Debbie Reynolds excited about ''Liberace' film and Drury Lane return

2012-09-14T00:00:00Z Debbie Reynolds excited about ''Liberace' film and Drury Lane returnPhilip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com
September 14, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Hollywood royalty Debbie Reynolds says she's still not "exactly sure" why the producers of the new HBO film about Las Vegas showman pianist Liberace cast her to be their film.

"Well, Lee (a name commonly used for Liberace) and I were good friends, so that might be part of it," said Reynolds, during a telephone interview from her home in Los Angles last week.

"But really, I think it's because I'm an actress who loves to do impersonations, especially with an accent."

Reynolds laughs if asked about whether she's playing herself in a cameo for the film, given her youthful appearance and bubbly personality, opposite actor Michael Douglas, who is playing Liberace.

She's already completed the four days of filming for the movie, "Behind the Candelabra," directed by Steven Soderbergh and set to air next year.

Reynolds plays Liberace's beloved mother.

"I knew her, of course, and Lee was devoted to her," Reynolds said describing his mother Francis, who died in 1980 at age 89.

"She was Polish and she always got her way."

Reynolds will be sharing a tease of her talent for impersonations when she returns to Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., for three exclusive performances on Monday and Tuesday.

"It's been two years since I've been back to Drury Lane and I've missed the audience and that beautiful stage space," said Reynolds, whose favorite impersonations include Bette Davis, Barbra Steisand and Zsa Zsa Gabor.

During one of her days of filming for the film, Reynolds said she was at Gabor's Bel Air, Calif., mansion, which the ninth husband of the Hungarian actress, Prince Frederic von Anhalt, leased to the film production company to double as Liberace's home.

"Zsa Zsa is 95 now and she was in her bedroom in another wing of the house," Reynolds said.

"We're friends, but I didn't want to go see her while I was in full make-up, with the gray wig, prostetic nose and glasses because it would just confused her. She would have said: 'Debbie, what happened to you?' "

The Drury Lane show promises to include not only all of her latest Hollywood stories and impersonations, but also favorite song and dance moments of her career, which began unexpectedly in 1948 when she won a beauty contest at the age of 16 and two of the contest judges were scouts from Warner Brothers and MGM.

After Louis B. Mayer chose Reynolds for the lead female role opposite Gene Kelly and Donald O'Conner in "Singin' in the Rain," she became a household name.

As for last summer's Profiles in History auction of more than 400 prized pieces from her Hollywood costumes and memorabilia, Reynolds said "it's still very sad to think about."

"I spent my life gathering my collection and I always wanted my own museum," she said.

"But it was a dream, and dreams don't always come true, only in songs and movies."

While official final totals were not released, estimates valued her entire collection at more than $50 million, which included estimated values for another 200 or more pieces that were to be sold at a second auction that never happened.

Early estimates put Reynolds' take from the first sale at $22.5 million, with the biggest price tags on Marilyn Monroe's billowing "subway dress" from "The Seven Year Itch" selling for $4.6 million and an outfit of Audrey Hepburn's from "My Fair Lady" netting $3.7 million. Also adding to the total was $910,000 for Judy Garland's dress with $510,000 for her Ruby Slippers, both from "The Wizard of Oz."

And one of Charlie Chaplin's famed "Little Tramp" bowler derby hats sold for $110,000.

"But I still have another one of Charlie's hats," Reynolds said.

"I also have all of the tuxedo wardrobes from the Rat Pack, including shoes and socks, right down to Joey Bishop's underwear. You know how grouchy Joey always was. When I called him, he didn't want to give them to me. But I insisted."

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