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BY MIGUEL GONZALEZ

Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016) visited Australia on several occasions, and many of her local television appearances are preserved in the NFSA collection. As a small tribute to Reynolds, we have published clips from one of her visits to The Mike Walsh Show.

In late 1979, she brought her Debbie Reynolds aLas Vegas show to Australian theatres. Jill Sykes in The Sydney Morning Herald said of her performance at the Regent Theatre: 'Debbie shines. She is a marvellous comedienne ... knife-sharp humour ... ingenious dance routines ... fast and extremely clever ... it is impossible to take your eyes off the stage.'

As part of her promotional efforts, Reynolds appeared on The Mike Walsh Show on 13 November. She improvised a dance number with floor manager Mike 'Shirley Temple' Williams, followed by an interview with presenter Mike Walsh. 

She said 'I don't think I am sexy, but I can play it - there's a difference', and discussed her views on sex and nudity in film. She also acknowledged the presence of a long-time fan in the audience who travelled from Hawaii to see her.

Debbie Reynolds on The Mike Walsh Show - Episode 9190, broadcast on 13 November 1979. NFSA title: 1156432. Courtesy Mike Walsh AM, OBE Hayden Productions.

 

Debbie also performed a musical number, 'Gee, But It's Good to Be Here', from the Broadway musical Happy Hunting.

Debbie Reynolds on The Mike Walsh Show - Episode 9190, broadcast on 13 November 1979. NFSA title: 1156432. Courtesy Mike Walsh AM, OBE Hayden Productions.

'Gee but it's good to be here. Frankly, I feel right at home', Debbie Reynolds belts out the opening lyrics to a song composed by Harold Carr with lyrics by Matt Dubey, and made famous by Ethel Merman in the 1956 Broadway musical, Happy Hunting. Clearly recorded live, the sound quality of this performance is exceptional. Reynolds might not have the booming voice of Merman but her full vocal range is captured perfectly, as is her laugh at the start of the clip and humorous ad-libbed antics at the end. The studio camera work and live editing justifiably never leaves Reynolds; she is a consummate performer and is kept centre frame by the crew, which draws in the television audience. The song itself is typical of Broadway numbers of the time with its big, bold and brassy sound. In 1956, America was in the grips of the Cold War but also enjoying unprecedented economic growth and the arts expressed the national mood of optimism.