For a life and career filled with accomplishments, Debbie Reynolds is being honored appropriately.
The true veteran of screen and stage — and very specifically of such classic MGM musicals as “Singin’ in the Rain” and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” — becomes the latest recipient of the Screen Actors Guild’s Life Achievement Award when the organization’s 21st annual ceremony is televised Sunday (Jan. 25) by both TBS and TNT from Los Angeles’ Shrine Exposition Center.
The accolade salutes the honoree for both professional triumphs and humanitarian efforts, the latter signaled in Reynolds’ case by her crusades for mental health and the nurturing of dancers.
“It’s very nice, really a surprise,” the pleasant Reynolds tells Zap2it of her award. “They do it kind of secretly, and it was very kind of them to include me. I’ve been a member [of SAG, which merged with the TV and radio performers’ union AFTRA in 2012] since my start at MGM. Everybody talks about the ‘good old days,’ and I was a part of them. And it’s fun to still be a part of this.”
In more recent years, Reynolds has appeared in HBO’s Emmy-winning “Behind the Candelabra” and as Katherine Heigl’s grandmother the feature film “One for the Money.” Many of her earlier pictures turn up regularly on Turner Classic Movies, and she appreciates their ongoing accessibility to both longtime fans and new viewers.
“I was there at the MGM auction, when they didn’t know what to do with all these films,” Reynolds recalls. “They were all in the archives in the basement, and that was before (TCM founder Ted) Turner stepped in to take over the purchase. We were very fortunate that he saw an opportunity and a necessity. They were exciting pictures, and they’ve held up all these years. And SAG stood by their people and has done a good job of protecting them.”
The mother of actress-writer Carrie Fisher (“Star Wars”) — who will present the award to Reynolds — and producer Todd Fisher, Reynolds has done her own part to preserve Hollywood history by gathering memorabilia, much of which she has sold to private collectors.
“In a way, I feel like a baby who takes as many steps as it can before it can walk,” reflects Reynolds. “There are many trials with different moments in life, and I’ve certainly had my wonderful times with all of it … and all of the great names who helped me and helped so many, and did such great, innovative work.”