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Debbie Reynolds (Actress)/Meredith Willson (Composer): Unsinkable Molly Brown [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] [Deluxe Edition]

Album Notes

Originally released on MGM.

Music composed & lyrics written by Meredith Willson.

Principal cast includes: Debbie Reynolds, Harve Presnell, Ed Begley, Hermoine Baddeley.

Includes liner notes by George Feltenstein.

Hollywood's version of Meredith Willson's first musical, The Music Man, a massive hit onstage, was largely faithful to the show and itself became a massively successful film. The movie adaptation of Willson's second musical, the modestly successful The Unsinkable Molly Brown, was less faithful and became a modestly successful film. Both followed the story of Molly Brown, a real historical figure who capped her rags-to-riches story by surviving the Titanic disaster. The MGM movie jettisoned stage star Tammy Grimes in favor of Debbie Reynolds, but retained male lead Harve Presnell, who made his film debut. Only four songs -- "Belly Up to the Bar, Boys," "I Ain't Down Yet," "I'll Never Say No," and "Johnny's Soliloquy" -- were retained from the 16-song show score, and they were augmented by "Colorado, My Home," a song that had been cut from the show shortly after it opened, and "He's My Friend," which Willson wrote for the film. (He also wrote a song called "Dignity," but it went unused and was never recorded.) The cuts were extreme, even including "If I Knew," the show's only real claim to a hit song. (Nat "King" Cole had scored a chart entry with it.) But the 128-minute film made up for the musical loss in production values and production numbers, and Reynolds was excellent in the frisky title role, earning an Oscar nomination. Deservedly, the movie turned a healthy profit, but it was outdistanced in a cinema year of musical blockbusters paced by Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady. The somewhat padded soundtrack album peaked just outside the Top Ten and earned periodic reissues. On November 21, 2000, Rhino, in association with Turner Entertainment, which owned the MGM film vault, reissued it in an expanded form that added 17 previously unreleased musical cues, consisting of underscoring and brief song reprises, to turn the old 40-minute LP into a 78-minute CD. In some cases, the instrumental music drew upon songs from the show score not otherwise featured in the film, such as "When Roses Bloom (The Beautiful People of Denver)." But the place to go for a complete version of the score was still the original Broadway cast album. ~ William Ruhlmann


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