Debbie Reynolds claimed that Gene Kelly was a “harsh boss” who “criticized everything he did” because he didn’t want her to be his co-star in Singin’ in the Rain. The Kathy Selden star worked so hard on one scene that doctors forced the blood-soaked actress into bed for two days.
Six years have passed since the sudden death of Debbie Reynolds at age 84, tragically just one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher. The Golden Age star rose to fame after being cast in Singin’ In The Rain when she was just 18 alongside Gene Kelly, who was more than 20 years her senior. Before her death, she confessed how terrible it was to work with Don Lockwood’s star on the 70-year-old classic that is considered one of the best movies ever made.
Writing in his 2013 memoir Unsinkable, Reynolds shared how professional dancer Kelly didn’t want her to co-star with him in Singin’ In The Rain, given that she was a newcomer just beginning to learn the trade.
She wrote: “Gene definitely didn’t want me as his co-star. But Louis B. Mayer [the co-founder of MGM] he had cast me to play Kathy Selden, and there was nothing Gene could do about it, even though he was the biggest star at MGM at the time. She would come to rehearsals and criticize everything she did and never gave me a word of encouragement. He was a stern taskmaster.
Shooting the four-minute Good Morning sequence was particularly grueling, as it took the stars and Donald O’Connor 15 hours to get it right. Kathy’s actress was left with bloody feet and a doctor ordered her to rest in bed for two days. Another somber moment for her was when she had to film a kissing scene with leading man Don Lockwood, which left her horrified.
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Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald in 1996, Reynolds called Kelly a “great dancer” and a “film genius”, adding: “He made me a star. I was 18 and he taught me to dance and to work and be dedicated. ”.
In his memoirs, he wrote: “In the early 1970s, Gene came to see me when I was starring in Irene, my first time on Broadway. After the show, he came backstage, hugged me, told me how proud he was of me, and kissed me, tongueless. He touched me so much that I cried ”. Furthermore, Kelly later reflected: “I wasn’t very nice to Debbie [on Singin’ In The Rain]. I’m surprised he still talks to me.”
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