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In early 1900s' Pennsylvania, Mr. Pennypacker has two company offices and two families with a combined total of 17 children. With an office in Harrisburg and an office in Philadelphia, he has successfully kept two separate homes. However, when an emergency requires his oldest son to find him, Mr. Pennypacker's dual life is revealed. Written by
"The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker" is one of the very strangest Hollywood films I have ever seen and I certainly understand why it's one of Clifton Webb's least famous films. This is because the film is intended to be a comedy AND an endorsement of polygamy! Seriously--the film is very much pro-polygamy!! It really makes you wonder what the writer and executives were thinking when they came up with this one!! Perhaps massive head injuries, alcohol or psychedelics might be at the root of this one!!! Even today, most folks would be surprised at such a film.
Clifton Webb plays the title character. He's a successful businessman and free thinker. And, when I say free thinker, this is an understatement! Not only is he pro-evolution in a time when this was NOT popular but it turns out he's a bigamist--something that is discovered during the course of the film. However, Webb is not the least bit apologetic and thinks he's justified to have multiple families since he takes care of their financial and emotional needs (a position that is quite acceptable with some religions). His views are not based on religion (he seems areligious) but due to his own unusual asocial views.
At first, his family in Harrisburg is shocked. The ones who take it worst are his father as well as a daughter who is just about to marry a minister! As for the Harrisburg wife, she is MUCH more understanding than you'd expect, though she is not happy. She's happier when she learns later that the mother in Philadelphia has since died (though they were BOTH married to the same man at the same time). However, all told, there are 17 kids from both marriages!! And, in the end, they decide to make a giant family--much like Webb had in "Cheaper By the Dozen"--just a bit more...um....bigamistic (is this a word? I think it should be if it isn't).
Overall, the plot is just insane and the film is STILL a bit offensive and very unfunny today--so it makes you wonder how this flew in 1959!! Audiences must have gone ape! And, I assume, the film must have lost a fortune. A major misfire that simply couldn't work as a comedy. Interestingly, Edmond O'Brien made a film about bigamy ("The Bigamist") and it worked exceptionally well...and was NOT done for laughs. Despite good acting and lush sets, "The Incredible Mr. Pennypacker" is annoying, unfunny and a waste of talent.
By the way, this is NOT meant as criticism at all, but I find it odd that Webb starred in this and "Cheaper By the Dozen". These two films were about men with apparently VERY strong heterosexual libidos, though Webb himself was gay and lived most of his life with his mother. You wonder how he might have been as a father--like the men in these films or perhaps like Mr. Belvedere? Who knows. All I know is that his adult life, outside of acting, sounded rather lonely.
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