A happy and unbelievably lucky young Irish immigrant, John Lawless, lands a job as the butler of an unconventional millionaire, Biddle. His daughter, Cordelia Drexel Biddle, tires of the ...
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Lesley Ann Warren
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Andrew V. McLaglen
A happy and unbelievably lucky young Irish immigrant, John Lawless, lands a job as the butler of an unconventional millionaire, Biddle. His daughter, Cordelia Drexel Biddle, tires of the unusual antics of her father--especially since the nice young men around town all fear him. Wouldn't you fear a father-in-law that keeps alligators for pets and teaches boxing at his daily Bible classes? Cordelia decides to run off to boarding school and promptly finds the man of her dreams. Unfortunately, his family doesn't approve of Biddle's outrageous antics, either. A Disney musical punctuated by snappy songs and an energetic debut by Tommy Steele. This is reportedly one of the last live- action films Walt Disney personally oversaw. Written by
Tim Kretschmann <Tim.K@VirComm.com>
The real Anthony Drexel Biddle, Sr. (1874-1948), was a banking magnate and dyed-in-the-wool eccentric whose independent wealth allowed him to pursue such diverse ventures as physical culture (he boxed with Jack Johnson and taught boxing to Gene Tunney), theatricals, and religion. He served as a Colonel in the U.S. Marines in both World Wars. Cordelia Drexel Biddle's (1898-1984) marriage to Andrew Buchannan did not result in a happy ending. Although they had two sons, both of whom became prominent in business and diplomatic circles, the marriage ran into trouble, they were divorced within a few years, and Angier Duke died young, not long after that, in a boating accident. She co-wrote (with Kyle Crichton) the book upon which both the movie and play "The Happiest Millionaire" were based, "My Philadelphia Father". After her divorce from Angier Buchanan Duke (who, unlike his character in the movie, was actually more than a decade her senior), she made a far happier marriage to architect Thomas Robertson, a marriage which lasted until his death in 1962. Like her father, she enjoyed an active life devoted to many charitable activities. By most accounts, she was one of those women who grew more attractive as they grew older, prompting a reporter to state, "The aura of youth clinging to this illusion. It is no product that can be bought in a beauty shop or designer's salon. Hers is a youth that laughs at the insolent years..." Active almost to the end of her life, she died at her home in Southhampton, New York. See more »
In the opening scene, the camera appears to look East on Walnut Street, past Rittenhouse Square, with the tower of Philadelphia City Hall in the distance. Cars are shown on a drive in the square. No such drive ever existed. City Hall is on Market Street and the tower would have been outside the frame of this shot. See more »
Well now, ain't this an elegant neighborhood, all the residents dressed so fine! One day off the boat am I, with a job that's nearly mine! 'Tis a job with an elegant millionaire, and his elegant family! Today I move from immigrant - to high society!
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Yes, "The Happiest Millionaire" was Walt Disney's last film. Yes, it was obviously made to top "Mary Poppins" and yes, like many late-sixties musicals, it flopped at the box office. But the fact remains that it is a glowing, beautifully made musical (with songs by the Sherman Brothers who were responsible for "Poppins") and it never got the recognition it truly deserved. The cast, headed by Disney Stalwart Fred MacMurray and legendary star Greer Garson (in her last film appearance) is excellent. The musical numbers are fun and engaging and the players do them well. Both Lesley Ann Warren and John Davidson were introduced in this film and proved an ideal pair of romantic leads. Warren, who became an overnight star courtesy of her delightful performance as Cinderella in the 1965 Rodgers and Hammerstein television musical, literally shines as Cordelia Drexel Biddle. Many scenes are stolen by Geraldine Page playing Davidson's haughty mother, and Tommy Steele can sing and dance with the best of them. There is also a grand performance from Gladys Cooper as the family matriarch. And, for "Poppins" fans, Hermione Baddely appears as the Irish housekeeper. There is also a brief bit by Joan Marshall, the star of William Castle's "Homicidal" (billed as Jean Arless) as a maid. The fact that this story is (loosely) based on the prominent Biddle family of Philadelphia, adds to the fun. Because the film was released after Disney's death and exhibitors complained about its long running time, it was drastically edited, shortening and removing several scenes, as well as one musical number ("It Won't Be Long Till Christmas"), and here is where the controversy comes in. Garson was originally cast as Mrs. Duke, after the part was turned down by several actresses, including Geraldine Page. Just before filming began however, Page changed her mind, and Greer ended up as Mrs. Biddle. (a part she was not anxious to play). She agreed to the switch when she heard the score--especially "It Won't Be Long Till Christmas" which was her one musical number. Indeed she COULD sing, and she did so in a few of her '40's films. Because her song was subsequently cut from the film (after it's Hollywood world premiere) she declined to attend any further premieres, though she had been at the Hollywood opening. Thanks to the newly restored roadshow edition, the song has been restored, and Garson and MacMurray perform it to perfection, truly the highlight of a warm and wonderful story that makes for perfect holiday viewing.
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