Although she is such a token of childhoods, Debbie Reynold’s personal life was a mystery. Before reading these two biographies, I didn’t know about her days as a contract player on the lot of MGM. I didn’t know that she was schooled at MGM’s high school with Elizabeth Taylor. And I didn’t know about her lack of suitable suitors.
I knew her from Singing’ in the Rain (’52) and the many installations of Halloweentown (’98). I knew her as the voice of Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web (’73) and Grace’s mother from Will & Grace. And I knew her as the mother of Carrie Fisher. But to compare the two, what I learned far outweighs what I knew. With that being said, having both biographies under my belt, I would recommend reading Unsinkable rather than Debbie: My Life. Not only is the ladder much more condensed, it was published in 1988 whilst Unsinkable was released in 2013. The level of detail and the amount of stories between to the two is incomparable to one another.
Which could also be said about Reynold’s husbands, constantly outdoing each others trauma and heartache. First there was Eddie Fisher, who left Reynolds and their two young children for Elizabeth Taylor. Not only did he leave her with the burdens of parenthood, but in a storm of media inquiries and press speculation. Then came Harry Karl, an intense gambler. Before marrying Reynolds, Karl was a successful businessman with millions. However, during their thirteen year marriage, not only did he lose his own fortune, but Reynold’s as well. She was left in serious debt whilst still trying to support her two children. Last, but certainly not least, was Richard Hamlett. He was as tragic and cruel as his Shakespearian name would suggest. Without revealing the horrors of that marriage, let me just summarize by stating that Hamlett was a villain of Grimm-style proportions.
For anyone who thought their own breakups were difficult or for those who thought their own parents’ divorces were hard, this puts it all in perspective. Not to belittle the small things, or the many small things that still hurt or erode relationships, but to remind readers to be thankful for not having to experience the large battles of Debbie Reynolds.
She was a hero of mythical or legendary proportions. These biographies give her the credit and stardom she deserved, although one did more than the other.