Hollywood Dynasties: Famous Mothers & Their Famous Daughters

HENDERSON, NV - FEBRUARY 27: Actress Carrie Fisher (L) and her mother, actress Debbie Reynolds, arrive for Dame Elizabeth Taylor's 75th birthday party at the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Las Vegas on February 27, 2007 in Henderson, Nevada.
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The names ring out like beacons through entertainment history,. They are the famed mothers whose film and television royalty status continued in name and deed through their talented daughters (and even grandkids). Sometimes competitive, often cooperative, always loving, these bonds led to a few newsy feuds and some Oscars wins. But as this famous slate suggests, moviemaking is definitely a family business.  

Rainbow Warriors: Judy Garland & Liza Minnelli 

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“We could make such beautiful music together.”

And that they did.

The immensely talented Judy Garland and daughter Liza Minnelli sang, giggled, hugged and held hands in a 1963 episode of The Judy Garland Show. There’s no denying Garland’s immense and playful love for her daughter. While they would follow that number up with “The Best Is Yet to Come,” unfortunately, that would not be the case, as mental health and addiction issues resulted in Garland’s untimely death at age 47.

Born Frances Gumm into a vaudevillian family, Garland performed from toddlerhood. Signed to MGM as a teen, but cruelly forced to diet, exercise, and wear caps on her teeth and rubber discs to reshape her nose, Garland found both fame and confidence in her talent when The Wizard of Oz made her a star. Garland loved performing and her family. Her close-knit children — including Minnelli, 77, among the rare group of performers to earn an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award; Lorna Luft, 70, a beloved stage and screen star; and Joey Luft, 68 — remember Garland as a funny, whip-smart and present mother who loved people. “Our mom had such an extraordinary sense of humor, and that was her survival guide,” said Lorna in a 2022 joint interview with Minnelli on Entertainment Tonight. “She had tragedies, but she was not tragic. And she didn’t pass it on to us.” Minnelli added: “That’s the thing that bugs me the most. They would say, ‘Tragic Judy Garland!’ and I’d say, ‘Oh shut up!’ It was her humor and her kindness [that defined her]. … With her family, she was hilarious.”

Screen Princesses: Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher

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Their close bond would probably make a great mother-daughter screenplay. Casting it, however, would be a challenge; who could adequately capture the relationship between film greats Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher? Theirs is an amazing movieland story. Reynolds captivated audiences at 19 as the fresh-faced costar of the classic 1952 musical Singin’ in the Rain, and three years later she married crooner extraordinaire Eddie Fisher, with their daughter Carrie born a year later. As Carrie would later say of her star mom, “I had to share her, and I didn’t like that. When we went out, people sort of walked over me to get to her.” But as the years passed, and Reynolds faced marital failures — Eddie Fisher infamously left her for her then-bestie, Liz Taylor — she and her daughter grew exceedingly close. Carrie Fisher dealt with her own demons — bipolar disorder and drug addiction — even as she built a film resumé that included Princess Leia in the Star Wars canon, and raised her own daughter, Scream Queens costar Billie Lourd. As an admiring Reynolds once wrote, “Carrie is my child, and I love her with every ounce of strength I possess. If love alone could cure our children, they would always be well. Since I can’t, I will do whatever I can to make her life less difficult.” Living for 15 years as next-door neighbors, mother and daughter sadly passed away one day apart, Carrie from cardiac issues and her mom a day later from a cerebral hemorrhage after a stroke. As Carrie’s brother Todd later said of his mom, “She didn’t die of a broken heart, she just left to be with Carrie.”

Guts & Grace: Ingrid Bergman & Isabella Rosellini

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Even decades after film icon Ingrid Bergman’s passing, her equally famous daughter Isabella Rossellini celebrates the woman who raised her and her sisters to never let society dictate how they should look, love or live. Born to the scandalous union of Bergman and Italian director Roberto Rossellini (which, for a time, earned Bergman the wrath of Hollywood and even the U.S. Senate), Isabella was blessed with the same regal face, elegant accent and adventuring nature as her mom. She eventually became a model and an actress, earning good notices for both film and TV roles even as her own public drama loomed. In 1996, the 40-something Isabella was fired by luxury beauty line Lancôme for being “too old” after 14 years as their spokesmodel. But just as Tinseltown welcomed her mother back as social mores eased, Lancôme welcomed Isabella back, too, at age 63. “‘As time goes by,’ to quote Casablanca [Bergman’s most famous film], I find myself understanding Mama even more,” Rossellini, now 70, told People last year. “The admiration for my mom has augmented. Not admiration as an actress — that was always there — but just as a human being. I understood how hard she fought. … Mama, you gave me a gift. The gift of self-determination.”

Supreme Love: Diana Ross & Tracee Ellis Ross

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Just as the lyrics of her 1970 No. 1 hit say, there “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” to keep legendary singer/actor Diana Ross away from the people she loves. Atop the list? Her kids. Diana shared, “I’ve been very blessed with these children,” who include former Girlfriends and black-ish actor/producer/director Tracee Ellis Ross, 50. “I was raised by a woman who lived out her dreams. So she’s not living them out through me, or her [other] children,” Ellis Ross told W Magazine of growing up with the Motown legend and Lady Sings the Blues Oscar nominee, who is also mom to actor/musicians Rhonda Ross Kendrick, 51, and Evan Ross, 34; producer Chudney Ross, 47; and actor/producer Ross Naess, 35. “She really gave us space and the courage to live the lives that we want to be living, and to have time to dream and conjure up [that] life,” Ellis Ross tells. “I got to have the example of my parent really being her full self. It’s given me a lot in my life.” Including the confidence to make her own public singing debut in the 2020 film The High Note, which starred Ellis Ross as a musical superstar much like her mom. “When I first recorded my songs, I played them for my mom in her car. She was crying and she grabbed my hand, and it was amazing.”

They’re Related: Jayne Mansfield & Mariska Hargitay

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Put a platinum wig on Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay, and the resemblance to her actress/pinup mother Jayne Mansfield would still be remarkable, even 50-plus years after Mansfield’s untimely death. While Mansfield used her lush beauty and oozing sexuality to push Hollywood’s boundaries on the stage and screen, Hargitay — whose dad was former Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay — wields her feminine power differently, playing SVU’s savvy top cop and beloved role model Olivia Benson since 1999. Fans of the mother and daughter appreciated a recent sly reference in SVU when actor Bradley Whitford’s character suggested Benson had “a face like Jayne Mansfield.” Small wonder! 

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Hollywood Dynasties

May 2023

Moviemaking is definitely in the family business for some of Hollywood’s most notable icons

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