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In a perhaps ironic twist of fate, Debbie Reynolds was 25, married to singer Eddie Fisher, and pregnant with her daughter Carrie when she played the innocent, backwoods 17-year-old Tambley "Tammy" Tyree in Tammy and the Bachelor (1957). It was a Cinderella story with a dash of hokum and more than a dash of the "bright as a new copper penny" personality of Debbie Reynolds. The combination added up to a gold record for Reynolds, a box office hit, and a franchise for Universal.
Shot in only a few weeks between April 24th and early June 1956, the film told the story of a southern, backwoods teenager Tammy (Reynolds), who rescues handsome pilot Peter Brent (Leslie Nielsen) when his plane crashes into a swamp. Later, after her moonshine-making grandpa gets arrested, she is sent to live with Peter's family and her spunky, upbeat manner wins his heart. Directed by Joseph Pevney and produced by Ross Hunter (the former actor-turned-producer who specialized in glossy Technicolor women's films in the 1950s), Tammy and the Bachelor was based on the 1948 novel Tammy Out of Time by Cid Ricketts Sumner.
When Tammy and the Bachelor was released on June 14, 1957, it was not, as Reynolds herself wrote, a big hit. " Tammy and the Bachelor had opened to lukewarm reviews. It was not a spectacular success at the box office. The title song had been sung over the credits of the movie by the Ames Brothers, and I also sang it in the picture. My recording wasn't released until after the movie had come out, but unlike the picture, it took off right away. Seeing a big promotional possibility, Universal immediately pulled the picture for a few weeks until the record built momentum. A few days after we [she and husband Eddie Fisher] arrived in England, I got a wire from the United States informing me that Tammy was one of the Top Ten on the Billboard charts. Everyone was amazed because it was a sweet, simple little ballad in contrast to the hits from Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Paul Anka, and Buddy Holly. [...] The record had such an impact that when Universal re-released Tammy and the Bachelor it grossed millions." The song, written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston earned Reynolds a gold record. It spent five weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts and was also nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Song (with Reynolds singing at the Oscar®ceremony in 1958). Tammy also gave Reynolds the distinction of being the only woman to have a #1 hit record between July 28, 1956 and December 1, 1958.
The Tammy character continued in two later incarnations in three films over ten years, including Tammy Tell Me True (1961) and Tammy and the Doctor (1963) starring Sandra Dee, and the final Tammy movie, Tammy and the Millionaire (1967) with Debbie Watson (who also starred in the 1965-66 TV series).
Producer: Ross Hunter
Director: Joseph Pevney
Screenplay: Oscar Brodney (writer); Cid Ricketts Sumner (novel)
Cinematography: Arthur E. Arling
Art Direction: Bill Newberry, Richard H. Riedel
Music: Frank Skinner
Film Editing: Ted J. Kent
Cast: Debbie Reynolds (Tambey 'Tammy' Tyree), Leslie Nielsen (Peter Brent), Walter Brennan (John Dinwitty), Mala Powers (Barbara Bissle), Sidney Blackmer (Professor Brent), Mildred Natwick (Aunt Renie), Fay Wray (Mrs. Brent), Philip Ober (Alfred Bissle), Louise Beavers (Osia).
by Lorraine LoBianco
The AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Bronson, Fred The Billboard Book of Number One Hits
Reynolds, Debbie, with Columbia, David Patrick Debbie: My Life