Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Man Who Came to Dinner|
Actors: Bette Davis, Monty Woolley, Ann Sheridan, Jimmy Durante, Billie Burke
Genres: Comedy, Drama
A pompous lecturer is forced to spend the winter inside a prominent Ohio family's home due to injury and proceeds to meddle with the lives of everyone in the household.
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A Marxian Treat
J. Merritt | 03/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Nurse: You shouldn't eat chocolates, Mr. Whiteside. They're bad for you.
Whiteside: My great aunt Jennifer ate a box of candy every day of her life. She lived to be 102, and when she had been dead three days she looked better than you do now.
Based on the stage hit by Kaufman/Hart and adapted for the screen by Julius and Philip Epstein (who also did some thing called "Casablanca"), "The Man Who Came to Dinner" may be one of the ten funniest pictures ever made. In a thinly disguised caricature of Alexander Woolcott, Monty Woolley is Sheridan Whiteside, an acerbic New York critic and lecturer who breaks a leg while in a small town and is forced to live temporarily with an uptight local couple (Grant Mitchell and Billie Burke) who aren't at all pleased about their new guest. Whiteside proceeds to take over the house, move in his secretary (Bette Davis), endlessly berate his nurse (Mary Wickes), re-direct the lives of the couple's children, have all manner of visitors, and generally reek havoc.
Some knowledge of the literary and theatrical figures of the 30's and 40's helps in appreciating all the in-jokes, but even without that foreknowledge this is still a hilarious film. Woolley was reprising his role from Broadway, and he so dominates the proceedings that Davis, at the height of her powers and popularity, is almost superfluous. Guest appearances by Ann Sheridan and Jimmy Durante (a veiled interpretation of Harpo Marx) liven up the stagey interpretation, and there's an uninteresting subplot about Davis and the local reporter, but for the most part it's Woolley's show. Hart and Kaufman had both worked with the Marx Brothers, and it shows: The script is an endless string of stinging one-liners and retorts. For anyone who enjoys classic comedies, this is not to be missed."
Douglas M | 07/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The film version of Kaufman and Hart's hit Broadway comedy "The Man who Came to Dinner" is a first rate Warner Brother's production of 1941. While Monty Woolley gets third billing to Bette Davis and Ann Sheridan, clearly for box office reasons, the film centres around his ferrocious performance based on Alexander Woollcott.
The story is simple. An egocentric celebrity arrives in a small town in Ohio, fractures his hip on the icy steps outside the house of one of the town's emminent citizens, threatens to sue and moves in to recuperate. In doing so, he takes over the household with his entourage and the film follows the resultant mayhem. The film has an ensemble cast supporting Woolley and everyone has their moment. There are endless references to the "in crowd" of 1941 and the film requires numerous viewings to pick up all the one liners because the jokes are fast and furious. The direction is featureless and the film is static but it is the dialogue which counts so the unimaginative direction doesn't really matter.
Davis takes a supporting role as Woolley's secretary and demonstrates her claim that she did NOT always have to take centre stage if the script was good. She is funny and sardonic and in her romantic scenes, nobody could be as relaxed and comfortable as she was on the screen, almost convincing us that such a sophisticated woman could fall for a hick newspaper man, the handsome Richard Travis. Ann Sheridan is tart, sexy and devastatingly attractive as Lorraine Sheldon, said to be based on Gertrude Lawrence. She was filming "King's Row" at the same time and always said she did not care about this film because King's Row was much more important. Nevertheless, she certainly enhanced her stardom with this hilarious performance. All the others are terrific - Mary Wickes as the bewildered nurse, Billy Burke as the scatty mother, Jimmy Durante as Harpo Marx and Reginald Gardiner as Noel Coward etc etc. Special mention of Grant Mitchell as the harried father of the household, a superb foyle for Woolley's vitriol and with a memorable final moment in the film.
The print is excellent and the extras include the original trailer, with evidence of a scene cut from the film, a worthwhile short commentary and a terrific short containing Six Hits and a Miss harmonising "You gotta know how to dance", a song from the 1936 musical "Colleen" with the dance by Ruby Keeler and Paul Draper interpolated from that film.
It is fantastic that this film is finally available on DVD, whether as part of the Davis Collection Volume 2 or on its own."
Spend some time with the world's worst houseguest
Joseph P. Menta, Jr. | Philadelphia, PA USA | 08/20/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Well, I recently had a wonderful experience watching "The Little Foxes", a darkly dramatic Bette Davis film rich with razor-sharp dialogue, so I guess it should be no surprise that I also had a wonderful time watching this silly, comedic Bette Davis film rich with razor-sharp dialogue. Serious or funny, it seems clear that 40's-era Bette Davis films tend to deliver the banter. The change here is that Ms. Davis isn't the one delivering the edgy witticisms, at least not most of them. That job goes to the very entertaining Monty Woolley, who plays the houseguest from Hell.
After you enjoy the ridiculous but great fun of "The Man Who Came To Dinner", be sure to check out the brief story-behind-the-film featurette also included on the disc. It contains many fascinating anecdotes about the real-life inspirations behind many of the characters and situations in the film.
One last thought: you really have to admire a movie that manages to squeeze in goofy pratfalls, great lines, live penquins (four of them), an octopus in a crate, and a radiant Bette Davis, and have it all make sense! Have fun with this one. I did."
A Vintage Comedy Great!
Rosie | Otego, New York | 08/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Monty Woolley is an absolute treasure in this movie, which also includes a very young (and nice!) Bette Davis, with a great supporting cast including the glamorous Ann Sheridan and loveable Jimmy Durante. The film is loosely based on the personality of the famed New York "Algonquin Table" regular, Alexander Wolcott (the "bell ringer" on radio talk shows). The great acting, direction, writing, and staging exceed the charming plot: grumpy, ascerbic, celebrity best-selling author falls on the slippery steps at home of wealthy, urbane hosts, and promptly takes over the lives of the entire household, at Christmas time. It's comedy movie making at its very best!"