You can see that tender, tight mother/daughter bond for yourself in BRIGHT LIGHTS, a documentary on Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds that airs on HBO. You will laugh. You will cry. You will miss them. I heard about this documentary months ago when it had screened at film festivals. It was seeking a distributor. With the sudden passing of both stars, it found a place to air.
Over the last few years, I've written blog pieces expressing how I felt Hollywood dropped the ball on showing appreciation for Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. Debbie had the reputation for being one of the hardest working women in show business for decades. She was our connection to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Under contract to MGM during its final years as the Tiffany studio of movie musicals, she became a star with her lead role in 1952's SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. She got a Best Actress Oscar nomination for MGM's deluxe musical, 1964's THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN. She lost to Julie Andrews for MARY POPPINS, Andrews' film debut. I've often said that Debbie Reynolds, up for Hollywood gold for that performance, should've received an Olympics gold medal. The "He's My Friend" number in that movie was a triathlon with a downbeat. She acts, sings and dances -- in high heels, high hair and an evening gown. Look.
But Quentin Tarantino won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for 2012's DJANGO UNCHAINED even though his film was inspired by 1966 foreign western called DJANGO. Tarantino's film had a cameo appearance by Franco Nero, the star of 1966's DJANGO. Go figure.
With Carrie's talent as a screenwriter and a novelist coupled with her lead actress work in the original STAR WARS trilogy, three box office blockbusters that are truly iconic all over the world, she never got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
As for Debbie, she dynamically and selflessly toiled for years and years to preserve Hollywood history starting at a time when shoe salesmen were becoming studio heads. She often went broke collecting classic Hollywood costumes from classic films. But the Hollywood that would give $20 million to Adam Sandler to make another shitty comedy would not help Debbie with her Hollywood memorabilia museum. In the early, dark days of the AIDS crisis, there were two Hollywood female stars who jumped right in to help and raise money -- Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Reynolds. Debbie didn't get the headlines that Elizabeth did, but she was there onstage entertaining at AIDS benefits when our government was doing nothing.
Hollywood should have given Debbie Reynolds a special Oscar around the time MOTHER was released. She was Hollywood royalty. Debbie was a Hollywood star who showed her musical comedy and dramatic talents over the years in films such as SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, THE TENDER TRAP, A CATERED AFFAIR, THE RAT RACE, THE PLEASURE OF HIS COMPANY, TAMMY AND THE BACHELOR, HOW THE WEST WAS WON, THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN, WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN?, DIVORCE AMERICAN STYLE and MOTHER.
But, years before Debbie got one, the Academy gave a special Oscar to Oprah Winfrey whose global success came from daytime TV. Nothing against Oprah, but Debbie was a movie star before Oprah was born.
You'll see the side of Debbie Reynolds that her professionalism kept hidden. You see her older, growing infirm and slowing down. You see Carrie being protective of her mother's image. The behind the scenes section at the SAG awards show will touch your heart. Check your listings or go to HBO.com and look for upcoming repeats of BRIGHT LIGHTS. I'm so grateful to HBO for showing it. The whole documentary makes you love Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher even more. They were two bright lights -- and I wonder if Hollywood truly appreciated how radiant and colorful those lights were.
If Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher had played an extremely close mother and daughter in a movie like TERMS OF ENDEARMENT and if the movie ended with the daughter dying unexpectedly and the mother also dying unexpectedly the following day, critics would have snarked that it was a sappy, sentimental and totally unbelievable ending. But those deaths happened in real life.