In the preface to Unsinkable, Reynolds mentions her first book, Debbie: My Life (William Morrow, 1988), written when the actress was in her fifties and, it would seem, still had a lot of living left to do. "I can't believe how naive I was when I wrote it," Reynolds in Unsinkable says of the earlier book. She explains that at the time she was writing the first book she was in what she believed was a happy marriage to her third husband, a Virginia real estate developer named Richard Hamlett.
In Unsinkable, Reynolds offers a detailed portrait of Hamlett as a handsome, smooth-talking scoundrel who, she maintains, cold-heartedly entered into marriage with the intention of swindling her. The first third of the book is Reynolds' painstaking and angrily told account of how Hamlett's unscrupulous behavior led to the bankruptcy of her Las Vegas hotel, a venture which she hoped would provide a regular venue for her talents along with a steady income. Consequently, in Unsinkable there is much talk, perhaps too much talk, of lawyers and property deeds and promissory notes.
|Bankruptcy auction, Debbie Reynolds hotel, Las Vegas, 1998|
(photo/Jeff Scheid/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
|Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, 2011.|
(Photo: Jason LaVeris/Film Magic)
|Reynolds with her costume collection, 2011.|
(Photo Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times)
|Reynolds, at age 19, with Donald O'Connor (left) and Gene|
Kelly in Singin' in the Rain (Photo/Warner Home Video)
|Reynolds in her movie star prime, 1959.|
One doesn't need to go far out on a limb to say that Singin' in the Rain is probably the only film in the Reynolds oeuvre that is considered of lasting value. Nevertheless, The Committee Room offers the following list --
The Essential Films of Debbie Reynolds (Besides Singin' in the Rain)
How the West Was Won (1962) -- Filmed in the three-screen novelty process Cinerama. This mega-movie about the folks who tamed the frontier looks back to pageant-style epics like The Ten Commandments and forward to the 1970s TV mini-series Roots. All roles are played by recognizable performers and Reynolds' character is at the center of the sprawling multi-generational story line. For this reason HTWWW can justifiably be considered the apogee of Debbie's film career though it is unlikely to come to mind when conjuring up the idea of a Debbie Reynolds movie. Reynolds travels by flatboat down the Ohio River with her farmfolk parents (Agnes Moorehead and Karl Malden) crosses the plains on a wagon train (led by Robert Preston), becomes a California dance hall girl, marries a caddish gambler (Gregory Peck), and finally ends up as an elderly woman in Arizona. The final scene offers a hamming it up Reynolds, in a gray wig and old person makeup, atop a horse drawn wagon. She cackles and back slaps away to her nephew and his wife played by George Peppard and Carolyn Jones who were probably struggling not to laugh.
Brother John" left an earworm that remains lodged in the brain more than a half-century later. So beware.
The Committee Room. Time spent with TCR, like time spent with a cat, is never wasted.