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December 29, 2016

Carrie Fisher Waiting in the Wings While Her Mom, Debbie Reynolds, on Stage at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, 1963

The day after Carrie Fisher’s death, Debbie Reynolds suffered a suspected stroke and emergency services were called to her son Todd Fisher’s home. He told the press: “She said, ‘I want to be with Carrie’. And then she was gone.”

At 26, Lawrence Schiller was already taking pictures of some of the biggest celebrities in the world, including Marilyn Monroe.

And in 1963, after traveling from Los Angeles to Las Vegas with Debbie Reynolds, he was witness to a moment that he felt was emblematic of the relationship between Ms. Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher. That photograph, a sweet snap of a 6-year-old Carrie Fisher transfixed while watching her mom perform onstage has gone viral after the two Hollywood icons died one day apart this week.

Six-year-old Carrie Fisher watched her mother, Debbie Reynolds, performing at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, 1963. (Photo: Lawrence Schiller)

In an interview with the New York Times on Thursday, December 29, Mr. Schiller, 80, recalled taking the touching photo and spending time with them.

“Her daughter was really mesmerized by her mother always. That’s what really stood out.”

He said he had noticed the quality early on, when he was taking portraits of Ms. Reynolds at her home on Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Ms. Fisher would sit in the corner and watch as he took picture after picture, he said.

In Las Vegas, where Ms. Reynolds was performing at the Riviera Hotel, Mr. Schiller said he saw that dynamic crystallized: As Ms. Reynolds took the stage, someone who was watching over Ms. Fisher brought a stool to the wing. Ms. Fisher clambered up on top of it “all by herself,” he said, and sat through the entire performance.

(Photo: Lawrence Schiller)

Taking the iconic snap “was not as easy as it looks,” he concluded to the paper, revealing he had to know what lens he was going to use (wide angle 28mm), his shutter speed (slow), and that Ms. Reynolds and Ms. Fisher were both in focus. He used a Leica, the type of camera he always used for fly-on-the-wall pictures, partly because of its relatively quiet shutter.



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