Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Late Great Carrie Fisher

There are those artists who have been a part of one's life for so long that he or she nearly seems like family. Carrie Fisher was one of those artists for many of us. We first encountered her as Princess Leia in Star Wars (1977), but she transcended that role soon enough. She appeared in numerous other films, including The Blues Brothers (1980), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), and When Harry Met Sally... (1989). She wrote five novels, starting with Postcards from the Edge in 1987. She also wrote screenplays, doctored yet other screenplays, and wrote stage plays. She was a clever, funny woman who was open about her struggles with bipolar disorder and drug addiction. She had little patience for fools, but she was never unfair. For many young women who grew up with her, as well as many young men, she was a hero, and not simply because she played an indomitable space princess. It was because she was indomitable in real life.

Sadly, Carrie Fisher died today at age 60 following cardiac arrest on a flight from London to Los Angeles on December 23, although in her book Wishful Drinking she wrote, "I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra." She is survived by her mother Debbie Reynolds, her daughter Billie Lourd, her brother Todd Fisher, her half-sister Joely Fisher, and her half-sister Tricia Leigh Fisher.

Carrie Fisher was born on October 21 1956 in Beverly Hills, California. Her parents were Hollywood royalty. Her mother is Debbie Reynolds, the screen legend then at the height of her career. Her father was Eddie Fisher, one of the most successful singers of the Fifties. Carrie Fisher was only two years old when her parents divorced. As a child Carrie Fisher was a bit of a bookworm, reading books voraciously and writing poetry. She made her screen debut in a cameo in her mother's television special Debbie Reynolds and the Sound of Children in 1969. She attended Beverly Hills High School until she was 15, at which point she made her Broadway debut in Irene, which starred her mother Debbie Reynolds. Miss Fisher never returned to high school.

In 1975 she made her big screen debut in Shampoo.  In 1977 she appeared for the first time as Princess Leia Organa in Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope). That same year she appeared in the television movie Come Back, Little Sheba. The following year she appeared in Ringo Starr's TV special Ringo, the TV movie Leave Yesterday Behind, and the notorious Star Wars Holiday Special. In 1980 she reprised her role as Leia in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back. She also appeared in the film The Blues Brothers and on the TV show Saturday Night Live.

The Eighties proved to be a busy decade for Miss Fisher. She reprised her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). In When Harry Met Sally... (1989) she played Sally's best friend Marie. She appeared as April in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). She also appeared in the films Under the Rainbow (1981), Garbo Talks (1984), Amazon Women on the Moon (1987), The Time Guardian (1987), Appointment with Death (1988), The 'Burbs (1989), Loverboy (1989), She's Back (1989), Sweet Revenge (1990), and Sibling Rivalry (1990). She wrote the screenplay for Postcards from the Edge (1990). She guest starred on the TV shows Laverne & Shirley, Faerie Tale Theatre, George Burns Comedy Week, The Wonderful World of Disney, Amazing Stories, and Trying Times. She appeared in such TV movies as Frankenstein (1984) and Liberty (1986).  Her first novel, Postcards from the Edge, was published in 1987. Her second novel Surrender the Pink was published in 1990. She appeared on Broadway in Agnes of God.

In the Nineties Carrie Fisher appeared in the movies Drop Dead Fred (1991), Soapdish (1991), Hook (1991), This Is My Life (1992), Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), Scream 3 (2000), and Lisa Picard Is Famous (2000). In 1995 she was the host on the TV series Carrie On Hollywood. She guest starred on the TV shows Frasier, Gun, It's Like, You Know..., and Sex and the City.  She was a guest voice on the animated series Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist. She wrote episodes of Young Indiana Jones and Roseanne. She was one of the writers on the The 69th Annual Academy Awards. Her novel Delusions of Grandma was published in 1993.

In the Naughts Carrie Fisher appeared in the films Heartbreakers (2001), Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001), A Midsummer Night's Rave (2002), Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003), Wonderland (2003), Stateside (2004), Undiscovered (2005), Cougar Club (2007), The Women (2008), White Lightnin' (2009), Fanboys (2009), and Sorority Row (2009). On television she provided the voice of recurring character Angela on Family Guy. She guest starred on A Nero Wolfe Mystery, Jack & Bobby, Smallville, Odd Job Jack, Side Order of Life, 30 Rock, and Entourage. She appeared in the TV movies These Old Broads (2001), and Wright vs. Wrong (2010). Miss Fisher wrote the TV movie These Old Broads (2001). the TV movie Wishful Drinking, and The 79th Annual Academy Awards (2007). She appeared on Broadway in her one woman show Wishful Drinking. She published the novel The Best Awful There Is and the autobiographical book Wishful Drinking.

In the Teens Carrie Fisher returned to the Star Wars franchise as Leia. She appeared in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015) and will appear Star Wars: Episode VIII (2017). She also voiced Leia in the video game Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2016). She also appeared in the film Maps to the Stars (2014). On television she played the role of Ma in the series Catastrophe. She guest starred on the shows The Big Bang Theory, Legit, and Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce. Her non-fiction book Shockaholic was published in 2011. Her memoir The Princess Diarist was published this year.

Carrie Fisher achieved fame as Princess Leia Organa. And there can be no doubt that the role won her a legion of fans. Leia was a princess as never had been seen on film before. She was strong, intelligent, independent, and could fight as well as, if not better than, her male comrades. That having been said, I suspect Carrie Fisher was beloved for more than having played an iconic role in what may be the most popular science fantasy franchise of all time. The simple fact is that Carrie Fisher was a force to be reckoned with. She appeared in many roles besides that of Leia, and she played all of them remarkably well. She was an incredible writer, possessed of a razor sharp wit and a keen sense of humour. Both her novels and her non-fiction books are immensely readable. Indeed, Miss Fisher was so talented as a writer that she was called upon as a script doctor on more films than many people realise.

Beyond being a talented actress and writer, however, Carrie Fisher was an impressive human being. She was brutally honest about having been diagnosed with bipolar, as well as her battles with addiction. She was a fierce advocate for mental health. She supported such charities as the Alzheimer's Association, Make a Wish International,  and The Midnight Mission. Those fans who were lucky enough to meet Miss Fisher found her to be a warm, friendly, and funny human being. She was genuinely interested in her fans and often spoke to them as if they were long lost friends. If Carrie Fisher has received an outpouring of mourning that the deaths of few other celebrities could match, it's not simply because she was Princess Leia or even a talented actor and writer. It's because she was a wholly wonderful human being as well.

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