Old Movie Teams

Weren’t they also in that other movie?

Debbie Reynolds & Thelma Ritter

Debbie Reynolds and Thelma Ritter appear together in two movies. Both are westerns and both portray similar relationships between the two actor’s characters: The Second Time Around (1961) and How the West Was Won (1962). In each match-up, Ms. Ritter plays the role of an elderly spinster (although there are suggestions of her having been married and widowed). She is outwardly seasoned, experienced, and hardened about what one can expect and deserves from life. Her exterior also lends some comic relief for her unabashed earthiness, common sense, and biting wit. Ms. Reynolds, on the other had, invariably portrays an inexperienced, yet strong-willed, woman in need of a chance to prove she can succeed and survive against hardship. Her character inevitably finds that she has no chance until Ms. Ritter’s character, at first reluctant to trust Ms. Reynold’s character, relents and reveals an inner softness and compassion, as well as a sly admiration for the verve and beauty of the woman Debbie Reynolds plays.

While these two movies are the only two in which Ms. Reynolds and Ms. Ritter collaborated in front of the same camera, there are two other movies noteworthy for something these two actresses share. The movies are separated by more than ten years for their theatrical releases, but they do place Ms. Reynolds and Ms. Ritter in the same role. These are, of course, Titanic (1953), in which Thelma Ritter portrays a character loosely, but unmistakably, based on Molly Brown, and The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), wherein Debbie Reynolds portrays the titular and historic character made famous for her reputed heroics during the 1912 ill fated maiden voyage of the Titanic.

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