The Unsinkable Molly Brown is a rowdy and sometimes rousing blend of song and sentiment, a converted stage tuner.
The film is adorned with the music and lyrics of Meredith Willson, although a number of his songs for the legiter have been excised and one new production number (He’s My Friend’) has been added.The dramatic story remains virtually intact.
It relates the adventures of Molly Brown, a hillbilly heroine who rises from poverty to become one of the richest and most celebrated women of her time. Shortly after her marriage to Leadville Johnny Brown he strikes it rich, and the rest of the picture depicts her feverish efforts to cut the mustard with snooty Denver society.
In essence, it’s a pretty shallow story since the title character, when you get right down to it, is obsessed with a very superficial, egotistical problem beneath her generous, razzmatazz facade. On top of that, Wilson’s score is rather undistinguished.
Debbie Reynolds thrusts herself into the role with an enormous amount of verve and vigor. At times her approach to the character seems more athletic than artful.
Harve Presnell, who created the role on Broadway in 1960, makes a generally auspicious screen debut as the patient Johnny. His fine, booming voice and physical stature make him a valuable commodity for Hollywood.
1964: Nominations: Best Actress (Debbie Reynolds), Color Cinematography, Color Costume Design, Color Art Direction, Adapted Music Score