"My great aunt Jennifer ate a whole box of candy every day of her life. She lived to be 102 and when she'd been dead for three days she looked better than you do now!"
Ghost here! Thanks for joining me today for yet another
I am, of course, talking about 1942's classic The Man Who Came To Dinner. It's very likely that many of you all have never heard of this film before. I hadn't heard of it till one December when my parents had Turner Classic Movies on and this happened to appear. It has everything you would expect from a Christmas movie such as an octopus, a group of convicted murderers, schemes to stop two people from falling in love, and more attitude and sass than I've ever seen in a movie. What? You don't think Christmas when you hear those things? Well don't let some of the strangeness about the script bother you because this is most definitely a Christmas film and it is absolutely fantastic!
Normally I wait till after the story to say whether it's any good or not but this film is a hilarious masterpiece. Let's take a look at exactly why it's so good shall we?
What's Good About It?
The writing and characterization in this film are excellent. Once you've watched this film you wouldn't be surprised in the least that it started off as a play on Broadway. The quick wit and modern lingo of many of these fairly memorable characters is almost unparalleled from many films that I've watched from this time period. There undoubtedly are other examples of such from older films but this is the best I've seen. Bette Davis does an excellent job playing the antithesis of her normal film roles. You can really feel for each of these characters they are that well written and acted. Each character brings something fresh and interesting to the film from Lorraine's diva nature, to John and Sarah's humble serving of the family.
Bad Weak About It?
This is another film where I truly cannot say that anything is bad with it. It's quite an excellent film. However the is one singular thing that people may consider weak about it. Bette Davis has even said there was one weakness to the film which was that it was not imaginatively shot. There is some justice to that statement because there is nothing overly artistic about how the actors were placed on the screen. Don't get me wrong it does quite the adequate job, it's just that there is nothing particularly fresh or new. That being said, it would be difficult for many people to be very imaginative in how to shoot a movie where 80% of it happens in one single room. While this is excellent for a play because you don't need to move sets around this makes for some rather unexciting filming. Luckily the characters and situation make up for any lack of imagination on the actual filming of the movie. You may find it distracting to feel as though you are watching someone simply filming a play but I think it gave a sense of charm to the whole experience.
Before I get to my conclusion, I just want to share with you some of my favorite lines of Sheridan Whiteside just so you can see why this character is a riot to watch on screen.
"I simply will not sit down with Mid-Western barbarians. I think too highly of my digestive system."
"Stand back please, don't come too close! I have several contagious diseases!"
"Take your fishhooks off me!"
"Will you take your clammy hand off my chair? You have the touch of a love-starved cobra."
"Now will you all leave quietly or shall I ask Ms. Cutler to pass among you with a baseball bat?"
"Go in there and read the Life of Florence Nightingale and learn how unfitted you are for your chosen profession."
"Strange? She's right out of The Hound of the Baskervilles!"
"If that's for Mrs. Stanley tell them she's too drunk to talk."
"There's nobody home! The Stanley's have been arrested for peddling dope. Go away!"
"There is only one point you make in which I see some slight justice. I do not expect you to pay for my telephone calls and I shall see that restitution is made. Can you provide me with the exact amount? Good! I shall instruct my lawyers to deduct it from the $150,000 that I am suing you for"
"Now look here, I am by nature a gracious and charming person. I'm afraid that when we first met I was definitely unpleasant to you. For that I am sorry and I wish that in the future you wouldn't treat me like something out of Edgar Allen Poe."
"Don't take that patronizing tone with me you flea-bitten Cleopatra."
"Doctor Bradley is the greatest living argument for mercy killing."
"Confound it June when are you going to learn that I'm always kind and courteous! Bring this idiot in!"
"Suppose your parents aren't happy with you. It's good for them. It develops their characters."
"Shut your nasty little face!"
"As long as I live I shall never do anyone a good turn ever again."
"Yes, the enemy is at my rear and nibbling!"
"I have fifteen minutes... fourteen minutes to pull out of my hat the most gigantic rabbit you've ever seen."
"Is there any cyanide in this orange juice, John? Go open the door John it's probably some mustard gas from an old friend."
The Man Who Came To Dinner is a fantastic film. The fact that it can be centered around such a man as Sheridan Whiteside and we can still find him perfectly charming and amusing is a testament to the script writers. It's something that never ceases to amuse me no matter how many times I watch it. The contrast of such a cynical man portrayed at such a joyous time of year has always been of interest to people, hence the popularity of films such as Bad Santa and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Sure at first glance this movie doesn't sound like it has a lot to do with Christmas, but then again films such as Miracle on 34th Street and It's A Wonderful Life are Christmas Classics yet both only brush past "normal" Christmas themes. It's A Wonderful Life is the story about a man tired of his life being shown what the world would be like without him; it just happens to take place at Christmas. Miracle on 34th Street is mostly about a man being involved in a family's life while being Santa Claus at Macy's which then turns into a large court case to see if he's the real Santa or not... ok maybe that's not a good example but you get the point. Several Christmas films aren't in your face with Christmas cheer or sappy moments, and this is one of them. The Man Who Came To Dinner is mostly about Sheridan Whiteside's interference in people's lives but it just happens to take place at Christmas.
If you don't mind black and white movies, can enjoy cynicism and the occasional polite nastiness for comedic effect then this may just be something you'll enjoy as well! It's a Christmas Must-Watch for me and my family and I hope you will enjoy it as well!
This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.
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