As a pert and irresistible adolescent, Debbie Reynolds personified the wholesome girl next door who lived in a friendly suburban neighborhood. When she appeared on the cover of Life in a short-sleeved sweater and skirt in 1951, she exuded teenage effervescence for 5,200,000 subscribers. She also posed as a Photoplay pinup in a short strapless dress with a flared skirt and flat-heeled shoes. Although the photo emphasized her legs, her playful and friendly glance, as she peered from under an umbrella, characterized her as a pal rather than as a sex symbol (Figure 3.1). According to a story on the opposite page, the 19-year old—as energetic as “Seven-Up spiked with pistachio”—was 5 feet 1½ inches tall and weighed 102 pounds. Wearing her Easter dress and an old Jantzen bathing suit, she had entered a Miss Burbank contest in 1948 and impersonated musical film star Betty Hutton. She won the contest and the attention of a Warner Bros, talent scout. When that studio dropped her option 18 months later, MGM signed her to play small comedie parts and then elevated her to its famous constellation of stars. A full-page ad opposite the conclusion began a five-page promotion of Tintair Home Hair Coloring Prell Shampoo, Maybelline mascara, Fresh deodorant, and Cutex nail polish.1 A more youthful version of the girl next door than Esther Williams and Doris Day, Reynolds resembled the enthusiastic fans who bought and read fan magazines.
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