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Remembering Debbie Reynolds

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Debbie Reynolds died this week at the age of 84, just after suffering maybe the greatest pain a mother can have - the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher, who was 60. We spoke with Ms. Reynolds in 2013 about her memoir of more than 60 years in showbiz, her tabloid marriages, too. She became a star in "Singin In The Rain" in 1952, and it sounded like a tough shoot for a talented teenager under the old studio system.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

DEBBIE REYNOLDS: Gene Kelly is the choreographer as well as the star. And he was a great dancer, so everything was hard. And I had to learn all of that in six months, and I'd never danced before. So I had to keep up with the boys. But I did it, God was with me, and I learned a great deal from Mr. Kelly.

SIMON: Fred Astaire helped you out, too.

REYNOLDS: Fred Astaire was the sweetest man. And I was crying under the piano on one of my breaks because my feet were killing me, and my back was like it was broken. After all, I was only 17. And Fred Astaire came by, and he reached down, he said, now, who is that? And I said, oh, it's Debbie. And he said, what are you crying about, what are you sniffling about? So I said, well, this is too hard. I think I should quit. He said, you never quit, and dancing is hard, and there is no easy way. If you want to be good, you have to suffer through it. And he invited me in to watch him rehearse. Nobody got to watch him dance, and he let me watch him until he was just red in the face. Then it showed me, even the greats find it hard to be really excellent. But you have to keep striving.

SIMON: She sure did. Debbie Reynolds in 2013. This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TAMMY")

REYNOLDS: (Singing) I hear the cottonwoods whispering above, Tammy, Tammy, Tammy's in love. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.