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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds

When Carrie Fisher died, it seemed momentous, just because she had played such an iconic role in an iconic movie. But given her long history of addiction, to cocaine, alcohol, and pills, it really shouldn't have been all that surprising.

I vaguely recall having read part of one of her books once; she was undeniably clever. But when I first saw her as Princess Leia, my reaction was, why couldn't they have gotten someone good-looking for the role? (The answer, as it often is in Hollywood, was that she was a beneficiary of nepotism.)

She basically dined out on that one role for the rest of her life, a life characterized by extreme self-indulgence. And when she died, I can't say I was affected.

Debbie Reynolds had been someone I'd always been vaguely aware of as one of the old time movie stars. But she had been before my time, and although she was much prettier than her daughter, was not really my type, and so had never registered prominently on my radar screen.

But when she had a stroke and died the  day after her daughter, that drove home her humanity. She was 84, a vulnerable age, nonetheless it was still hard to escape the conclusion that she had essentially died of a broken heart.

And that actually was sort of affecting.


Anonymous said...

Carrie Fisher was bipolar, possibly having a difficult personality at times (to deal with). My impression of Debbie Reynolds is that she was a warm, loving mother. I read an autobiography of Debbie Reynold's last summer. She did not have an easy life. Debbie Reynold's last husband was a sociopath who took her for a ride. I remember that Debbie Reynold's stated that her son, Todd Fisher, was the only male who had never left her, he was always in her corner, supporting her. Both deaths were a bit of a shock. Of the two women, I feel badly for Debbie Reynold's, that the loss of her daughter did her in.

- birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
Reynolds' first husband was no prize either. And yeah, hard not to feel a little bad for Reynolds at the end there.

Anonymous said...


Now I'm really puzzled. Why is everyone so upset about Carrie Fisher's death - and I include myself in that crowd. I was no fan. But I'm sad, broken up at the death of this total stranger that I wasn't a fan of. Is that nuts, or what?

I saw the Stars Wars movies because that's what you did when they were released, but they made no impression on me. I'm not against them. They just aren't what thrilled me. I'm not a snob. I'm just being honest. A lot of what I'm supposed to like, I don't care about. And I didn't give a shit about Star Wars, and still don't. I thought it was cheesy pop culture, good for an afternoon's diversion, but anything deeper about it you could get from the sources.

And that awful hairstyle!!

You are the only person on the internet with the guts to say that Carrie Fisher was not pretty. Steve Martin just got pressured into deleting a tweet about how "beautiful" she was. In what universe? She had a cute figure which Lucas used to great effect in the slave bikini scene, but if she had been anyone else's daughter, she'd never have been cast in that movie.

That doesn't make her a bad person. I just don't understand why people can think of her as beautiful. One of the major issues of her life, which she was candid about, was that she wasn't as pretty as her mother. I think the truth is that she was the unpretty daughter of a pretty mom. (I don't think Debbie was truly beautiful - Liz Taylor was - but she was damned pretty, and stayed that way until well into old age.) But geez, facts are facts.

I do think she was very bright, and unusually for a woman, truly funny. The Daily Mail put up some films of her and I laughed out loud at one of them, where she referred to her mother as her "tsu-mommy" - a play on the word "tsunami."

At 60, Carrie was physically fragile and had the affect of a 75 year old. It was sad.

Now, I think I know why I'm so sad at her death. Because we're about the same age, and when your peers start kicking start thinking about the Grim Reaper. The whole Baby Boom is looking at her and saying, "I'm next."

And the death of Debbie Reynolds just adds to the pathos. Reading all this crap about her iconic status is hard to take. That's why I come here. (But she was amazing in Singin' in the Rain. That was truly great work.)

Thank you for running a safe space, where we can say horrible things like this. LULz.


Anonymous said...

"(The answer, as it often is in Hollywood, was that she was a beneficiary of nepotism.)"

Isn't nepotism giving a job to someone connected because you are going to get something in return? That's how I define it.

In that sense, Lucas giving Fisher the part of Princess Leia wasn't strictly nepotism. Was Debbie Reynolds or Eddie Fisher going to give something to him? No. It was a minor form of nepotism, stretching the definition, because she was certainly well known to him due to her lineage.

I think the reason he cast her in the part was the same as the other leads, Ford and Hamill - he didn't want truly big names to detract from the franchise. Ford wasn't at the time a big star. (I still don't understand his appeal, but that's besides the point.) He wanted competent performers whose appeal would not detract from The Franchise.

And that's part of my problem with Star Wars, because I think nothing takes the place of the great dramatic performance in either a movie or a play, and I do not think that the great star turn detracts from the ultimate product.

Example: The Wizard of Oz. I think it's one of the greatest movies of all time. Every performance is a look at me, ham great performance. Do they detract from the movie? I don't think so. The movie is so great it is more than the sum of its parts. But each part is great.

I think Star Wars is a massive collection of recycled mediocrity.


John Craig said...

Puzzled --
I basically agree with everything you just said, except I wasn't sad about Carrie Fisher's death. A lot of people seem to feel sad when a celebrity dies, and I always want to shake them and say, "You should care about them as much as they care about you -- which is not one whit." But, that said, I suppose I'll feel a little sad when Sean Connery dies.

Feel the same about the Star Wars movies. I thought the first one was cool, back in 1977, just because all the special effects were new at that point. Then I saw The Empire Strikes Back, in 1980 or so, thought it sucked, and that was the last one I saw.

Yes, the unpretty daughter of a pretty mom. Sorta like Melanie Griffith and Tippi Hedren.

And yeah, drugs will age you.

Ha, thank you, a safe space, yes, that's what I think of this blog as. A "safe space" for the truth.

John Craig said...

Puzzled --
"A massive collection of recycled mediocrity" -- well put.

Mmm, nepotism. a lot of nepotism just consists of parents putting their children into positions they haven't earned. Lucas obviously didn't think he was going to get anything back from Debbie Reynolds, but maybe at a certain level he thought he was getting a chunk of Reynolds' magic.

I'd never thought of the Wizard of Oz (also one of my favorites, though I could never get my kids into it, even when they were young), that way. It IS a collection of hammy, scenery-chewing performances, but you're right, that's partly what makes it great.

Mark Caplan said...

"When I was a young man, Carrie Fisher was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen," is what comedian Steve Martin tweeted after Fisher's death.

(I guess he never saw Sophia Loren or Jeanne Crain.)

I like the way Martin phrased it, though. I wouldn't tell a woman I thought she was beautiful when she was young, since you'd be implying her good looks had long ago departed. But "I thought you were beautiful when I was young" turns an insult into a compliment.

John Craig said...

Mark --
I hadn't seen the tweet. And really, he wouldn't have had to have seen Loren or Crain (both of whom were past their prime when Martin was a young man). All he'd have had to do was go to any suburban high school and he'd have seen lots of girls far prettier than Fisher.

But you're right, that is an extraordinarily deftly and diplomatically phrased compliment.

GT said...

John stated:
"But you're right, that is an extraordinarily deftly and diplomatically phrased compliment."

actually Steve was beat up by the "sexist police" for the tweet and he eventually removed the tweet altogether. Odd world we live in

John Craig said...

GT --
That's an eloquent statement about how insane our world has become.

gambino dellacroce said...

The amount of outpour is totally out of proportion to her contribution to cinema. Paul Joseph Watson had a telling blog post yesterday: "Saying 2016 was the "worst year ever" because some people you never knew died & your political team lost is incredibly stupid." As with most of his posts, bang on point.

John Craig said...

Gambino Dellacroce --
Just looked up Carrie Fisher's filmography on Wiki, and was surprised by how many films she had actually appeared in. But I'd never heard of most of them, and it seemed she was almost never cast as the romantic lead, tacit acknowledgment by Hollywood that she wasn't attractive. It did seem as if she basically made one famous movie and then was known for that for the rest of he rlife.

The Left is like a 6-year-old child: melodramatic, hysterical, and self-important.

gambino dellacroce said...

John Craig

Correct. You can be attractive or an incredible actress. Of the latter, let's just say she was no Meryl Streep or Judi Dench. To the broader point, I find it mind numbing people's addiction to emotional drama about people we don't know. Our whole society has become feminine.

John Craig said...

Gambino Dellacroce --
Well put: we've been feminized. (Actually, literally, once you take into account the influence of all the polycarbons and pesticides in the environment.)

And yes, you'e absolutely right, Fisher was neither of those things.

jova said...

I was a big fan of Star Wars back in 1977 when I was 8 years old, so it was sad to see an icon of my youth gone.
I agree , she was no beauty and probably got the part because of her family connections , but her acting in Star Wars was actually better than Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill.

It was strange to read the tweet by Steve Martin , hard to imagine he really saw Carrie Fisher was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen when he was 22 years old....might have been believable if he had been 10 -12 years old when Star Wars came out, but I assume most 22 year old males would have seen Rachel Welsh or Faye Dunaway or Britt Ekland as far more beautiful and glamorous and they He would have seen these girls in sexy Bikinis when he was a horny teenager. While Carrie Fisher did not appear in a Bikini until 1983 when Steve Martin was close to 30 years old..

John Craig said...

Jova --
Fisher's acting was good enough, though to me it came across unnecessarily snippy, she could have been a little more playful. But you're right, she was still better than Ford and Hamill.

Couldn't agree more about Fisher's "beauty." But I think Martin got carried away in a frenzy of sentimentality at the news of her death and overstated his own attraction for her. Either that, or at age 22 he was the type of Star Wars Trekkie-type fanatic whose vision was somehow blurred by his love for the franchise.

Anonymous said...

I just saw something - I forget where, sorry - it was a very old video of Hamill, Ford, and Fisher, just after the first SW movie came out. They all looked very young and somewhat shocked at the massive success of the movie.

Carrie was vibrant, sweet, very young, and quite attractive in the video. Her eyes were hypnotic, her skin was flawless, and her bone structure, especially her nose, were beautiful.

So, perhaps in person she was much prettier than what she looked like as Princess Leia. She also had a really cute figure, as the bikini scene proved. Maybe the real non-celluloid Carrie was what Steve Martin was remembering - the electric girl she once was, in real life.


John Craig said...

Puzzled --
Maybe she was at a particularly skinny phase at that point. Cocaine can do wonders for a girl's looks in the short run, even if it isn't good for her long term health.

Did I just say that? Oops....