It was the title that first caught my attention more than anything else—The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
I wanted that. I wanted to be the Unsinkable Molly Murphy.
I was drawn to the title that held my name and the adjective that held it up. And then there was Debbie Reynolds—oh, Debbie Reynolds!
Long before The Unsinkable Molly Brown entered my life, Singin’ in the Rain had entered my living room.
I’m the girl you invite to trivia night to cover your bases when that odd question comes up about pop culture before the 70s. Anything that a classic movie portrayed between the late-20s and the mid-50s? I’ve watched it, read about it, absorbed it and watched it again.
My mom calls the actors and actresses in those old films my friends because I spend so much time with them. And you know what? I do think of them as friends. If not friends, perhaps at the very least close acquaintances.
I still remember the first time I saw Debbie Reynolds on screen. My grandma pressed play on the VCR and the expression on her face revealed to me all that I needed to know. I think I captured that moment in a mental photograph, because the memory feels vivid, as if I can relive the moment. I can see the voices, hear the songs and feel the emotions that movie evoked in me.
That was Singin’ in the Rain and it has been a favorite ever since.
At the time, I was taking dance classes. I studied one scene in particular over and over again. I practiced those steps. I recreated the entire dance just so that I could pretend for a moment to be that character, to be Debbie Reynolds.
Years later I was no longer dancing, but I was still watching movies. In fact, it was movies that got me through almost a decade of chronic illness and debilitating symptoms.
I remember watching The Unsinkable Molly Brown for the first time and there as well, I have the most distinct mental image of the moment. I can see the beautiful Debbie Reynolds, but more than that I can feel what I was feeling as I watched her.
That evening as I saw her portray Molly Brown, she instilled in me a bit more courage to keep up my own fight—to hold my chin a little higher and to aim for that “unsinkable” nature. Watching Singin’ in the Rain with my grandma she inspired in me a love and joy for the movies that I have never lost. She was pure movie magic and she held that role with an honor and grace throughout her life.
I have a debt of gratitude to pay to the Unsinkable Debbie Reynolds, for she helped me dig deep, finding the hidden pieces of my own character that I saw reflected in her characters on screen.
And I think I’m safe in saying that I am far from the only person whom the lovely Ms. Reynolds inspired throughout her career and her life.
Thank you, Ms. Reynolds, for your heart and your passion—for your life spent in the pursuit of being unsinkable in spite of the odds. And thank you for inspiring us to do the same.
This weekend I’m going to watch a few of my favorite Debbie Reynolds films, and I’d like to invite you to join me. Call a friend, pop some popcorn and grab a seat on the couch! Let’s keep the spark of movie magic alive.
If you’re not sure where to begin I’d suggest these:
>> Singin’ in the Rain: If you haven’t watched this movie, please, I beg you, watch it now! This is my litmus test for human character. If you can watch this movie without cracking a smile or laughing out loud, I’m not sure we can be friends. Sorry, not sorry. The plot is a little confusing but it involves a boy and a girl and another girl, which is usually a recipe for trouble. And to round out the fun, it takes place during the period in time when they were just beginning to add sound to movies, and it’s a lot of fun to see how that might have played out! Enjoy this classic starring a very young Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly, and Donold O’Connor.
>> The Unsinkable Molly Brown: I think the title says it all, but you’ve really got to watch it to appreciate just how much it says. This a story of not just survival, but of learning to appreciate the hand you’ve been dealt.
>> The Tender Trap: A story about love and the business of it. The story line is outdated, yes, but the acting makes up for that. Debbie swoons over an indignant bachelor, namely, Frank Sinatra.
>> Bundle of Joy: A musical remake of a comedy from 1939, this version has Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher together. It’s a light-hearted comedy about an abandoned child and and the unlikely mess that ensues when an unmarried girl cares for it.
>> The Catered Affair: This one I haven’t seen yet, so it’s going to the top of my list. But it’s a grand family drama centered around the engagement of a daughter, and the wedding the mother wants. This is a classic with acting that can be nothing but brilliant from a cast with Bette Davis, Ernest Borgnine and Debbie Reynolds.
“I only had radio growing up, so I loved going to the movies. I always had a thing for a fairy-tale ending.” ~ Debbie Reynolds
Author: Molly Murphy
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