THEIR celebrity spanned Hollywood’s generations, and their passing brought together a cast list like no other.
Meryl Streep, Gwyneth Paltrow and George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, were just a few of the mourners at a private memorial service for Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds.
Inseparable in death as they had been in life, the service was held on the eve of their burial together at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills, alongside Bette Davis, Stan Laurel and Liberace.
Miss Fisher, an indelible screen presence since her first outing as Princess Leia in Star Wars, in 1977, died at 60, two days after Christmas, following a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles.
Her mother, whose performance as the ingénue Kathy Selden in MGM’s musical Singin’ in the Rain is as familiar now as when it was released 65 years ago, died the following day, from a suspected stroke She was 84
Their memorial service took place, away from the glare of a thousand paparazzi lenses, at Miss Fisher’s estate in Coldwater Canyon, Los Angeles. Miss Reynolds lived right next door.
Outside, security officers stood guard. Inside, around 125 guests gathered, including the British comics Stephen Fry and Eric Idle, and together they performed Miss Fisher’s favourite song - not Singin’ in the Rain, but a similarly upbeat number, Happy Days Are Here Again.
Meryl Streep’s presence was particularly poignant. In 1990 she had played a thinly-disguised version of Miss Fisher in Mike Nichols’ adaptation of her semi-autobiographical novel, Postcards from the Edge. Her character, screen name Suzanne Vale, was portrayed as a recovering drug addict trying to pick up the pieces of her acting career after being discharged from a rehabilitation centre.
Miss Streep was photographed carrying a bunch of white roses as she entered the service.
Miss Fisher maintained that her own use of cocaine was a form of self-medication following her diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Asked why she did not take on Miss Streep’s role herself, she said: “I’ve already played Suzanne.”
Her father, the actor and crooner Eddie Fisher, whom Miss Reynolds had married in 1955 and who left her for years later for her friend, Elizabeth Taylor, had died six years earlier. There were no reports that the musician Paul Simon or the comedy actor Dan Aykroyd, to whom she was married and engaged respectively, were at the memorial service.
However, Mr Fry, to whom she had opened up publicly about her bouts of depression, was among those delivering eulogies, along with Miss Streep, the comedian Tracey Ullman, and Miss Fisher’s actress daughter, Billie Lourd.
Miss Lourd broke her silence on the double tragedy, posting a photograph of herself, her mother and grandmother online, with the message: “Receiving all of your prayers and kind words over the past week has given me strength during a time I thought strength could not exist.
“There are no words to express how much I will miss my Abadaba and my one and only Momby. Your love and support means the world to me.”
Last night came a further tribute, as Broadway dimmed its lights for one minute in silent homage. It was there, at the Minskoff Theatre in 1973, that Miss Reynolds and Miss Fisher had appeared together in a revival of the turn-of-the-century musical, Irene. Miss Reynolds received a Tony Award for her performance.
It was to be the first of many shared stages, the last of which was Bright Lights, a documentary about their close relationship, which premiered at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and was due to air on American TV today.
It was, said one critic, “an intimate portrait of Hollywood royalty”.
• Carrie Fisher will make one final film appearance, having completed work on Star Wars: Episode VIII shortly before her death.
The movie, in which she reprises her most famous role as Princess (now General) Leia Organa, was shot last summer but will not be seen in cinemas until shortly before next Christmas. No-one had foreseen it as a final bow: the actress had already signed up for yet another sequel.
Miss Fisher was 19 when she was originally cast as Leia. Among those also auditioning had been Sigourney Weaver, Jodie Foster, Glenn Close, and, reportedly, her own future screen incarnation, Meryl Streep.