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Debbie Reynolds

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Back at MGM, Debbie's star was rising, and she co-starred or played the second female lead in many of the studio's second-string musicals.  In ATHENA (1954), Debbie and Jane Powell play two of seven daughters in a family of health nuts who try to convert their love interests (lawyer Edmund Purdom for Powell and nightclub singer Vic Damone for Debbie) to their healthy lifestyles, including proper diets and lots of exercise.  Originally developed as a vehicle for Elizabeth Taylor, ATHENA came to feature a host of top 1950s bodybuilders, including future HERCULES (1959) star Steve Reeves.  And though the plot leaves much to be desired, musical highlights from the film include Powell's "Love Can Change the Stars" and Debbie's duet with Damone, "Imagine."


In her final film with Jane Powell, Debbie plays a musical comedy star picked up by Powell's brother, sailor Russ Tamblyn, in MGM's Cinemascope adaptation of Vincent Youmans' 1927 stage musical HIT THE DECK (1955), also starring Ann Miller, Tony Martin and Vic Damone.  Though the film catered to the various talents of the entire cast, none of the six romantic leads appears onscreen long enough to engage the audience in their story. This problem, coupled with lackluster direction and very set-bound staging, results in a somewhat disappointing comedy boosted by a few pleasant musical numbers, including "Why Oh Why," "I Know that You Know" and Debbie's "A Kiss or Two."

Music Clips from HIT THE DECK (1955):

Click here"A Kiss or Two" (clip) sung with the Boys Trio (a .MP2 file courtesy Rhino Records).
Click here"Why Oh Why (reprise)" (clip) sung with Jane Powell and Ann Miller (a .MP3 file courtesy Rhino Records).


Debbie finally broke out of her musical rut in 1955 when she was cast alongside Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm and David Wayne in the straight comedy THE TENDER TRAP based on the play by Max Shulman and Robert Paul Smith.  The best-written of any of Debbie's films since SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, THE TENDER TRAP gave her ample comic opportunities in her role as an eccentric theatre starlet determined not to let her career stand in the way of her marriage -- whenever it comes along.  One of her most delightful films, THE TENDER TRAP charmed both critics and audiences and paved the way for other non-musical vehicles.

Click hereDebbie's version of the title song from the film, "Love is the Tender Trap," which became a hit record for Ella Fitzgerald (a .RM file).

Video Clips from THE TENDER TRAP (1955):

Click here "An Invitation to Dinner" with Frank Sinatra (a .AVI file courtesy MGM).
Click here "The Finale" with Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm and David Wayne (a .AVI file courtesy MGM).

(For help opening any of the multimedia files, visit the plug-ins page.)


Julie Gillis (Debbie) lunching with David Wayne, Celeste Holm and Frank Sinatra in one of the most endearing scenes from THE TENDER TRAP, the one in which Julie sets forth her philosophies about life, love and marriage.

More Memorable Quotations:

  • "And don't think it hasn't been fun, because it hasn't." --as Carol Pace in HIT THE DECK.
  • "I think I'd better sing. I talk too much." --as Julie Gillis in THE TENDER TRAP.
  • "A career is just fine, but it's no substitute for marriage." --as Julie Gillis in THE TENDER TRAP.
  • "Honestly, don't you think marriage is just the most important thing in the world?  I mean, a woman isn't really a woman at all until she's been married and had children.  And why?  Because she's fulfilled." --as Julie Gillis in THE TENDER TRAP.
  • "Well after all, a person just can't go on adlibbing his way though life." --as Julie Gillis in THE TENDER TRAP.
  • "If you have a plan and you really believe in it, it'll work." --as Julie Gillis in THE TENDER TRAP.
  • "I love you just the way you are, almost." --as Julie Gillis in THE TENDER TRAP.
  • "After a while, if thing's aren't said, they aren't true any more." --as Jane Hurley in THE CATERED AFFAIR.
  • "Ralph, I think we better go to the movies." --as Jane Hurley in THE CATERED AFFAIR.

In 1956, against the wishes of director Richard Brooks, Debbie was cast as Jane Hurley, the daughter of a New York cab driver whose proposed marriage threatens to tear her family apart, in THE CATERED AFFAIR.  Her sincere, restrained performance in this domestic drama (co-starring Ernest Borgnine, Bette Davis and Barry Fitzgerald) earned Debbie the National Board of Review's award as the year's Best Supporting Actress, and though little known, it is perhaps the best performance of her film career.

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Last updated: March 10, 2011.
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