It’s the September 11th, 2001. You are all alone in a hotel room in New York and there’s only one TV station available and it is delivering rolling coverage of the most terrifying events happening close by. Then the most glamourous woman in the world, dressed in an off-the- shoulder fitted dress, has her assistant call… “Miss Taylor has heard that you are alone in New York. She would like to invite you join her at her hotel.” Miss Taylor, aka Mrs Burton, Mrs Wilding, Mrs Hilton, Mrs Todd, Mrs Warner, Mrs Fortensky… and Mrs Fisher.
No matter how bad you are, how much of a hellcat, how your language might make a sailor blush, the one thing you absolutely cannot be is a disloyal friend. Now, I adore Liz Taylor (of course) and all those other brittle and beautiful vintage Hollywood bad gals! However, for loyalty and a truly good heart you need to direct your gaze to Debbie Reynolds. Debbie was the archetypal girl next door, an eternal ingénue and sweet as a nut. She had the prettiest face and warmest smile in Hollywood, yet beneath that adorable exterior lay some strong steely determination. At 19 she won the role of Kathy Seldon in Singing in the Rain but was given only three months to learn how to dance. Taking lessons for up to 8 hours each day, she was tested to the limit but knew that absolute dedication was required in order to meet the exacting standards of her co-star, Gene Kelly. Imagine it, the foremost musical theatre star of the day is paired with a total novice! It simply wouldn’t happen these days, but I guess there was just something so sweet and plucky about Debbie, the studio clearly saw a star in the ascendant and were prepared to gamble on her making good. And that incredible dedication paid off! Singing in the Rain is a truly iconic film with dance routines that are brilliant and visually stunning, and Debbie holds her own alongside both Gene Kelly and that crazy, somersaulting dancer Donald O’Connor.
Away from the sparkling showbiz glamour, Debbie’s life lacked the happy Hollywood ending she portrayed so well in Singing in the Rain. She suffered a very public humiliation and private heartbreak when her husband, Eddie Fisher, ran off with Elizabeth Taylor. Quite unforgiveable given that Liz was Debbie’s best friend! Of course, Debbie was clearly the kind of smart gal with a quick comeback, she not only maintained that, “If your husband’s going to leave you for anyone, it might as well be Elizabeth Taylor,” she later added that Liz would “throw him out eventually and that’s exactly what happened. But he wasn’t the brightest of men.” Ouch! The women did not speak for many years, but there is a story that on the morning of September 11th, 2001, Debbie woke in her New York hotel, alone and afraid. Elizabeth, having heard that Debbie was in town, invited her to stay with her, an invitation Debbie gladly accepted.
I wonder how those Hollywood greats made their peace. With tears carefully dabbed away to avoid smudging their make up and remaining statuesque without creasing their vintage style bodycon dresses? With hugs accompanied by the rattle of diamond necklaces and earrings? Shooing away small dogs and mixing drinks in ice-filled crystal glasses? Floating around in their flared vintage dresses. I like to think that at the end of the day, Debbie knew that no man was safe with Liz in the room, dressed up to the nines in her 50s style, body hugging fitted dress, and who could blame anyone for falling at the feet of La Taylor! She forgave Liz for her unsisterly behaviour, a noble gesture and one that would require great strength of character. I guess that both ladies knew that men may come and go, but strong female friendship lasts forever. We should all be a bit more like Debbie and with that in mind, I am going to add some chirpy, bright 50s style dresses and glamourous vintage fashion to these dark, cold days. This vibrant Royal Stewart Tartan full circle dress (also available in an off- the-shoulder style bodycon dress) or a bonny blue tartan swing dress should do the trick.