Tag Archive 'Debbie Reynolds'

Mar 19 2009

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Debbie Reynolds nearly collapses at closing session

Ed Cohen

March 18, 2009

The Closing General Session featured a scary moment. The guest speaker, Debbie Reynolds, nearly fainted.

The usually vivacious actress, singer and dancer trailed off while telling a story about Jimmy Stewart and stood motionless at the lectern, eyes watery. She looked as if she might collapse forward into the microphone.

Her pianist hurried across the stage to ask if she was all right and to steady her. She said weakly that she was going to have a drink of water.

I was seated directly in front of her, about three rows back from the stage, and heard people saying with increasing alarm, “Is she alright?” “She’s not alright.” I was afraid she was having a stroke.

She seemed to recover a bit and wanted to continue. Someone brought a chair on stage. It was suggested she continue the talk seated, and she complied.

“The reason there was a pause,” she explained eventually, “is I was about to faint.”
She she’d come down with pneumonia four or five weeks ago. Then, trying to make light of the episode, she added, “You think this is the last time you’re going to see me,” and after the slightest pause, “I do this every performance, it’s the whole sympathy thing.” She later clarified that this doesn’t happen at every performance.

At the time of the near-faint, she had just finished singing a bit of “Home in the Meadow (Away, Away, Come Away with Me),” which she sang in the epic movie How the West Was Won, which also starred Jimmy Stewart. She said Stewart loved the song and in his later years would always ask her to sing it.

Her talk featured a complication of clips from many of her films, including Singin’ in the Rain. She would sing a few words along with the soundtrack. Her singing seemed to be getting increasingly off key as the clips progressed, and she was especially far off during the clip from The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Her voice grew very quiet during “Home in the Meadow” just before she became motionless.

After her time in the chair, her singing improved noticeably in the few more bits of songs she performed.

The actress, who will turn 77 on April 1, said several times that she is celebrating her 60th year in show business. She said she was only 17 when she w as cast as the female lead in Singin’ in the Rain alongside 37-year-old Gene Kelly and 27-year-old Donald O’Connor.

She began her talk by joking about aging, saying she wakes up every morning and every part of her body has moved somewhere else.

“I live in Las Vegas, and my boobs live in San Diego.”

Singing along to a clip from Singin' in the Rain.

Singing along to a clip from Singin' in the Rain

Persevering to the end of her talk

Persevering to the end of her talk

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