The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
80 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Groucho-like Insults Worth Memorizing
mrzeppo13 December 2004
George S. Kaufman co-wrote this play-turned-film based on the real-life characters with whom he regularly associated. Alexander Woolcott, the famed Broadway critic was the inspiration for Sheridan Whiteside, a publicly loved figure who's private, curmudgeonly demeanor was less than idyllic. Kaufman even went so far as to have Whiteside occasionally sing jibberish with a child's speech impediment, which was a practice of Woolcott's.

Monty Wooley brilliantly delivers the Groucho-like insults penned with supreme wit by the Marxian play and film write. Kaufman, of course, co-wrote many of the Marx's best works and was a good friend of Harpo, upon whom the character "Banjo" is based.

The entire cast is brilliant save for Richard Travis who, while not distractingly bad, is somewhat outclassed by the likes of Bette Davis, Billie Burke, Mary Wickes, and Reginald Gardiner.

All in all, this is solid comedy that bears repeated seasonal viewing. I can't figure out why it's not on DVD. That's not true. I CAN figure it out. I doubt it would sell large numbers of copies given movie audiences' limited awareness of the film. What I meant was, I wish it were available on DVD.
38 out of 55 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
10/10
Delightfully smug.
TOMASBBloodhound25 December 2008
Not so much a Christmas movie as it is a movie that happens to take place during the Christmas season. This 1942 farce has a rude and elitist author/lecturer/high society man falling on the icy steps of an Ohio businessman and being forced to stay in the man's home for weeks. Monty Wolley plays Sheridan Whiteside who seems to have contempt to one degree or another for everyone around him. He felt it beneath him to even be somewhere like Ohio in the first place, and he is determined to make life miserable for everyone once he is marooned there. Whiteside has a put down ready for almost everything anyone says to him. His lines of dialog pretty much range from condescending flattery to outright insults. And let it be said here, that he is almost always hilarious.

Bette Davis plays Whiteside's personal secretary who falls in love with a local newspaper man and aspiring playwright. Davis confesses her intent to settle down with the handsome young man, and this is a matter of great concern for Whiteside since he would be nearly helpless without her. Even though his injuries have healed, he continues to act as though he is confined to a wheelchair for much of the picture. And most of the plot deals with Whiteside attempting to sabotage his secretary's blossoming romance.

The film lasts for nearly two hours and seldom lets the viewer up for air. This is a film that you may have to see several times to notice every clever line or plot development. And since it was originally a play, most of it takes place in one room. That being the living room of the put-upon Ohio businessman and his brow-beaten family. Along the way, Whiteside begins meddling in the lives of others, as well. He practically incites a rebellion by the couple's teenage children. He comes up with more insults than one can count for his nurse. And some of the funniest moments deal with an aging doctor attempting to get Whiteside to look at his manuscript about his profession. Many famous people appear and are referred to throughout the film. Most of the pop culture references are really dated, but not so much that it really bogs the film down. The acting is wonderful. Jimmy Durante and Ann Sheridan liven things up in support. The film is rather smug in how it was written by and about famous people who obviously look down on normal Midwestern folk. But the humor is harmless, and all too enjoyable. 10 of 10 stars.

The Hound.
23 out of 32 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
10/10
Comic Brilliance
nycritic20 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Movies like these don't get filmed anymore. The subject matter would not appeal to an audience that today run to the hills at the mention of the words "literate adaptation of a successful Broadway play" which happens to be not about sexy murderesses or sexy bed hoppers, but of people who talk and act in perfectly clipped words and mannered affectations more often seen in such sitcoms like "FRASIER".

THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER is a perfect example of a film that remains dated due to its very subject matter. Screenwriters George S. Kaufmann and Moss Hart came up with this hilarious story based on the personalities (as per them) of then-film critic Alexander Woollcott, playwright Noel Coward, and theatre actress Gertrude Lawrence, and in doing so created a smash Broadway hit that received this film version. Stories tell of John Barrymore being up for the part of Sheridan Whiteside (Woolcott) but being 'unable' to remember his lines, which prompted to keep theatre actor Monty Woolley from the original play. Monty breathes a massive amount of life into his smothering, capricious character and of course makes the movie all his. By his side, a perfect foil, is Bette Davis playing Maggie Cutler. The original role was not as large in the play but was expanded for this version and is the only time during her golden period in Hollywood when she stepped down and took a secondary role (though billed first, which must have helped make it a box-office hit). Ann Sheridan as theatre actress Lorraine Sheldon has the third billing and rips into her hysterical role. Watch her scenes with Bette: Maggie and Lorraine bait each other whenever they're on screen together but for the first time, do not watch Davis (who plays well as the quieter, servant female). Ann Sheridan looks like she's about to burst out of her clothes and tear right into Davis.

A near perfect cast: Billie Burke playing more of the same variation of the ditsy socialite, Reginald Gardner doing a great impersonation of Noel Coward (and sporting a great "stuttering" scene at a key point of the movie) and especially Mary Wickes, playing Mrs. Preen, a nurse in attendance of Sheridan who cracks under the pressure of so much craziness. A fantastic, wonderful comedy.
42 out of 64 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
8/10
Pretty funny
zetes25 April 2002
The Man Who Came to Dinner is a little uneven, but it's mostly entertaining. The unevenness comes mainly from the dullness of the budding relationship which the film holds in focus. The original play is very well written, especially the dialogue. It was actually performed at my high school when I was there. But its the cast here that excels. Monty Woolley is great in the titular role. He plays Sheridan Whiteside to absolute perfection. Bette Davis is quite good as his secretary, but the role is actually somewhat below her standards. I'm sure she took the role because she loved the play so much and was sure it'd be a hit, but that role is pretty dull. Ann Sheridan perhaps gives the film's most memorable performance as an egotistical Hollywood diva who's not sure whether she wants to marry British nobility for money or just chase around cute guys. Also noteworthy are Billie Burke as Mrs. Stanley, the Ohio society woman who invites Whiteside to dinner, Reginald Gardiner as an eloquent celebrity friend of Whiteside (far underused), and the incredibly insane Jimmy Durante as Banjo. He comes into the film very late, but he very nearly steals the show. 8/10.
24 out of 35 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
10/10
A Christmas Classic with Wit!
NativeTexan23 December 2002
This witty and wonderful Christmas classic has been neglected in recent years, but thanks to Turner Classic Movies it is once again being introduced to grateful audiences. Monty Woolley is fabulous as the brilliant writer and radio star, the curmudgeonly Sheridan (Sherry) Whiteside. Bette Davis is low key and perfect as his savvy personal secretary, Maggie Cutler, and Ann Sheridan is at her very, very best as the beautifully selfish and completely hilarious theatre star, Lorraine Sheldon. Reginald Gardiner,the fabulous English comedic actor and Jimmy Durante both sparkle in their brief but pivotal cameos. There are more classic one-liners in this script than you can count, but you'll enjoy trying!
25 out of 38 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
10/10
one of the best movies of all time
smkh1915 January 2007
This movie never fails to lift my spirits, giving me so many laughs I have lost count. Everyone in this movie is absolutely delightful! There are never enough good things to say about Monty Wooley, & Bette Davis is great, as always. Good to see her comedic side. I believe this is one of the very best comedies I have ever seen - - actually probably the best. I was so happy to find it out on DVD. If you are a lover of good comedy, this is a do not miss! Even the lesser known players are superb. Too bad Hollywood does not make this kind of movie anymore. Ann Sheridan is the perfect glamour girl, Reginald Gardiner is one of a kind, & Jimmy Durante is so funny. I read this was Mary Wickes's first film. She is a gem! I certainly miss all of these stars.
21 out of 32 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
10/10
1942 Bette Davis a Subdued Secretary in a Comedy
semioticz18 October 2007
Screenwriters Moss Hart & George S. Kaufmann created this hilarious story based upon the personas of playwright Noel Coward, film critic Alexander Woollcott, and theater actress Gertrude Lawrence. It became a Broadway hit, then this box-office sensation. Bette Davis convinced Warner Brothers to make this film.

When "The Man Who Came To Dinner," Sheridan Whiteside (Monty Woolley), an eccentric author & radio lecturer, & his secretary, Maggie Cutler (Bette Davis), arrive at the home of a prominent Ohio family, the Stanleys, Whiteside injures his leg, slipping at his hosts' entrance. After a doctor (George Barbier) tells Whiteside that his leg is broken & he can't leave, the eccentric guest who had only come to dinner wreaks havoc by meddling in everyone else's lives in a proper family's home! Whiteside is especially bent upon keeping Maggie (Davis) unmarried & employed as his secretary who manages all of his life affairs. She's fallen in love, wants to marry & leave her job. Whiteside even bribes the doctor to remain silent after learning nothing's wrong with his leg! When Mr. Stanley uncovers their fraud, Whiteside blackmails him by holding an old family secret over his head. Though, Whiteside's plot to keep Maggie doesn't fool her, it is the central comedy performance of the movie.

Maggie Cutler (Davis) is a perfect foil for Whiteside (Woolley). Her original role was not as central in the stage play. It was expanded for film. Playing a secretary is the only time during Davis' golden 40's period in Hollywood when she accepted a supporting role. However, Davis was billed first in order to make the movie box-office hit. It's a delightful Christmas comedy.

Here's a typical exchange between 'Sheri' & Maggie: Sheridan Whiteside: I simply will not sit down to dinner with Midwestern barbarians, I think too highly of my digestive system.

Maggie Cutler: Harry Clarke is one of your oldest friends.

Sheridan Whiteside: My stomach is an older one.

Maggie Cutler: And Mrs. Stanley is President of the women's club.

Sheridan Whiteside: I wouldn't care if she was the whole cabinet.

Banjo (Jimmy Durante) delivers some memorable comical one-liners, as well.
23 out of 37 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
A grand comedy
mermatt12 September 1998
This is one of the great film comedies of all time. Monty Woolley is priceless as the uppity celebrity who comes to dinner and stays and stays, causing havoc to a socially upper-crust household. The rest of the cast is superb too. Don't miss this film. It is a gem and a joy.
23 out of 37 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
10/10
An evergreen classic of comedic brilliance...
jackdaw888 December 2005
This movie is still as funny every time I see it as it was the very first time. The characters are all very solidly defined and the storyline even today has a spark of brilliance to it. The viewer is swept along throughout the entire length of the film, the dialogue mostly sharp, witty and fast paced. The dizzying speed of the succession of events in no way detracts from the film, rather adding to a sense of panic in empathy for the poor family hosting the eponymous gentleman, whilst at the same time inspiring an almost malicious anticipation to see what he will inflict upon them next. A true classic with wonderful energy and more than a few surprises, this is one to buy on DVD (if available) so you can watch and enjoy it again and again.
18 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
10/10
The Most Hilarious Film Ever Made
sdiner8214 April 2001
After nearly 60 years, "The Man Who Came To Dinner" still ranks as the most hilarious film ever committed to celluloid. Though censorship at the time required some of Kaufman and Hart's ribald dialogue to be toned down, no matter! Monty Woolley's performance is priceless, but Bette Davis, for once in a subdued, non-star performance, provides the heart of the movie and is achingly touching in her subtle evocation of a down-trodden secretary finally discovering love--and in danger of losing her Romeo to the ravishing, outrageously man-eating Ann Sheridan. A perfect film for Christmas viewing (thanks to its exquisite black-and-white cinematography capturing a greeting card background for the non-stop lunacy in the foreground). A perfect film for any day of the year. I've seen other versions--the TV production with Orson Welles, the Broadway musical in the late 1960s, the recent Broadway revival with Nathan Lane. They all pale when compared to this definitive, timeless, masterpiece!
14 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
8/10
Great Fun
Christmas-Reviewer31 December 2016
BEWARE OF BOGUS REVIEWS. SOME REVIEWERS HAVE ONLY ONE REVIEWED ONE FILM. WHEN ITS A POSITIVE REVIEW THAT TELLS ME THEY WERE INVOLVED WITH THE FILM. IF ITS A NEGATIVE REVIEW THEN THEY MIGHT HAVE A GRUDGE AGAINST NOW I HAVE REVIEWED OVER 200 HOLIDAY THEME MOVIES. I HAVE NO AGENDA. I AM FARE ABOUT THESE FILMS.

During a cross-country lecture tour, notoriously acerbic radio personality Sheridan Whiteside (Monty Woolley) slips on the icy steps of the house of the Stanleys (Grant Mitchell and Billie Burke), a prominent Ohio family, and insists on recuperating in their home during the Christmas holidays. The overbearing, self-centered celebrity soon comes to dominate the lives of the residents and everyone else who enters the household. He encourages young adults Richard (Russell Arms) and June (Elisabeth Fraser) Stanley to pursue their dreams, much to the dismay of their conventional father Ernest.

This is a classic film. Its very funny and should be made mandatory viewing! Films today are no longer made this way and that is sad. In 50 years people will still be watching this. Will they still be watching "Office Christmas Party"
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Successful transition from stage to screen
Altaira12 April 1999
Watching this fantastic black and white flick was a real treat. I played Maggie in the play version by Kaufmann and Hart, and I was among a very competent cast of actors. Yet the performers in this film are so versatile and polished it seems almost an entirely different story. I recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys the wit and sarcasm that so classified the 1940's cinema era. Woolsey, as Whiteside is bitingly on target as the sharp-tongued radio personality, and Bette Davis, I must say, certainly does the role of the starry-eyed secretary justice. Four stars!
17 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
7/10
Good for a laugh.
dougandwin5 July 2004
Monty Woolley will always be remembered for his role in this movie, but to me the interesting things about watching this film 60 years after it was made, is the supporting cast. Firstly, there is Bette Davis taking a back seat somewhat in a role that is hardly demanding technically, but one which she underplays very well. Ann Sheridan goes over the top, really hamming it up but having fun. Richard Travis is a disaster, and was terribly outclassed by the rest of the crew. On seeing the movie now, one realises what a gem Billie Burke was in these kind of dithery roles. Reginald Gardiner and Jimmy Durante were very good in their small parts, but it is best just to enter into the fun of the whole thing and have a good laugh. I must say the sarcasm of Monty Woolley in the Forties was a whole lot funnier then, than now!
16 out of 30 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
8/10
Made Without Calf's Foot Jelly
theowinthrop1 March 2005
The recent death of John Raitt ("Who that?") reminds film watchers of how many terrific performances from Broadway or London's West End were permanently lost because of "brilliant" Hollywood casting decisions. Raitt, one of Broadway's best dramatic singers, was the original Billy Bigalow in "Carousel", but lost the role in Hollywood to Frank Sinatra. Ironically Sinatra quit the film version, and instead of returning to Raitt the producer chose Gordon McCrae. The reason was that McCrae had made several Hollywood musicals, so he had box office recognition. That he did not hold a candle to Raitt in the role was secondary. Raitt remembered this, and when he made the hit musical "The Pajama Game" he had his agent purchase the rights to portray his role on the screen. So his performance is in "The Pajama Game" opposite Doris Day. At least one of his performances were saved (and his performance as Bigalow is saved in television videos of various songs he did on shows like "Ed Sullivan" - so some of Bigalow is saved too].

Before television gave an opportunity to save parts of performances, Hollywood gleefully recast great performances, frequently hurting the final work. Zero Mostel (admittedly a difficult person to direct) was not cast as Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof" by Norman Jewison (Topol was). Fortunately he did do Pseudolus in Richard Lester's "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and he did "Rhinoceros".

"The Man Who Came to Dinner" is a happy example of the right person playing the movie part. Kaufman and Hart based Sheridan Whiteside on Alexander Woolcott, their friend from the Algonquin Roundtable (with Heywood Broun, Dorothy Thompson, Robert Benchley, Edna Ferber, F.P.Adams, Marc Connally, and Harpo Marx). Their comedy is based on a fool-proof situation: a well known celebrity gets injured when invited to dinner by a fan. He is less lovable when one gets to know him. Besides not being patient with fools he is very tart tongued and he meddles when he thinks he is doing the right thing (or when his selfish interest intrudes). The play runs on the complications of Whitesides antics and the various caricatures in the play (Noel Coward and Harpo Marx, among others). It is, when the central role is played properly, excellent comedy. Wooley played the role originally (and bitingly). It was played equally well by Nathan Lane in a superb revival (fortunately it is on video). However the great Orson Welles badly let down the center of the play in 1972 on television.

Wooley, the head of the drama department at Yale, and the friend of Cole Porter (who composed the "Noel Coward" song that is sung in the play by the caricature Beverley Carleton), had been acting in films since the middle 1930s. But it was not until he got this plum part that he was recognized as the original talent he was. For the rest of his life Wooley was a star of stage and (after this film) screen.

The main problem in the film is the references to events of the 1940s. For example references to William Beebe and Admiral Richard Byrd. To update the references is not helpful (it was tried in the 1972 Welles version, and the jokes fell flat). In the Nathan Lane version the commercial interludes included newspaper headlines, reminding us of who Beebe and Byrd and the others were.

The reference to calf's foot jelly is one of Wooley's put downs of the hapless Mrs. Stanley (Billy Burke). She made some calf's foot jelly for Whiteside. "Made from your own foot, no doubt.", Whiteside replies.

This is not the only time that Alex Woolcott was the basis for a fictional character. In the novel that is the basis of "Laura" Waldo Lydecker is based on Woolcott (who was interested in murder, but not murderous).
21 out of 42 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
5/10
Dated and Unfunny
Claudio Carvalho15 May 2011
In Mesalia, Ohio, the president of the local women's club Mrs. Ernest Stanley (Billie Burke) is the wife of the prominent ball bearings manufacturer Mr. Ernest Stanley (Grant Mitchell) and she is in rapture since the famous lecturer and critic Sheridan Whiteside (Monty Wooley) will have dinner with her family.

When Whiteside arrives with his secretary Maggie Cutler (Bette Davis) at Stanley's home, he slip on the ice on the stairway n the front door, he breaks his hip and the diagnosis of the local Dr. Bradley (George Barbier) requires that Whiteside shall stay in a wheelchair confined in the house. The egocentric, selfish and despicable Whiteside demands the control of the entire house and tells that he will sue Mr. Ernest Stanley in an exorbitant amount.

While the family lives hell on earth in their own home, Maggie falls in love with the owner of the local newspaper Bert Jefferson (Richard Travis) and quits her position. However, the abusive Whiteside invites the vamp actress Lorraine Sheldon (Ann Sheridan) to meet Bert expecting that she seduces him and Maggie stays with him.

I had the greatest expectations with "The Man Who Came to Dinner" based on the name of my favorite actress ever Bette Davis and the IMDb Rating of 7.6. Unfortunately I found this film dated and unfunny, and even overrated. I did not find the abusive behavior of Sheridan Whiteside funny in any moment and his deplorable attitudes are actually nasty. The fool Mrs. Ernest Stanley may deserve part of the cruelties for her silly behavior but anyway I did not laugh while watching this comedy. My vote is five.

Title (Brazil): "Satã Jantou Lá em Casa" ("Satan Had Dinner at Home")
15 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
3/10
Dated, overrated and unfunny
brendangcarroll24 September 2010
What a great disappointment this famous film turned out to be when I finally sat down to watch the DVD.

In spite of its impressive literary pedigree, remarkable cast and fine production values, it tries much too hard to be funny and likable. Maybe it's because I am British and not American that to me, this frantic farce seemed so desperately unfunny?

The main problem is with the central performance by Monty Woolley who may have been terrific in the stage version but whose 'hit the audience over the head' style doesn't really work on film. Every time he is about to deliver another bon mot, he draws himself up and tells us "Get ready!" before he even opens his mouth.

His delivery is also less than crisp and he often gabbles his lines. Originally Bette Davis hoped for John Barrymore in the role and it is a great pity that, by 1941, the Great Profile was an alcoholic wreck unable to memorise dialogue or withstand the frenetic demands of such a production. In his heyday, he would have eaten this up, and brought a manic quality to the role (think of his Oscar Jaffe in Twentieth Century, a part not dissimilar to Whiteside) He would also have been much more likable.

The rest of the cast are interesting, especially Davis who impresses by being able to suppress her familiar mannerisms and bring a presence to her scenes. However it was hardly a convincing romance between Davis and the colourless Mr Travis (another dull actor that Warners had high hopes for, similar to the vacuous Michael North a few years later).

Ann Sheridan does her best but seems out of her depth. Reginald Gardiner makes the most of his cameo as a Coward clone (though I was sorry that Cole Porter's song written for the stage version was dropped). Billie Burke reprises her usual dizzy matron act, and Grant Mitchell does his usual flustered, pompous father.

In spite of the gloss, the film irritates and tries far too hard, and the one-liners - though coming thick and fast - are just not very funny. The original trailer (also on the DVD) interestingly makes much of the Davis-Sheridan rivalry and even the soppy romance with barely a mention of the main plot strand at all. It also contains scenes not in the finished film!

No matter.This is a much over-rated film that does not bear repeated viewings.
14 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
4/10
Headlong Attempt at Comedy.
Robert J. Maxwell18 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I realize that this is regarded as a classic example of screwball comedy but it didn't work for me. The plot, what there is of it, is paper thin. Monty Woolley is Sheridan Whiteside, the renowned lecturer and radio personality who pals around with Churchill and Gypsy Rose Lee. He breaks his hip visiting a family in a small Ohio town and is stuck there until he's able to move about. His assistant is Bette Davis, who is courted by local reporter Richard Travis. It's directed with typical zest by Warners stalwart William Keighley. And it's from a successful play by Kaufman and Hart.

It would seem to have a lot going for it but I found the laughs sparse, despite the frenetic pace.

A lot depends on the central character. Monty Woolley had been a professor of English and drama at Yale and gave up his academic career for a life in the theater. He'd played this part on the stage, and it shows. He mostly sits in his wheelchair and bellows his lines. The director frequently cuts to a close up while Woolley is shouting, to emphasize that the line is supposed to be funny.

The problem is that the lines really aren't very funny. They're cutting, they're insulting, sure, but they lack poetry and wit.

"Now will you MOVE? Or shall I have my secretary move through you with a BASEBALL bat?" When told that someone looks strange: "STRANGE? She looks like something straight out of 'The Hound of the BASKERVILLES'." Do you find that sort of thing funny? I ask, because I don't. This role may have amused audiences in 1942 but it's dated now. It was less than ten years later that George Sanders perfected that persona -- closed the book on it -- in "All About Eve," where the lines really were funny. That's not to mention Oscar Wilde.

Woolley's character now seems more obnoxious than funny. Arrogant, intolerant, without sense of purpose, egotistical beyond belief, without charm of any kind. Who in the world could put up with an extended visit from such an unpleasant moron?
10 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
8/10
Funny 194O's Comedy with Bette Davis
willowgreen17 February 2003
Never having seen IT'S LOVE I'M AFTER, this is, in my opinion, the best straight comedy Bette Davis was ever in - even though her character - that of secretary Maggie Cutler - is decidedly a secondary role. Originally, John Barrymore was to have played Sheridan Whiteside, but he was too ill, so he was ultimately replaced by the excellent - and infitinely more suitable - Monty Woolley. Ann Sheridan is a bit much as the egocentric actress friend of Sheridan's but Davis, at her the peak of her classy and noble period, compliments Woolley with her come-backs and reactions: she's a marvel. Billie Burke's role of the hostess was originally intended for Laura Hope Crews; both she and Barrymore died the year this film was made, in 1942. The chemistry between Mary Wickes and Woolley is hilarious and Richard Travis provides a love interest for Whiteside's long-suffering secretary, Ms Cutler.
10 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
10/10
an honest-to-goodness-gem
scottydawg2 August 2002
Monty Wooley, Jimmy Durante, and oh yeah, Bette Davis. For me, that could say it all, and that is not even to mention the priceless ensemble of supporting character actors. Okay, so Bette just didn't DO comedy. She was there for the "drama relief," and like the consummate professional she was, she competently kept a low profile to not bleed off any of the spotlight from the incredible Wooley. Where have all the character actors gone? Why are there no more B movies that are such a plain old rollicking good time? This is one of the finest examples of the wonderful screwball comedies of the 30's and 40's.
9 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
1/10
Plot Has More Holes Than A Swiss Cheese
Ignaz Maus8 April 2012
Not only is the main character completely obnoxious and annoying, but the stage-originated and stagy plot doesn't work at all. It's so implausible that I wouldn't even know where to begin, so I'll pick one glaring mistake (or oversight) at random. When Jimmy Durante's character locks Ann Sheridan's character in a mummy case, she ought to be pounding and screaming to be let out, but she doesn't make a sound! The whole film is full of gaffes like this; and besides, you know the comedy is failing when the writers think that they have to throw in a flock of penguins for a (hopefully) sure-fire laugh.

Sheridan Whiteside's supposedly "witty" lines all fall flat; I didn't laugh even once. If this is supposed to be "sophisticated" 1940's humor, I'll stick with the Marx Brothers... or even the Three Stooges! Not only that, but it goes on much too long; it would have benefited from a cut of at least ten minutes, just to improve the snail-like pace of the plot.

It's hard to believe that so many big-name actors and writers were involved in this prize turkey, or that it was a hit in 1942. I guess that wartime audiences were desperate for entertainment. Any entertainment, however flimsy it might be.
8 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
9/10
The man who came to dinner
john-gallagher6923 January 2006
I have always thought this a classic film, yet very underrated and understated. Although Kaufman is probably best remembered for the Marx Brothers "A night at the opera", you only see the genius of the script when it is performed by a sterling cast who don't improvise. Although the plot is typical Kaufman it is encrusted with some excellent comic inventions pertinent to the time that may be lost now. Both Jimmy Durante as Banjo and Reginald Gardiner as Beverly Carlton perform excellent parodies of Harpo Marx and Noel Coward respectively. Anne Sheridan is brilliant as the bitch; Davis has never really given a bad performance and as always Mary Wickes as nurse Preen is a joy.
8 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
my first glance at bette davis' acting, I was hooked thereafter.
maharet-321 July 1999
I was surfing the local tv networks,when I chance a glimpse at Bette Davis in this wonderful comedy, where she plays the assistant to an overbearing, yet amusing and inquisitive radio host who continuously is conspiring and interfering with the lives of those around him. "The Man Who Came to Dinner" was the first black and white movie that I was able to even watch, all due to the superb acting and extremely magnetic personality of Bette Davis. This film is definitely a must see. I became entranced with Bette Davis thereafter.
8 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
5/10
Houseguest from Hell
crispy_comments18 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This movie has an undeniably great cast, and some witty dialogue. But the central character is so cruel and manipulative that I couldn't exactly enjoy his triumphs. By the time Sheridan Whiteside (Monty Woolley) had deprived Mr. and Mrs. Stanley of, not only their dignity, but their servants *and* their children (encouraging them to run away from home), well, I was feeling very sorry for this family. Suddenly it just wasn't funny anymore.

The overall message of the film seems to be that it's okay for an educated, "cultured" man like Sheridan to look down upon people of a lower class. His rudeness and snobbery are condoned because the Stanleys are small-town (and thus small-minded?) folks. Mr. Stanley is rather stuffy, and Mrs. Stanley may be silly, but they seem like decent, harmless people who don't deserve to be treated like dirt.

Neither do the poor doctor and nurse. I was waiting for the nurse (Mary Wickes) to blow up at Sheridan instead of running away from him all the time, and then when she finally confronts him, yes, she tells him off a bit, but she also declares that he's won - she's quitting the nursing profession. Then he laughs and I guess we're supposed to laugh at her too, but dammit, I find the whole thing sad.

Bette Davis gives a very sympathetic performance as the ogre's secretary - which made me even angrier at Sheridan for almost destroying her happiness. He redeems himself slightly at the end, but for me it was much too little, too late.
11 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
10/10
A true classic
preppy-320 May 2004
Radio lecturer Sheridan Whiteside (Monty Woolley) reluctantly agrees to visit a family in Ohio for dinner to help a friend. He slips and falls on the ice outside their house. He is confined to a wheelchair and can not leave their house for another two weeks. He also has a VERY bad temper and fires cruel insults off left and right. In the space of two weeks he disrupts the entire household by meddling into their lives and playing host to a steady stream of crazy guests. His secretary (Bette Davis) keeps everything calm.

Hysterical comedy seemingly forgotten. It was also a hit Broadway play. It's VERY quick and has sharp dialogue delivered breathlessly by the cast. Davis nicely downplays her role (she was also the one who persuaded Warner Bros. to do this film). Ann Sheridan is great playing an actress who will do anything for money. And Jimmy Durante appears as Banjo--he overacts all over the place but he IS funny. Best of all is Woolley--he played this role on stage and it shows. He's just great. He plays it to perfection. He was BORN to do this. The only bad acting is by Richard Travers playing hunky Bert Jefferson. He's just terrible! His idea of acting is grinning nonstop at EVERYTHING. And his drunk scene is deplorable. In a way he's so bad he's fascinating to watch.

One minor complaint--Some of the jokes were topical in 1941 (there are references to Tillie the Toiler and various political figures of the time). Today they might be bewildering to some people---those jokes have dated BADLY! But that's a small complaint--this is essentially a great movie with a great twist ending.

A must see!
10 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
9/10
Great, One of the good ones
george-8521 March 1999
I believe Monty Woolley stole the show as Sheridan Whiteside, I can't imagine any one else doing justice to the role he portrayed, as well. As usual. Bette Davis was in fine form, one of her lighter roles. Ann Sheridan, one of my favorites, an old Hollywood hand, was also very good. One of the better comedies to come out of Hollywood, it still stands the test of time.
7 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews