Determined young Molly leaves her poor family and heads to Denver hoping to marry rich and become educated. After meeting the humble Johnny Brown and striking it rich, Denver society refuses to accept Molly. Thirsty for approval, Molly’s relentless attempts to win their favour puts the relationship with Johnny and her family at risk.
NOMINATED FOR 6 OSCARS – Actress, Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume, Music and Sound.
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“Nothing nor nobody wants me down like I wants me up!”
Surviving a flood as a baby, growing up with brothers who constantly tease her and withstanding the tough Colorado wilderness, Molly was born to handle whatever life threw her way with humour and guts. Loosely based on the real-life story of Titanic survivor Margaret Brown, The Unsinkable Molly Brown was a 1964 film release based on the Broadway musical. After surviving the Colorado Flood, Molly (Debbie Reynolds) is adopted by a kind but poor man (Ed Begley) and his sons. Grateful for his kindness but wanting more for herself, she sets out towards Denver, vowing to learn to read and write and only marry rich.
Instead, Molly meets Johnny Brown (Harve Presnell) on her way to Denver. He’s charming, gracious and hospitable. But he’s not rich. Declining his offer to stay with him, Molly continues on her way, earning her keep at a saloon where she serves drinks and plays the piano badly. When she meets Johnny again, she has a proposition for him: teach her to read and write. Enamoured, he takes up the challenge and they fall in love and get married. Suddenly striking it rich in gold, Molly and Johnny move to Denver, build a gigantic house and enjoy the luxurious life – except they have no friends as the rest of Denver society isn’t impressed with the “nouveau riche” couple on Pennsylvania Street. But that won’t stop Molly from climbing up, because “up means hope. And that’s just what I got!”
Also Oscar nominated for its cinematography, the film has some breathtaking shots of Colorado Mountains, ridges and landscapes. As well, the sets are gorgeous with Johnny’s humble but lovely cabin in the woods to the huge house in Denver filled with red – an entire room of red. The costumes vary from loose fabrics and neutral colours to tight-fitting evening dresses, top-hats and lush colours.
As Molly and Johnny climb higher in European society, Molly begins to embrace the good life whereas Johnny yearns to return to Colorado. The film handles their differing ambitions and disagreements well. With her marriage at risk, Molly travels back to Europe alone and finally realizes that her quest for money was actually her journey to discovering herself and what truly matters: love.
Although Margaret Brown famously survived the sinking of the Titanic, keeping up the spirits of a lifeboat of passengers, the film rushes through this event. The sinking occurs in the last fifteen minutes with quick cuts of Molly shouting orders and a stock image of the Titanic sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Returning to Denver, Molly is finally accepted and celebrated by all those who snubbed her before. The film doesn’t delve into the event further, choosing to focus on the relationship between her and Johnny and Molly’s acceptance of all her accomplishments and mistakes.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown is an entertaining musical with energetic performances from the entire cast. Reynolds carries the film well, creating a spirited character with life and verve. Following the story of an underdog who accomplishes her goals, almost loses it all and finally triumphs is hugely satisfying.