Debbie Reynolds died two weeks ago, and I’m still mourning the loss of one of the stars from Singin’ in the Rain, one of my very favorite films. If you’ve ever seen that bastion of movie musicals, you know why it’s my favorite: magical, big-production dance scenes; tap dance-offs between Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor; and Reynolds’ pluck and very art-imitating-life story arc of an ingénue who becomes a star.
By now, you’ve probably read about how Reynolds—still only a teenager—didn’t have any dance experience when she was cast in Singin’ in the Rain. (She’d been a gymnast.) Fred Astaire memorably gave her spirits a boost by giving her the honor of watching him rehearse (and sweat, and curse himself, and fail again and again). But “Good Morning” wasn’t the end of Reynolds’ dance film career. She’d go on to hoof it in several films.
Like The Unsinkable Molly Brown, where she hiked up her skirts and really let her hair down (things kick up at the 4:10 mark):
In The Affairs of Dobie Gillis, she danced alongside a young Bob Fosse and held her own. She comes in to dance at 1:53, but honestly, it’s worth watching the whole video to see Fosse do his thing:
Her sublime perkiness (believe me, if anyone can make perkiness sublime, it’s Reynolds) is on full display in I Love Melvin, another film that paired her with O’Connor:
She even grooved while hypnotized in Divorce American Style—and whipped her hair back and forth long before Willow Smith:
But my favorite dance scene of hers will always be this one from Singin’ in the Rain, where she Charlestons charmingly and winds it all up by throwing a pie in co-star Jean Hagen’s face: