As I’ve mentioned before, my love for old movies is sort of embarrassing….I may or may not be known to quote lines or burst into song from various classic musicals from the ’40’s & ’50’s! So many vintage flicks are a nod to a forgotten era in film making, but still special enough to keep on enjoying for generations to come. I suppose it’s the sentimental old fool in me that loves to continue watching these movies whenever I get the chance.
This past Friday evening was our “girls’ night” since the boys in the family had all headed north to help open up our cabin for the season. So we decided it was time to break out the classics and cuddle up with a blanket and some Ben & Jerry’s! It was definitely one of those, “come in your PJ’s” type evenings, which is totally fine with me!
My mom, my sisters and I voted on an all time favorite for our viewing pleasure – The Unsinkable Molly Brown. This 1964 American musical film featuring Debbie Reynolds, is a fictionalized account of the life of Margaret Brown, who survived the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic. The movie was made for the big screen 4 years after it was a huge success on Broadway, and features 5 of the songs from the musical.
It’s the story of a tomboy girl Molly Brown, rescued from the Colorado River flood as an infant, and raised by a poor Irish man, who grows up determined to find a wealthy man to marry. She ventures off on her own, meets miner Johnny Brown, and is hired as a saloon singer. Johnny, or JJ, pursues Molly and teaches her to read and write. The two wed, and he sells his claim in a silver mine for $300,000.
One of the funniest scenes in the movie is when Johnny comes home from selling the mine with $300,000 cash and Molly needs to find a place to keep it safe inside the cabin. She tries many different places, but decides the best location for it is inside of the cast iron stove! Well, unbeknownst to Johnny, he comes in from the cold and lights a fire, burning up all the money! It’s quite a scene as JJ chases a hysterical Molly around the room trying to console her.
Soon after the money Molly hid in the stove accidentally is burned, Johnny discovers the richest gold vein in state history. The Browns move to Denver, into an enormous mansion.
Side note: I’ve been to Colorado and toured the actual Victorian mansion that Molly Brown & her husband lived in back in the late 1800’s. It’s really beautiful!
Determined to integrate with the city’s elite, known as the “Sacred 36,” much to Molly’s dismay, they are snubbed by their wealthy neighbors who feel as though their “Rocky Mountain rudeness” is too much to handle.
The Browns decide to travel to Europe, where they are embraced by royalty, and the couple return to Denver with their new friends. Molly’s plan to introduce them to the people who formerly rejected her is derailed by Johnny’s rough and tumble friends, whose unexpected and boisterous arrival ruins the gala party Molly is hosting.
At this point in the film, Johnny and Molly have a falling out. She continues to stay determined and pig-headed about becoming one of the elite, while JJ refuses and wants to return to their quiet, simpler life in the Colorado mountains. Molly decides to return to Europe, leaving Johnny behind.
She initially falls for the charms of Prince Louis de Lanière, but eventually decides she prefers to live with Johnny in Colorado. For the first time in her life, she realizes that she has been selfish and she needs to make things right.
Setting sail for home aboard the Titanic, she becomes a heroine when the ship sinks and she helps rescue many of her fellow passengers. When her deed makes international headlines, Molly is welcomed home by Johnny and the people of Denver. The movie ends with Johnny and Molly in an emotional embrace, reuniting together again at last.
Aside from the phenomenal acting in this movie by Debbie Reynolds – her character is an eccentric, high-spirited type and she plays it so well – the music is also really enjoyable. The actor who plays Johnny, Harve Presnell, was also the sole member of the original Broadway cast who was invited to reprise his stage role in the film. His musical talent in the film is recognizable, especially in scenes where he bellows out his song in the middle of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, where the film was made in western Colorado.
The film was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Reynolds was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.
Even though the film takes several liberties with the plot line regarding the life of Molly Brown, it still loosely follows the real events of her life.
She was quoted at one point,
“I wanted a rich man, but I loved Jim Brown. I thought about how I wanted comfort for my father and how I had determined to stay single until a man presented himself who could give to the tired old man the things I longed for him. Jim was as poor as we were, and had no better chance in life. I struggled hard with myself in those days. I loved Jim, but he was poor. Finally, I decided that I’d be better off with a poor man whom I loved than with a wealthy one whose money had attracted me. So I married Jim Brown.”
She also really did survive the sinking of the Titanic back in April of 1912. Brown helped others board the lifeboats but was finally persuaded to leave the ship herself. Brown was later called “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” by authors because she helped in the ship’s evacuation, taking an oar herself in her lifeboat and urging that the lifeboat go back and save more people.
For whatever reason, this has always been one of my favorite old films. I love the tenacious spirit of Molly Brown – her motto through the whole movie is, “ain’t nobody ever gonna bring me down!” The music, the costumes, the dancing and the love story – not to mention the scenery from the Colorado mountain range – is all just so wonderful.
Definitely worth checking out this vintage flick at your local library or renting it through Amazon Video the next time you get together for a girls’ old movie night in!