Thursday, April 18, 2013

Unsinkable Debbie Reynolds

I stayed awake the whole night through reading Unsinkable: A Memoir. Thanks to Debbie Reynolds and Dorian Hannaway for giving me such enjoyable insomnia. But describing Unsinkable is not easy. Is it a thriller? A modern Book of Job? A humorous showbiz romp? A behind-the-scenes Hollywood exposé? A heartfelt love story? I think the answer has to be “Yes” to all of the above.

In this candid memoir, Debbie (now 81 years young) pulls no punches as she looks back at the ups and downs of her personal and professional life. Of course, her millions of fans know a great deal about Debbie because she’s been entertaining us – either on film, television or in live shows -- for over six decades. And she’s even joked openly about her bad luck with three husbands. But Unsinkable includes many intriguing surprises – and some quite shocking ones. For example, I did not know that Debbie actually feared someone might kill her at one point in her life. That part of her memoir comes across as more chilling than many a thriller I’ve seen lately on the big or small screen. And although I realized Debbie was having trouble trying to create a museum for her awesome collection of movie costumes and memorabilia, I had no idea how much that project cost her -- both emotionally and financially.

Remarkably, no matter how serious the problem, Debbie soldiered on – just like the character she plays in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, her favorite role. Writing about one dark point in her life, Debbie explains, “I thought about all the hard fights I’d had in my life and career and remembered that I love to work. I love to perform and make audiences happy. They make me happy, and it’s all joy.” As someone who’s seen Debbie’s live shows, I can vouch for how happy she makes her audiences.

Preserving important movie costumes and memorabilia ranks as another love of Debbie’s life. Unsinkable takes us though her trials and tribulations related to that goal. And they are absolutely heartbreaking! But, clearly, love for daughter Carrie Fisher and son Todd Fisher comes across as the most important thing for Debbie – and she dedicated this book to them.

Because I’m a practicing movie addict, my favorite section of the book is Debbie’s personal tour through every one of her films – from June Bride (1948) to Behind the Candelabra, scheduled for release this year (2013) and in which she portrays Liberace’s mother. Her amusing anecdotes concerning directors, fellow actors and the way she feels now about each movie are absolutely priceless! I’m also impressed by the beautiful photos included in this wonderful memoir.

How does Debbie sum up her remarkable journey? “In many ways, my life has been like a fairy tale. I kissed a lot of frogs, but I got a prince and Princess Leia. After thrilling triumphs and some terrible setbacks, I’m still here. I hope we all live happily ever after!” Amen to that, Debbie.

(Unsinkable: A Memoir is published by William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers. It’s available on

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  • Thank-you so much for your wonderful review Betty Jo!

    I met Debbie after one of her performances at a dinner theater. She came up to me and before I had time to tell her how much I enjoyed her show she said; "You are beautiful!"

    The love Debbie Reynolds poured into me lifted me so high I have never touched the ground since! After two hours of dancing and singing, she was still giving to the audience, not just me but to everyone that she spoke to while munching on a plate of food.

    I am going to purchase her book right now. I love Ms. Reynolds and consider her one of the best performers I have been fortunate enough to see a live performance of.

    Thank-you again for letting me know about your review Betty-Jo!

    Judy Joy Jones

    By Blogger Joy of The Judy Joy Jones Show, At 10:27 AM  

  • Thanks so much for sharing your personal experience with Debbie as well as your perceptive feelings about this legendary entertainer, dear Joy!

    By Blogger Betty Jo, At 11:21 AM  

  • Hi Betty Jo!

    Thanks for your great review, you really picked up on some good points.

    I, too, did not know about the "balcony attempt" and that really quite surprised me.

    You can really feel the love Debbie had for the museum and dedication she had to it. So sad it was not meant to be!

    Debbie is absolutely the best and always will be in my eyes.

    Gloria Walters

    By Blogger Gloria, At 8:27 PM  

  • I'm very happy you enjoyed my review of Debbie's memoir, Gloria! your comments are greatly appreciated. And, yes, Debbie is the best indeed!

    By Blogger Betty Jo, At 3:34 PM  

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