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Debbie Reynolds

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By the early 1960s, good roles for an aging ingénue were becoming scarce and Debbie struggled to find material suited to her talents. 

In Paramount's MY SIX LOVES (1963) she plays a successful stage actress on the verge of collapse who goes to Connecticut to rest and ends up adopting six orphans and romancing the local minister.  Directed by Debbie's former MGM contemporary Gower Champion, the comedy was criticized for its cloying cheerfulness and marked the beginning of a distinct decline in Debbie's film career.

Her next film, Warner Bros.'s film adaptation of Jean Kerr's hit Broadway comedy MARY, MARY (1963), about a recently divorced couple who attempt to break up each other's new romances, provided better source material, but Debbie's performance in the film was preceded by the reputation of the play's star, Barbara Bel Geddes, and reviewers did not compare the two performances in Debbie's favor.


In 1964, Debbie vigorously fought for and won the title role in MGM's film adaptation of Meredith Wilson's western musical THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN, the true story of an uneducated orphan from rural Colorado who marries a man with a silver mine and attempts to crash Denver society with her newfound wealth.  Despite the presence of Harve Presnell who had starred in the stage show, Debbie essentially carries the picture single-handedly with her ever-present vitality, never letting up until the curtain comes down.  Playing Molly Brown (one of her favorite film characters) for all she's worth, Debbie was even recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with a Best Actress nomination for her efforts.  And though Debbie didn't win the award, MOLLY BROWN ranked among the top three money-making films of 1964, providing a much needed boost to her declining career.

Multimedia clips from THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN (1964):

Click here"Main Title" (clip) by the MGM Studio Orchestra  (a .MP2 file courtesy Rhino Records).
Click here"I Ain't Down Yet" (clip) sung with Grover Dale & Gus Trikonis (a .MP2 file courtesy Rhino Records).
Click here "I Ain't Down Yet (reprise)" with Harve Presnell (a .AVI file courtesy MGM).


Debbie in another of her raucous rural tomboy roles, THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN, based on a real-life character who rose from rural Colorado to join the international social scene and even survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.

Still More Memorable Quotations:

  • "Well, if giving your bathroom shower curtains to the Hungarian Relief isn't kookie, I'd like to know what is." --as Nell Nash in THE GAZEBO.
  • "I wish this had happened in Los Angeles...  They're always finding bodies out there.  They don't think anything of it." --as Nell Nash in THE GAZEBO.
  • "Tell me something.  What does it take to convince you you're not wanted? A gun?" --as Maggie Putnam in IT STARTED WITH A KISS.
  • "Well, we finally agree on something.  Falling in love is no reason to get married." --as Maggie Putnam in IT STARTED WITH A KISS.
  • "It ain't the money I love, Pa.  It's the not havin' any I hate." --as Molly Brown in THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN.
  • "You're no prize.  Where I come from we drown runts of the litter like you." --as Molly Brown in THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN.
  • "I can sing the hogs out of the hills." --as Molly Brown in THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN.
  • "Nobody's gonna stop me.  Nothin's gonna get me down." --as Molly Brown in THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN.
  • "Well, dip me and fry me!" --as Molly Brown in THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN.
  • "I'm interested in ev'rthin', 'cause I don't know nothin'." --as Molly Brown in THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN.
  • "Well, drop my drawers!  It's Gladys McGraw." --as Molly Brown in THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN.
  • "I always said she was nuts." --in THE BODYGUARD (1992).
  • Click here "Movie Talk: Debbie Reynolds talks of her career." (a .MP3 file).

Later that year, Debbie played the beautiful blonde reincarnation of a murdered gangster who comes back to haunt Tony Curtis (at left with Debbie and Pat Boone) in GOODBYE CHARLIE (1964).  Directed by Vincente Minnelli with whom, for all their time together at MGM, Debbie had never worked, this adaptation of George Axelrod's popular stage comedy fell flat on film.


In 1966, Debbie starred as the title character in MGM's THE SINGING NUN, another musical based on a real-life character, this time a Belgian nun who made a hit record of religious songs and even appeared on TV's "The Ed Sullivan Show."  Also featuring the MGM-of-old presence of Greer Garson, Agnes Moorehead and Ricardo Montalban, THE SINGING NUN was short on plot and considered archaically wholesome by mid-sixties audiences, but sustained itself with Debbie's recordings of Soeur Sourire's hit songs, including "Brother John" and "Dominique." 

Click here"Dominique" (clip) (a .MP3 file courtesy MGM).


Now in her mid-thirties, Debbie played a character her own age in DIVORCE AMERICAN STYLE (1967), a well-received black comedy about a couple (Debbie and Dick Van Dyke) who find being married to each other easier than being divorced.  Also featuring Jason Robards, Jean Simmons and Van Johnson, DIVORCE AMERICAN STYLE provided another brief buoy to Debbie's sagging film career and earned an Oscar nomination for its screenwriters, Robert Kaufman and Norman Lear.

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Last updated: March 10, 2011.
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