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Movies: “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”

June 11, 1964 - Opening today is “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” a Western musical comedy film directed by Charles Walters and starring Debbie Reynolds. The screenplay by Helen Deutsch is based on the book of the 1960 musical of the same name by Richard Morris. The song score was composed by Meredith Willson. The plot is a fictionalized account of the life of Margaret Brown, who survived the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic.

Harve Presnell was the sole member of the original Broadway cast who was invited to reprise his stage role in the film. Although Tammy Grimes had originated the title role and had won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance, MGM executives wanted Shirley MacLaine for the film. After she signed, producer Hal Wallis claimed she was under contract to him, and MacLaine was forced to withdraw from the project.

After this, many people wanted Judy Garland. Garland was reported to be the star of the film in 1961. When Debbie Reynolds was cast instead, MacLaine publicly accused her of agreeing to accept a lower salary in order to land the role, and director Charles Walters, who preferred MacLaine, tried to persuade Reynolds to turn down the part, to no avail.

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