The Man Who Came to Dinner

1942 comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Acerbic radio personality Sheridan Whiteside agrees to dine at the home of the Stanleys, but after slipping on ice on their front steps and injuring his hip, he has to stay indefinitely. He demands outrageously, entertains an assortment of eccentric pals, has an octopus and penguins sent to him, and finds numerous other ways to disrupt the Stanley household. Meanwhile, his assistant Maggie has fallen in love with a local newspaper writer, and Sheridan feels threatened by the idea.

What a fun movie. Not only do I get to use my "inexplicable penguin" tag, but there's a character named Banjo, always a plus. Most of the fun emanates from the title man coming to dinner. I don't know who Monty Woolley is, but I loved his performance and this character, just the type of old man I'd like to be some day, only not as gregarious. He's witty and he's mean, saying things like "My great aunt ate a whole box of candy every day of her life. She lived to be 102, and when she had been dead for three days, she looked better than you do now." This movie's a bit stagy and very scripty. There's nothing wrong with the performances; in fact, an unhinged Jimmy Durante as the aforementioned Banjo, the perpetually grinning Richard Travis, the egotistical Reginald Gardiner, society snob Ann Sheridan, et. al. bring this great enthusiasm to their roles. But it's all written to the point where it doesn't seem natural. Surely nobody ever talked like these people, right? However, when the script is this good, you really can ignore stuff like that. A lot of the humor is dated, to the point where a few references go over my head seventy years later, but the majority of this still works just great today. Insults, of course, are timeless. And I'm inspired by Whiteside to reintroduce the words "ducky" and "peachy" into my vocabulary.

1 comment:

cory said...

This film is 40's stagey and not very realistic, but is very literate and a lot of high energy fun. Wooley is great, though Durante kind of got on my nerves. I had forgotten all about the hilarious penguin bit. A 15.