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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film's main scheme has professor Stewart granting his
mathematical-genius eight-year-old's fervent wish to meet Brigitte
Bardot (then at the height of her sex appeal). The two go to Paris, and
young Erasmus (Billy Mumy) is kissed by Bardot and given a puppy
Prior to this, the boy's mathematical skills have been misappropriated by everyone, from his sister's boyfriend (Fabian), who needs he1p with homework, to a British con man (John Williams), who illegally wins gambling bets to alleged1y finance a humanitarian arts foundation... Fabian also comes up with another idea for Erasmus to pick racetrack horses
Stewart is a poetic, whimsical college professor who wants the simple life with his wife on a rather primitive, decaying Mississippi riverboat home Stewart's accordion skills are brought to life, even if briefly, as he insists that the entire family take up musical instruments But the pre-teen son is tone deaf, and when he takes up painting he turns out to have no eye for color either The retarded discovery that he is a math prodigy brings more trouble than satisfaction, as the perplexed Stewart sadly discovers
Glynis Johns, who had been on the point of marrying Stewart in "No Highway in the Sky" back in 1951, was at last Stewart's wife in the film...
Bardot provided some diversion for the French press when she pronounced Stewart, then 57, "a gentleman with ageless sex appeal, enormous charm."
I stumbled upon "Dear Brigitte" almost by accident, and the names in the credits -- Jimmy Stewart, Glynis Johns, Ed Wynn, etc. -- kept me watching. I was pleasantly surprised by how charming and intelligent this film turned out to be! Stewart plays an English professor whose only son, Erasmus (the adorable Billy Mumy), turns out to be a math whiz. He's also great at predicting horses, and he happens to be in love with Brigitte Bardot (who makes a wonderful cameo appearance). The family lives on a houseboat, and their teenaged daughter dates Fabian. All of this makes for a very enjoyable comedy the whole family can watch together -- it may be a bit outdated (particularly the "high-tech" computer featured in one scene), but that only adds to its charm. This is a lovable, often overlooked movie that's definitely worth viewing with the whole family!
I'm sure that the folks who were casting Lost in Space must have seen
Dear Brigitte and said to themselves, young Billy Mumy would be perfect
casting as the precocious Will Robinson.
Dear Brigitte is a film about a professor of literature who lives on a converted old Mississippi riverboat with his family and the former captain of the steamship, Ed Wynn. An almost hippie like existence for the very Republican James Stewart and his wife Glynis Johns and children Cindy Carol and Billy Mumy.
Stewart has an obsession about the sciences just taking over colleges, including his own and this fuels an additional obsession into finding a talent that must be hidden in his son. Young Mr. Mumy turns out to be both color blind and tone deaf, so art and music are out.
He turns out to be a mathematical genius though and Billy has an additional obsession himself, he wants to meet Brigitte Bardot. Now that's something the males in the audience can empathize with.
I think Dear Brigitte came out just a tad to early. A couple of years later with the flower power movement in full bloom, this thing would have really been big box office. Audiences might have really identified with an eccentric professor with his family living on a riverboat.
Fabian is also along for the ride as daughter Cindy Carol's boyfriend. He was nearing the end of the line as a teenage heart throb. But I'm sure his presence in the film brought more than a few dollars in.
John Williams and Jesse White who play a couple of con men do a nice job and of course we cannot forget the presence of Brigitte Bardot playing herself.
It's a pleasant innocuous little family comedy helped by a very good cast.
Read the book, "Erasmus With Freckles," and see how it compares to the movie, "Dear Brigitte." While I enjoy anything with James Stewart and have been a Bill Mumy fan for most of my life, I can honestly say this is one time when the book shines better than the film. I have no problem with the performances in the movie, mark you ... I merely don't like it when screenwriters take a good book and make a movie out of it that is very little like the original. The family is bigger and somewhat goofier ... and the boat (and the Leaf's neighbors) play a much larger role. I couldn't find Ed Wynn's character anywhere in the novel. Seems a shame to ruin such a good novel by turning it into this movie -- the movie's fine, it's just not the story originally told.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Dear Brigitte" is the third and final comedy that my favorite actor
James Stewart made at 20th Century Fox in the 1960s under the direction
of Henry Koster. Personally, I feel that this very strange movie is
somewhat of a waste, although this is no fault of Mr. Stewart. He was
the perfect choice for the role of Robert Leaf, a brilliant, highly
admired, cantankerous, absentminded professor of English poetry, living
with his wife and two children on a houseboat in the San Francisco Bay
area. Prof. Leaf is a man whose life focuses strictly on the arts and
humanities, a man who absolutely despises science, computers, and such.
Among his family are his loving wife Vina (Glynis Johns), his
annoyingly high-strung teenage daughter Pandora (Cindy Carol), who can
be affectionate with her family as long as she gets her way, and his
eight-year-old mathematical wonder boy Erasmus (Billy Mumy), who can
mentally solve the most difficult arithmetic problems with the greatest
of ease and speed. But Erasmus has a few other oddities about him, his
severe tone-deafness and color-blindness notwithstanding; he is by far
the best handicapper of horses in San Francisco, and his only dream in
life is to meet the famous French actress Brigitte Bardot, for whom he
has an indefatigable crush. One other addition to the Leaf family is
the kindly, lovable sea captain played by Ed Wynn, who also serves as
the narrator of the film.
Despite the fact that I consider it to be one of James Stewart's weaker films, "Dear Brigitte" still contains a handful of worthwhile moments. Prof. Leaf displays his ferocious temper right from his very first appearance in the picture when he expresses his disdain for science while storming off the university campus with books loaded in his arms. The Leaf family concert (featuring the professor on accordion, Vina on flute, Pandora on piano, and Erasmus on cello) would have been perfect had it not been for the boy's tone-deafness. Prof. Leaf literally runs off to give a lecture, his arms again loaded with books, when he suddenly realizes it would be faster by car! While Prof. Leaf and Erasmus are looking through a shop window, the professor reaches for his son's hand, only to discover that he is holding the hand of an astonished young woman. Erasmus' psychiatrist Dr. Volker (Jack Kruschen) tries to clear the boy's mind of Brigitte Bardot; when the doctor asks Erasmus what he bought during a shopping trip with his father, Erasmus tells him he bought a dress, after which the doctor gives a hilarious reaction, not realizing that the dress was merely for Erasmus' sister. And finally, Prof. Leaf displays his great rapport with his poetry students in his classroom as he tells them, with his dry sense of humor, how he feels about scientists taking over college campuses.
"Dear Brigitte" is a movie that has a lot of stuff crammed into it, a little something for everyone, as one critic put it. Brigitte Bardot herself appears near the end of this film with Prof. Leaf and Erasmus, and it is this particular lengthy scene that causes me a little embarrassment. On a positive note, James Stewart reportedly had more praise for Billy Mumy than for any other child actor with whom he ever worked, and the rapport between Stewart and Mumy off camera was quite pleasant. (As an example, they would rehearse their lines together while casually tossing a ball around.)
In the 1960's this might have passed for wholesome family entertainment.
Getting Fabian for a throw-away role was probably a good casting coup, and
for comic relief you have Ed Wynn and Billy Mumy's 'Rain Man' routines. He
is an IBM in sneakers, from which most of the plot develops. He secretly
writes a love letter to Bardot every night and one day he gets a response in
the form of an invitation to visit her in France. Billy and dad Jimmy
Stewart go to Paris and have a meeting with Miss Bardot. She gives the
little boy an autograph, a kiss and a puppy.
Inoffensive little comedy that might give you a laugh or two. I like movies that reference real movie stars in their title, like "Being John Malkovich" and "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar" so this makes the hat trick for me.
Okay, I acknowledge that I am prejudiced.
While primarily a right-brain person myself, the so-called whimsy of a NoCal "Pulitzer-Prize winning poet" (?), who lives on an ugly, decrepit docked river boat, in discovering that his artistically talentless son happens to be a mathematical prodigy, is lost in a the growling misanthropy of star James Stewart's dithering, hostile performance.
The marvelous Billy Mumy, always a charismatic child actor, plays the gifted young Erasmus, and Glynnis Johns shines as the patient mother. The problem? Stewart and Stewart's charmless, utterly selfish father. His original instinct being to hide his child's gifts is bad enough, but I switched the movie off in disgust when he revealed he did not know (and had no clue) of his elder child (a daughter's) age (she's 18, and he didn't know). Add to that his threatening reporters with a loaded shotgun, plus his ranted lectures about "progress" as being the provenance of what he calls "the Exploders" and you have a rancid family comedy that has aged abominably.
My guess: Stewart, a notably ungenerous actor who demanded that the show center all around him, may have been annoyed by the effortless scene stealing from the sly, charming, profoundly gifted young Mumy, who made everything look easy and fun. Stewart is upstaged in every scene by Mumy, and it's my (completely unfounded) guess that he was unhappy about it. But what do I know? I only have his neurotic, overwrought, and badly miscalculated work to go on.
Fabian has nothing to do. Guessing also Stewart may have had something to do with this. But again, who knows? Stewart famously was enraged after the release of the wonderful "Winchester 73" that the young Rock Hudson, in his few scenes, stole Stewart's thunder: Stewart never worked with him again.
By the time Ms. Bardot shows up, Stewart has had his conversion, but alas, all the same, all is lost. Not a half-shell on Stewart's other Henry Koster- directed comedy, "Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation", which is still charming, if oh-so-Sixties, family fun (benefiting as it does with a Mancini score, Maureen O'Hara, and a touch more Fabian, plus better color and production values).
Note: Love narrator Ed Wynn's expository asides to the camera (audience), with the other characters often asking him, Pirandello-like, just who he is talking to?
Overall verdict: block out Stewart (which is hard to do), and the others are just fine. I too often like Stewart, so if you're a fan, do yourself a favor and let this botch go by.
Fairly good comedy featuring an ultra smart little boy who is used by swindlers for their own gain despite the over protectiveness of his father. Meanwhile, the boy is scheming to meet the famous French actress while his sister is anguishing over boys and proms. Typical 60's comedy.
Jimmy Stewart makes it look so effortless that one would think he
wasn't even acting. Which is the mark of a great actor. This was his
second outing with Glynis Johns, the first time was in 1951 in the
black and white British film, No Highway In The Sky.
In Dear Brigette, Stewart plays a Literature Professor at a College in California that like most of the culture of the day was struggling with the rampant advances of technology threatening to over shadow everyone and everything.
The main focus of the film is on child actor Bill Mumy who later went on to star in Lost In Space. He plays a young boy named "Erasmus", who is a math wizard and who can do complex calculations in his head, seemingly without effort, and not quite knowing how he does it.
While people and forces around him would like to capitalize on his gift, his father played by Stewart struggles to protect his son from them, and allow him to remain a "innocent little boy". A delightful interlude takes place half way through the picture when "Erasmus" receives an invitation to visit Paris, France and Brigette Bardot; whom he has been secrety writing to for some time, hence the pictures title.
In the 1960s, Jimmy Stewart did several family films that were just
rather bland and, in my opinion, wasted his amazing talents. I am not
saying they are BAD films, just imminently forgettable and are best
described as "fluff". In other words, while time-passers, they have
very little lasting value. The movie does have a few mildly interesting
moments but that's really about all. In fact, the only reason the film
even gets a score of 6 is because Stewart is in the film and he tries
his best with the mediocre material. My recommendation is do NOT run
out and rent it or buy it but wait until it comes out on cable. This is
a far cry from THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE or MR. SMITH GOES TO
WASHINGTON. It's more like an episode of GIDGET combined with PLEASE
DON'T EAT THE DAISIES.
This is pretty much the same review I gave for MR. HOBBES TAKES A VACATION. Both were almost exactly as bland as the other. What sets this apart is the strange plot involving a young Billy Mumy as a genius who is smitten with the actress Brigitte Bardot (the kid had good taste). Ms. Bardot makes a cameo near the end of the film, but apart from that it's a pretty forgettable film.
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