A straitlaced turn-of-the-century father presides over a family of boys and the mother who really rules the roost.A straitlaced turn-of-the-century father presides over a family of boys and the mother who really rules the roost.A straitlaced turn-of-the-century father presides over a family of boys and the mother who really rules the roost.
Based on the recollections of Clarence Day, Jr. as played by Jimmy Lydon here, Life With Father ran for eight years on Broadway for 3447 performances. It was brought to the stage by Howard Lindsay and his two partners, writing partner Russell Crouse who adapted Day's work to the stage and life partner Dorothy Stickney who with her husband got their career roles on Broadway. The play ran from 1939 through 1947 taking America right through World War II. The time that it was written and presented to the public may account for its popularity as the public might just have wanted reassurance of American values at that critical point.
As Lindsay and Stickney had no kind of movie box office, Warner Brothers decided to acquire William Powell for the lead and cast Irene Dunne as the wise mother who has learned just the right way to handle her husband and inevitably get what she wants. Powell is a man who thinks when all else has failed, he can bellow his way through any situation. My favorite line in the play is when he tries to hire a maid and that title quote is when he's asked for references.
Warner paid a lot in loan outs for this film. Irene Dunne was not a contract employee of his studio and Elizabeth Taylor was also borrowed from MGM for the small, decorative part of a cousin that gets Jimmy Lydon and Martin Milner's hormones in an uproar. The part that Taylor plays was originated on Broadway by another future film star, Teresa Wright.
Incidentally Martin Milner reminisced many years later about the film and said of all the boys and of course Powell, he was the only natural redhead among the lot.
Edmund Gwenn fresh from an Oscar himself for Miracle on 34th Street plays the Episcopalian minister who is trying to get a large contribution from Powell for a new church. Their discussion is also a highlight of the play and the fact that Powell had never been baptized is also a subject of a lot of humor.
Father still had life well into the Fifties with a television series adapted from the play that starred Leon Ames as dear old dad.
The play, the film still have a lot of character in it.
- Jul 2, 2007