In tonight's HBO TV movie "Behind the Candelabra," veteran entertainer Debbie Reynolds has just three major scenes to flesh out one of the most complicated figures in piano-playing showman Liberace's life: his loving but sometimes manipulative mother, Frances, The Associated Press reports.
The Oscar-, Tony- and Emmy-nominated Reynolds didn't need to do any homework for the part. She knew Frances. Reynolds joined Liberace's inner circle while both were doing stage shows in Las Vegas.
"I tell the story when Lee called me one night after work," Reynolds remembered, using Liberace's nickname. "I was at the Desert Inn, he was at the Hilton, and he said, 'Debbie, I'll pick you up after the show, and we'll take Tom Jones. It's his birthday.'
"I have never had a better time than being Liberace's date," Reynolds, 81, continued. "We all knew he was homosexual. That was a friend: You know what they love and the people that they love, and what they are."
Reynolds, who also knew Thorson, praised both of the film's stars. "They had to immerse themselves: two straight men, to make this come off as loving and real." Liberace died from complications of AIDS in 1987 at age 67. He never publicly acknowledged he was gay.
"I don't want him to be remembered just for being homosexual," Reynolds explained. "He should be remembered as a great entertainer and loved by so many. And this picture does do that."