeanine Deckers), also known as Sister Smile; Greer Garson plays a glamorous Mother Superior who also smiles quite a bit. The film’s little ditty, the 1963 worldwide hit “Dominic” – here “Dominique” for phonetic reasons – may have you either humming away about the Catholic saint or throwing a chair at your TV. [Note: Sally Field’s The Flying Nun is not related to The Singing Nun.]
Schedule (ET) and synopses from the TCM website:
7:15 AM I LOVE MELVIN (1953) A photographer’s assistant promises to turn a chorus girl into a cover girl. Dir.: Don Weis. Cast: Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Una Merkel. Color. 77 min.
8:45 AM THE TENDER TRAP (1955) A swinging bachelor finds love when he meets a girl immune to his line. Dir.: Charles Walters. Cast: Frank Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds, David Wayne. Color. 111 min. Letterbox Format.
10:45 AM BUNDLE OF JOY (1956) A shop girl is mistaken for the mother of a foundling. Dir.: Norman Taurog. Cast: Eddie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Adolphe Menjou. Color. 98 min.
2:00 PM THE MATING GAME (1959) A tax agent falls for a farm girl whose father he’s investigating. Dir.: George Marshall. Cast: Debbie Reynolds, Tony Randall, Paul Douglas. Color. 97 min. Letterbox Format.
3:45 PM MARY, MARY (1963) A man on the verge of divorce is shocked by wife’s glamorous makeover. Dir.: Mervyn LeRoy. Cast: Debbie Reynolds, Barry Nelson, Michael Rennie. Black and white. 126 min. Letterbox Format.
6:00 PM IT STARTED WITH A KISS (1959) After a whirlwind courtship, an Army officer and his wacky wife try to make their marriage work. Dir.: George Marshall. Cast: Glenn Ford, Debbie Reynolds, Eva Gabor. Color. 100 min. Letterbox Format.
8:00 PM THE GAZEBO (1959) A suburban couple tries to cope with a murder victim whose body refuses to stay put. Dir.: George Marshall. Cast: Glenn Ford, Debbie Reynolds, Carl Reiner. Black and white. 102 min. Letterbox Format.
10:00 PM THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN (1964) Musical biography of the backwoods girl who struck it rich in Colorado and survived the Titanic. Dir.: Charles Walters. Cast: Debbie Reynolds, Harve Presnell, Ed Begley. Color. 129 min. Letterbox Format.
12:15 AM DIVORCE, AMERICAN STYLE (1967) A bored couple drifts toward divorce, only to discover how hard the single life is. Dir.: Bud Yorkin. Cast: Dick Van Dyke, Debbie Reynolds, Jason Robards Jr.. Color. 109 min. Letterbox Format.
2:15 AM SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952) A silent-screen swashbuckler finds love while trying to adjust to the coming of sound. Dir.: Gene Kelly. Cast: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds. Color. 103 min.
4:15 AM THE SINGING NUN (1966) Fanciful biography of the Belgian nun who briefly made the hit parade. Dir.: Henry Koster. Cast: Debbie Reynolds, Ricardo Montalban, Greer Garson. Color. 97 min. Letterbox Format.