ON THIS DATE in 1932, Debbie Reynolds was born. At eighteen in 1950 she began shooting on Singin’ in the Rain, a film the American Film Institute in 2006 ranked as the best-ever U.S. movie musical.

Playing the object of Gene Kelly’s affection, Reynolds had to dance as well as sing, which proved challenging because 1) she had never danced on screen before, and 2) Kelly was a perfectionist who drove her hard. “I was practicing and rehearsing all the time, my feet were bleeding,” Debbie told the Associated Press 50 years after the movie’s release.

The hard work resulted in a splendid performance in the musical comedy about the
changeover from silent to sound movies. Reynolds played a young woman with a lovely voice who charmed Gene Kelly’s Don Lockwood and Donald O’Connor’s Cosmo Brown and incurred the wrath of Jean Hagen’s Lina Lamont, a vicious silent-screen diva with a grating voice. Critic Pauline Kael of The New Yorker called Singin’ in the Rain “perhaps the most enjoyable of all movie musicals.”

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