The Happiest Millionaire (1967)
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I just watched for the 6th time the dvd of the roadshow edition, and it is much better than the edited version. The ending was too abrupt before, and now we have not only an extra song, but a much better climax, that of a grand musical.
Leslie Ann Warren and John Davidson make their screen debut, and both are perfectly cast. The soundtrack on the dvd has been restored and sounds wonderful, especially in scenes with an orchestra, and the picture quality is very good for the period.
The best thing about this film is the score of the wonderful Sherman Brothers. Songs like FORTUOSITY,ARE WE DANCING, I'LL ALWAYS BE IRISH, DETROIT, NO DILLY DALLY, THERE ARE THOSE are much under-rated. This is an excellent original musical score.
Highly recommend for kids, families, and grown ups with a child still within.
As adapted to the screen by AJ Carothers (who would go on to create the TV sitcom "Nanny and the Professor"), "Millionaire" tells the story of eccentric millionaire Biddle and his family in 1916 Philadelphia.
The movie actually isn't really about Biddle at all, instead it focuses on his daughter Cordelia [Lesley Ann Warren in her big screen debut] and her impending romance with Angier Duke [John Davidson in his big screen debut].
The two youngsters fall in love much to the dismay of Angier's mother [Geraldine Page]. The clash between Philadelphia "old money" [the Biddles] and New York's nouveau riche [the Dukes] comes into play, but ultimately love conquers all in the final reel.
Thrown in for good measure is Tommy Steele as "John Lawless", an Irish immigrant whose landed a job as the Biddles' new butler. He's the film's "narrator" of sorts and oversees the proceedings as they unfold.
The score is provided by Disney veterans Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman [of "Mary Poppins" fame], and while this score does not exactly reach the caliber of their work in "Poppins" it's not entirely bad either. There are some "gems": "Fortuosity", "Let's Have A Drink On It", "Valentine Candy" and "Are We Dancing" among them.
The choreography by Marc Beaux and Dee Dee Wood ["Poppins" and "The Sound of Music"] is brought to life by both Tommy Steele and Lesley Ann Warren.
Screen legend Greer Garson is Cordelia Drexel Biddle, Sr. and generally plays it straight opposite MacMurray's eccentric-slightly goofy portrayal. Also in the cast Gladys Cooper ["My Fair Lady"] as Aunt Mary, Paul Petersen ["The Donna Reed Show"] as Anthony, Jr., Eddie Hodges as Livingston and Hermoine Baddeley ["Mary Poppins"] as the Biddle's maid.
At an original 164 minute running time, "Millionaire" may seem to some a bit excessive in length, and while this may be true it is still in my opinion a very entertaining movie which for some reason or another Disney has ignored [save for an occasional 3 am screening on "The Disney Channel"]. It took Anchor Bay Entertainment to save this gem from relative obscurity when in 1998 they licensed the film from the Disney studios and released it on VHS and DVD in both a general release and road show edition. Disney finally got wise and finally dusted off the film's soundtrack and released the long out-of-print score in August 2002.
I recommend this film for it's music, it's light-heartedness and a compelling motion picture debut by the multi-talented Lesley Ann Warren.
Some minor guidelines - the Roadshow edition has quite a bit of extra footage, and for those of us who know the standard edition by heart, it's great to find little bits and pieces (20 minutes worth, overall) that we've never seen, including parts of some of the songs. However, the standard edition is a tighter movie and keeps things moving more quickly - and since the standard edition is already over 2 hours and 20 minutes, I'd recommend it first. Then if you like it, the Roadshow gives you more of the best stuff.
This was Disney's last picture, and from all accounts he loved it, even though it was unsuccessful due to being released at just the wrong time. With 30 years distance, though, it is still so much fun that I'd love to see it made into an actual Broadway show. Oh, well, one can dream...
Which is why I find the critical drubbing it's taken over the years, particularly Leonard Maltin's in his book "The Disney Films," so hard to understand. "Happiest Millionaire" is what many family films try to be today, rarely succeeding. I was given a video of it as a present recently and found it just as enjoyable as I did 32 years ago, if not more so. Plus, living in the Philadelphia area as I do today, there's the historical interest, as well.
In short, "Happiest Millionaire" was great in 1967, and even better today. If you can see it, by all means do. You'll be in for a rare treat and a hidden treasure from the Disney vaults!
The version on the disc lasts close to 3 hours. It is a 'Roadshow Edition,' and that is entirely enjoyable. It begins with a music overture. In the middle of the film is an intermission, and after the movie is over, there is another musical medley with the word 'Exit' on the screen. That must have been there to remind people to leave the theater!
I see that on IMDb it gets an average rating of 5.5. Maybe that comes from the shorter, lesser cuts of the film. This restored edition is much better than that. My children loved it, too! They were literally glued to the screen for the duration of the movie.
This is easily the most musical of any film I have ever seen. That is one of the reasons the movie is so entertaining. Tommy Steele looks as if he is having a lot of fun, and that feeling is contagious.
'Happiest Millionaire' was released in 1967, the year after Walt Disney died, but he loved this film. The music is by the Sherman brothers, the same duo who gave us the unforgettable tunes in 'Mary Poppins.' I think it is sad that these kinds of films are no longer made. The great family oriented musicals are gone. Can anyone recommend 'Moulin Rouge' or 'Chicago' to their children?
And yet, this is not necessarily a kids' movie. Walt Disney had the genius to understand that things need to appeal to everyone. That was the inspiration behind Disneyland.
Out of four stars, I rate this: ***
The result was a pleasent, somewhat entertaining but all-around silly and, for the most part, instantly forgettable confection. Yes, it's fine for the whole family, but it will be hard for the kiddies (and even the adults) to stay awake as the rather simple story is stretched to nearly three hours, with a series of plotlines connected by merely a shimmer all going on at once. Macmurry is at his least inspired, making the title character into a bumbling, blustering idiot; it's pretty hard not to cheer whenever someone shows him up, verbally or physically. The songs are nice enough, but only one or two really stick in the memory, and half of them are totally irrelevant. (I saw the restored roadshow edition; there are a variety of other editions that cut out several of the songs) Still, Tommy Steele is likable as the forever perky Irish butler (He gets a very hummable song to sing called "Fortuosity") and the chereography certainly is lively. The songs, for all the irrelevance of many of them, really move the picture along, as it slows down considerably whenever the screenplay takes over.
It's too bad Disney's last film couldn't have been better, but oh, well. That's life.