Jewish Journal


February 22, 2011

Mother/Daughter Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds Talk Challenges and Transformation on Oprah


I watched mother/daughter pair, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, on the late night showing of Oprah, last night. I’ve known of these two Hollywood icons all my life, like most people who have even the smallest idea of pop culture. Debbie Reynolds first appeared on the big screen in 1952, opposite Gene Kelly in that evergreen classic “Singin’ in the Rain” and Carrie Fisher is, of course, Princess Leah of Star Wars. Debbie was married to singer, Eddie Fisher, who left her with two young children – Carrie and younger brother Todd – and ran off with Debbie’s best friend, Elizabeth Taylor. It was the Hollywood scandal of the century. Seems like Debbie must have simply picked up the pieces and got on with her life. After all it’s decades later, and now 78, she travels 42 weeks a year, is still vibrant, still performing, still a Hollywood star. Meanwhile Carrie has starred in numerous blockbuster movies, is a bestselling author and prolific screenwriter, and is currently performing in her one-woman show.

But their journey was not anything like it might seem to the outsider.

Debbie and Carrie reveal to Oprah the almost inconceivable challenges they have had to face, difficulties that would defeat most of us. My life has not been easy, and like most people I have had to deal with situations that I would much rather escape, but I kept thinking, “My life is so easy compared to theirs.”

Here are the key points:

1. Debbie is raised by an abusive mother
2. Debbie is abandoned by Eddie Fisher who leaves her with two very young kids, and takes up with her best friend, Elizabeth Taylor
3. Debbie’s second husband, Henry Carl, once a multi-millionaire, gambles away all of his money and hers, and then disappears leaving her saddled with millions of dollars in debt.
4. Debbie loses everything, her earnings are garnished and for a while she is homeless, living in her car.
5. Carrie becomes addicted to drugs and is later diagnosed as manic depressive
6. Battling her disorder, Carrie is checked into a psych ward and is placed in lock-down for a week
7. In 1997, Debbie is forced to declare bankruptcy because her third husband’s poor investments
8. Carrie refuses to speak with Debbie for more than 10 years

Oy! How could they ever have gotten past any of this? Yet there they are on Oprah, looking just fine, their relationship healed, Carrie’s mental issues under control, and both of them very successful in their careers. How did they do it? It must have taken so much courage, resilience, an unwillingness to be defeated, a great capacity to forgive, and a consistent and persistent will to create a good life, no matter what happened. I honestly wish I could be like that!

Watching Carrie Fisher, I was marveling at how easily she was erasing the stigma against mental illness, and getting viewers to recognize that it just another disease that needs to be treated. And Debbie Reynolds blew me away, particularly when she talked about Elizabeth Taylor and how she was able to transcend the hurt and find understanding for what had happened. Reynolds and Taylor would go on to renew their friendship. Wow! Don’t know if I could do that.

Amazing women! I was inspired. Till next time…

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