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Majestic mountains are in the background and a waterfall in the foreground. Is that a canoe on the river? No it's a cradle with a baby. The buoyant Molly Brown has survived the first crisis of her life -- a flood. Sixteen years later she sets out to make her way in the world. Can she sing and play the piano? She assures the Leadville saloon keeper that she can and learns quickly. Soon she is the bride of Johnny Brown, who in a few years will be able to replace the original cigar wrapper wedding ring with a replica in gold and gemstones. But it takes more than a few million dollars to be accepted by Denver society. The Browns head for Europe and bring a few crowned heads back to Denver for a party that turns into a ballroom brawl. Molly goes to Europe alone, returning on the Titanic. She didn't survive a flood as a baby for the story to end here. Written by
Dale O'Connor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The original Broadway production of "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" opened at Winter Garden Theater on November 3, 1960 and ran for 532 performances. Harve Presnell recreated his stage role in the movie version. See more »
A long shot during the Titanic sinking shows just the ship's bow deck being submerged, the water not even reaching the bridge. Yet the entire rest of the steamer is raised out of the water. The weight of the water filling only such a small section of the hull wouldn't be enough to accomplish that. See more »
Belly up, belly up to the bar, boys / Better loosen your belts...
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You Can Take Leadville Out Of The Girl, But Not Out Of The Guy
Debbie Reynolds stars in this boisterous adaption of the Broadway musical, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, based on the life of legendary Denver society woman and heroine of the Titanic disaster. It's a film role perfectly suited to Debbie Reynolds both musically and dramatically.
The Meredith Willson musical ran for 532 performances on Broadway and starred Tammy Grimes there. In the Hollywood tradition though, a movie name was thought to be needed. 1964 was a bad year for Broadway actresses who originated roles and did not get the film role. Julie Andrews also knew exactly how Tammy Grimes felt.
The one big difference is that no one had to dub Debbie Reynolds. Her singing and dancing is all a part of one remarkable role where the character ages and matures and there's a big difference in those two life functions. I'm of the firm belief that MGM cast her in this part because of her musical numbers in How the West Was Won which they also produced. Debbie may also still have been under contract to them from the old days.
Harve Presnell came over from Broadway to play her husband John J. Brown of Leadville, Colorado and who makes them both rich beyond their wildest dreams. But Molly's dreams are larger than John's and it causes their parting. Presnell has a terrific baritone voice and he unfortunately came along at the tail end of movie musicals. His next film was Paint Your Wagon and he got to sing They Call the Wind Maria which requires a real singer to do, not something Lee Marvin or Clint Eastwood could fake. Presnell's developed into a fine character actor though.
Years ago I happened to meet Ed Begley's widow at an event. She mentioned to me that her husband for all the great dramatic parts he played including winning an Oscar for Sweet Bird of Youth was at heart a song and dance man. He loved to get up and perform at parties and such. I said to her that the role of Debbie Reynolds's father in The Unsinkable Molly Brown must have been one he loved and she said it was his favorite. Begley certainly looks like he's having a great old time in the part.
Meredith Willson's score, while not as good as The Music Man still has some fine numbers. Debbie's infectious singing of I Ain't Down Yet is the high point. For Presnell his anthem to Colorado My Home if it isn't, it should be that state's official song.
The only criticism I have of the film is that as good as Molly Brown is here there was so much more to the woman that The Unsinkable Molly Brown doesn't even get into. She was a suffragette, a leader in reform of juvenile offender laws, a noted philanthropist, she wasn't just a party girl who got a chance for heroism on the Titanic. I wish that had been dealt with in the film and the Broadway musical.
For a rollicking good musical experience though, you cannot beat The Unsinkable Molly Brown. No putting this woman or this film down, ever.
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