The Unsinkable Molly Brown


2h 8m 1964
The Unsinkable Molly Brown

Brief Synopsis

Musical biography of the backwoods girl who struck it rich in Colorado and survived the Titanic.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Musical
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 1964
Premiere Information
Denver, Colorado, opening: 11 Jun 1964
Production Company
Marten Productions
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play The Unsinkable Molly Brown by Meredith Willson, Richard Morris (New York, 3 Nov 1960).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 8m
Sound
Stereo (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Molly, a tomboy orphan rescued from the Colorado River and brought up by Shamus Tobin, sets out to find a rich husband. Arriving in Leadville, she gets a job singing in Christmas Morgan's saloon. En route she has met Johnny Brown, and when he refurbishes her cabin, she marries him. Johnny, wishing to satisfy Molly's hunger for money, sells her silver mine for $300,000, but the paper currency is burned accidentally after Molly hides it in the stove. Comforting her, Johnny tosses his pickax in the air, and it cracks open the richest gold vein in Colorado history. The Browns and Shamus move into a mansion in Denver, where the unpolished Molly hopes to break into society but is thoroughly snubbed by the elite. The Browns then go to Europe, where Molly becomes the toast of royalty. They return to Denver, bringing along their royal friends, and Molly's party to introduce them to Denver society is a success until Johnny's Leadville friends show up and turn it into a free-for-all. Rejected once more, Molly returns to Europe despite Johnny's warning that the separation will end their marriage. He returns to Leadville. In Europe, Prince de Lanière falls in love with Molly, but she decides to go back to Johnny. She sails on the Titanic , and when the ship sinks, Molly saves the lives of the people in an overcrowded lifeboat. Her courage and selflessness make worldwide headlines, and all Denver at last welcomes her home with open arms. And Johnny, too, is on hand to welcome Molly. Songs : "I Ain't Down Yet" (Molly), "Colorado Is My Home" (Johnny), "Belly Up to the Bar, Boys" (Molly), "I'll Never Say No" (Molly), "Leadville Johnny Brown [Soliloquy]" (Johnny), "He's My Friend" (Molly & Cast).

Photo Collections

The Unsinkable Molly Brown - Academy Archives
Here are archive images from The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), courtesy of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown - Novelization
Here is the Gold Medal Books novelization of The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) by Al Hine.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Musical
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 1964
Premiere Information
Denver, Colorado, opening: 11 Jun 1964
Production Company
Marten Productions
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play The Unsinkable Molly Brown by Meredith Willson, Richard Morris (New York, 3 Nov 1960).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 8m
Sound
Stereo (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Actress

1964
Debbie Reynolds

Best Art Direction

1964

Best Cinematography

1964

Best Costume Design

1964
Morton Haack

Best Score

1964

Best Sound

1964

Articles

The Unsinkable Molly Brown


Debbie Reynolds scored one of the triumphs of her career in 1964 as The Unsinkable Molly Brown, a frontierswoman who rises to wealth and power when her husband strikes it rich in Colorado and goes on to become a heroine when she survives the sinking of the Titanic. But though the part would bring Reynolds her only Oscar® nomination, she was not the first choice for the role. In fact, she had to fight just to get the director to direct her.

Meredith Willson adapted Molly Brown's biography to the Broadway stage as a follow-up to his first major hit, The Music Man. Though The Unsinkable Molly Brown was not an unqualified smash, it made stars out of leading players Tammy Grimes and Harve Presnell. With the success of The Music Man on film, MGM was eager to pick up the rights to a similar musical. It would become the studio's last great musical film.

The young, handsome Presnell was a natural for films and would be the only member of the original cast invited to reprise his role. As successful as Grimes had been on Broadway, however, Hollywood already had an ideal choice for Molly Brown, Shirley MacLaine, and she was eager to play the role. No sooner had she signed, however, than independent producer Hal Wallis, who had brought her to Hollywood in the '50s, claimed that she was still under contract to him. The legal complications forced MacLaine to withdraw from the role, which producer Lawrence Weingarten then offered to Reynolds. She jumped at the opportunity to star in a big musical of her own, even though she had to accept a lower fee than had been offered to MacLaine.

Then the trouble started. First, Reynolds had to deal with MacLaine, who accused her of undercutting MacLaine's price to steal the role from her. Reynolds did her best to mollify her, arguing that MGM couldn't make the film with Wallis threatening a lawsuit and pleading that it was her last chance for a great film role. On the whole, she got off easier than Hollywood Reporter columnist Mike Connolly. When he reported that MacLaine had lost the part before any decision had even been made, she decked him.

Reynolds' next hurdle was director Charles Walters. Although he had scored a hit directing her opposite Frank Sinatra in The Tender Trap (1955), he had his heart set on casting MacLaine as Molly Brown. He even tried to convince Reynolds to turn the part down. When she asked why he thought she was wrong for it, he told her, "You're much too short for the role." Reynolds quipped, "How short is the part?" then told him he was just plain wrong. His doubts continued through the location shooting in Colorado. In fact, he gave her so little direction that Reynolds turned to Lillian Burns, an accomplished acting coach with whom she had worked in her early days at MGM, to help her with the part. Finally, when the rushes started coming in, Walters conceded that she was right for the role. His doubts came back, however, when it came time to shoot Reynolds' biggest dance number, "He's My Friend." He even suggesting cutting it, claiming it was too tough for her to learn, but Reynolds insisted. MGM had slashed the film's budget because of cost overruns on Doctor Zhivago (1965), so Walters had to try to get the number in as few takes as possible. As insurance, he had TWO cameras simultaneously film a long take of the seven-minute number, a television technique rarely used on film. Reynolds pulled the number off without a hitch, though one of her male dancing partners fainted after it was over.

The Unsinkable Molly Brown turned out to be a huge hit for MGM, becoming the third highest-grossing film of 1964. The picture garnered six Oscar® nominations, including Reynolds' Best Actress nod. She would prove wrong in her prediction that this would be her last great role. She would go on to turn in an Oscar®-worthy performance in Albert Brooks' 1996 comedy Mother. She and MacLaine would survive their differences, eventually teaming up for the television movie These Old Broads in 2001. Before that, MacLaine would play a role loosely based on Reynolds -- and with her blessing -- as the movie star mom in Postcards From the Edge (1990), written by Reynolds' daughter, Carrie Fisher.

Producer: Lawrence Weingarten
Director: Charles Walters
Screenplay: Helen Deutsch
Based on the Stage Musical by Meredith Willson & Richard Morris
Cinematography: Daniel L. Fapp
Art Direction: George W. Davis & E. Preston Ames
Music: Meredith Willson
Principal Cast: Debbie Reynolds (Molly Brown), Harve Presnell (Johnny Brown), Ed Begley (Shamus Tobin), Jack Kruschen (Christmas Morgan), Hermione Baddeley (Mrs. Grogan), Vassili Lambrinos (Prince Louis de Laniere), Harvey Lembeck (Polak), Hayden Rorke (Broderick), Martita Hunt (Grand Duchess Elise Lupovinova), Audrey Christie (Mrs. McGraw), Grover Dale (Jam), Maria Karnilova (Daphne), Gus Trikonis (Joe).
C-129m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Frank Miller
The Unsinkable Molly Brown

The Unsinkable Molly Brown

Debbie Reynolds scored one of the triumphs of her career in 1964 as The Unsinkable Molly Brown, a frontierswoman who rises to wealth and power when her husband strikes it rich in Colorado and goes on to become a heroine when she survives the sinking of the Titanic. But though the part would bring Reynolds her only Oscar® nomination, she was not the first choice for the role. In fact, she had to fight just to get the director to direct her. Meredith Willson adapted Molly Brown's biography to the Broadway stage as a follow-up to his first major hit, The Music Man. Though The Unsinkable Molly Brown was not an unqualified smash, it made stars out of leading players Tammy Grimes and Harve Presnell. With the success of The Music Man on film, MGM was eager to pick up the rights to a similar musical. It would become the studio's last great musical film. The young, handsome Presnell was a natural for films and would be the only member of the original cast invited to reprise his role. As successful as Grimes had been on Broadway, however, Hollywood already had an ideal choice for Molly Brown, Shirley MacLaine, and she was eager to play the role. No sooner had she signed, however, than independent producer Hal Wallis, who had brought her to Hollywood in the '50s, claimed that she was still under contract to him. The legal complications forced MacLaine to withdraw from the role, which producer Lawrence Weingarten then offered to Reynolds. She jumped at the opportunity to star in a big musical of her own, even though she had to accept a lower fee than had been offered to MacLaine. Then the trouble started. First, Reynolds had to deal with MacLaine, who accused her of undercutting MacLaine's price to steal the role from her. Reynolds did her best to mollify her, arguing that MGM couldn't make the film with Wallis threatening a lawsuit and pleading that it was her last chance for a great film role. On the whole, she got off easier than Hollywood Reporter columnist Mike Connolly. When he reported that MacLaine had lost the part before any decision had even been made, she decked him. Reynolds' next hurdle was director Charles Walters. Although he had scored a hit directing her opposite Frank Sinatra in The Tender Trap (1955), he had his heart set on casting MacLaine as Molly Brown. He even tried to convince Reynolds to turn the part down. When she asked why he thought she was wrong for it, he told her, "You're much too short for the role." Reynolds quipped, "How short is the part?" then told him he was just plain wrong. His doubts continued through the location shooting in Colorado. In fact, he gave her so little direction that Reynolds turned to Lillian Burns, an accomplished acting coach with whom she had worked in her early days at MGM, to help her with the part. Finally, when the rushes started coming in, Walters conceded that she was right for the role. His doubts came back, however, when it came time to shoot Reynolds' biggest dance number, "He's My Friend." He even suggesting cutting it, claiming it was too tough for her to learn, but Reynolds insisted. MGM had slashed the film's budget because of cost overruns on Doctor Zhivago (1965), so Walters had to try to get the number in as few takes as possible. As insurance, he had TWO cameras simultaneously film a long take of the seven-minute number, a television technique rarely used on film. Reynolds pulled the number off without a hitch, though one of her male dancing partners fainted after it was over. The Unsinkable Molly Brown turned out to be a huge hit for MGM, becoming the third highest-grossing film of 1964. The picture garnered six Oscar® nominations, including Reynolds' Best Actress nod. She would prove wrong in her prediction that this would be her last great role. She would go on to turn in an Oscar®-worthy performance in Albert Brooks' 1996 comedy Mother. She and MacLaine would survive their differences, eventually teaming up for the television movie These Old Broads in 2001. Before that, MacLaine would play a role loosely based on Reynolds -- and with her blessing -- as the movie star mom in Postcards From the Edge (1990), written by Reynolds' daughter, Carrie Fisher. Producer: Lawrence Weingarten Director: Charles Walters Screenplay: Helen Deutsch Based on the Stage Musical by Meredith Willson & Richard Morris Cinematography: Daniel L. Fapp Art Direction: George W. Davis & E. Preston Ames Music: Meredith Willson Principal Cast: Debbie Reynolds (Molly Brown), Harve Presnell (Johnny Brown), Ed Begley (Shamus Tobin), Jack Kruschen (Christmas Morgan), Hermione Baddeley (Mrs. Grogan), Vassili Lambrinos (Prince Louis de Laniere), Harvey Lembeck (Polak), Hayden Rorke (Broderick), Martita Hunt (Grand Duchess Elise Lupovinova), Audrey Christie (Mrs. McGraw), Grover Dale (Jam), Maria Karnilova (Daphne), Gus Trikonis (Joe). C-129m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. by Frank Miller

Quotes

It's not the money I love, it's the not having it I hate.
- Molly Brown
Molly sure know what she was doin' when she made this place red. The blood don't show.
- Shamus Tobin

Trivia

Notes

Location scenes were filmed at Black Canyon, in the Gunniston National Monument Park in Colorado. Actor Harve Presnell, who reprised his role from the Broadway production, made his feature film debut in the picture.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer June 1964

Story is based on a real-life character.

Released in USA on video.

Released in United States Summer June 1964