Debbie Reynolds
Debbie Reynolds

And in June, 2011 the costumes and artifacts she had spent 45 years collecting were auctioned, with many of the best costumes sold to buyers from Japan, Korea, and Saudi Arabia.“Unsinkable,” which takes its title from her movie “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” is divided into two parts.  Part II simply recaps her career with comments from Reynolds on each of her movies.

The most affecting section of the book deals with Debbie Reynolds’ desperate attempts to find a home for her collection as she sinks deeper into the quicksand of debt.  Warren Buffet gives her this advice:  “Debbie, don’t sell the farm.”  She understood that Buffet was warning her that “by raising money for a museum to house the collection, I was risking the security I had after a lifetime of work.”

In default on a loan to build a museum in Hollywood, she owed $5.3 million.  Her children by Eddie Fisher, Todd and Carrie, urged her to sell. Throughout the pain of her third marriage, the tangle of lawsuits in Las Vegas, and the preparations for the auction, son Todd was her bulwark, the man on whom she could always count.

Molly Brown survived the sinking of the Titanic.  The collection was Debbie Reynolds’ lifeboat.  One costume, the dress that Marilyn Monroe wore as she stood on a subway grate in “The Seven Year Itch,” brought $4.6 million dollars.  Hundreds of other costumes sold for two or three or four times their estimated value.  The collection that Hollywood did not value had inestimable value for the rest of the world.  She was out of debt with money in the bank once more.

“I had saved the collection,” Debbie Reynolds wrote.  “And now the collection had saved me.”