The Unsinkable Molly Brown is a big and brassy rags to riches story. 20th century socialite Margaret Brown was known to her friends as Maggie, but known to the world as the “Unsinkable Molly Brown.” She’s perhaps the most famous person to survive the sinking of the RMS Titanic. I got to know her by watching Kathy Bates’ portrayal in Titanic (1997). Blissfully unaware that her life story was turned into a 1960 Broadway musical. The movie adaptation is a lot of fun, but it would be nothing without an Oscar nominated performance from Debbie Reynolds.
Molly is found floating down the Colorado River in a basket. She’s raised as a rough ‘n’ tumble tomboy, but dreams of a better life. Ed Begley plays her old fashioned pa Seamus who wishes her luck on her journey. Molly’s dreams change when she ends up singing in a saloon and marrying poor Leadville miner Johnny Brown played by newcomer Harve Presnell. He teaches her how to read and they have a hasty wedding in a cabin built by him. When a gold supply makes them rich, Molly and Johnny live a lavish lifestyle.
Molly is the same fun loving person she was before, but she decides to seek culture when her wealthy Denver town doesn’t accept her. Her neighbor Gladys is a big naysayer, but her country mother Buttercup played by Hermione Baddeley does accept them. When Molly drifts away from her husband, she finally realizes what’s important in life on her way home from Europe. There isn’t much Titanic in the movie, but the iceberg and Molly’s heroism on the lifeboat are enough. Songs are more scarce than the original musical, but they help make The Unsinkable Molly Brown an unsinkable hit.