She was born Mary Frances Reynolds in El Paso, Texas, the second child of Raymond Francis Reynolds (1903-1986) and Maxine N. Harman (1913-1999).
Her family moved to Burbank, California, in 1939. In 1948, she won the Miss Burbank Beauty Contest, which resulted in a contract with Warner Bros. They gave her a new first name and cast her in small roles in two films.
Reynolds then signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She was cast in Three Little Words, which starred Fred Astaire. Her appearance in her second movie at MGM, Two Weeks With Love, received strong notices. She then appeared in Mr. Imperium.
She was chosen for the female lead in Singin' in the Rain despite the fact that Gene Kelly, the star of the musical comedy, was initially opposed to the casting. Reynolds was inexperienced and did not know how to tap dance. She worked hard, however, and turned in a good performance along with Gene and Donald O'Connor. Her participation in the movie helped make it one of the greatest musicals ever produced.
She went on to star in numerous motion pictures.
Debbie Reynolds has been married three times: to singer Eddie Fisher (1955-1959), Harry Karl (1960-1973) and Richard Hamlett (1984-1994).
She is the mother of two children, actress Carrie Fisher and Todd Fisher.
Reynolds was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), a Golden Globe for The Debbie Reynolds Show on television (1970), a Golden Globe for the motion picture Mother (1997), and a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for In & Out (1997).
In 1997, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy.
Debbie Reynolds has done extensive work with charity and has headlined in major Las Vegas showrooms.
Her foot and hand prints are immortalized in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, and she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6654 Hollywood Boulevard.