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Man Who Came to Dinner

Bette Davis , Ann Sheridan , Jean Negulesco , Richard L. Bare    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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A legendary Broadway tour de force comes to the screen with Monty Woolley's central performance in The Man Who Came to Dinner. And it's a turn well worth immortalizing. All goatish beard, snapping teeth, and plummy-voiced put-downs, Woolley fully inhabits the role of Sheridan Whiteside, a celebrated author and radio celebrity who gets waylaid by a cracked hip during a visit to small-town Ohio. Bossing the helpless homeowners and bewildered staff from his wheelchair, he quickly fills his hosts' house with his projects (including four penguins) and famous visitors (Ann Sheridan as a self-centered diva, Jimmy Durante as a comedian based on Harpo Marx). Bette Davis goes for a quieter role than usual as Whiteside's assistant; she falls for a local newspaperman, drippily played by Richard Travis. They all revolve around the seated figure of Woolley, his hands drumming on his armrests, his teeth bared as though ready to devour his inferiors. He's delicious. The script is larded with topical references and Broadway-style repartee, not all of which has aged well, and director William Keighley doesn't have a clear grasp of how to shoot jokes. But the basic situation is so durable, and Whiteside's character (based on famed Algonquin Round Table wit Alexander Woollcott) so unusual and nasty, that the movie remains great fun. --Robert Horton

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Movie March 17 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
With Bette Davis, it has to be good. Good acting. A nice story that moves along at a good pace. Nice way to spend a couple of hours.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By J. Lovins TOP 50 REVIEWER
Warner Bros. Pictures presents "THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER" (1942 113 min/B&W) -- Starring: Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, Monty Woolley, Richard Travis, Jimmy Durante, Billie Burke, Reginald Gardiner & Grant Mitchell

Directed by William Keighley

While on a lecture tour in Ohio, Sheridan Whiteside (Monty Woolley) slips on the ice outside his hosts' home; until his broken leg heals, the hosts, Mr & Mrs Ernest Stanley (Grant Mitchell & Billie Burke) are forced to put up with the imperious Whiteside. This means enduring an unending stream of Whiteside's whims, caprices and vitriolic bon mots, as well as his long-distance phone calls, eccentric guests and a variety of critters, ranging from penguins to octopus. Whiteside insists upon stage-managing the lives of everyone around him. He is particularly keen on discouraging a romance between his faithful secretary Maggie Cutler (Bette Davis) and local newspaper editor Bert Jefferson (Richard Travis).

The George S. Kaufman/Moss Hart Broadway hit The Man Who Came to Dinner was inspired by the authors' mutual friend, waspish critic/author Alexander Woollcott.

The script, by the Epstein brothers, manages to retain most of the plays best lines and situations, even while expanding Bette Davis' role to justify her star status.

* Special footnote: -- Monty Woolley's favorite song for entertaining at parties was Cole Porter's "Miss Otis Regrets".

1. William Keighley Director)
Date of Birth: 4 August 1889 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Date of Death: 24 June 1984 - New York City, New York

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2.0 out of 5 stars Shoddy adaption of a fine play Jan. 10 2004
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Kaufman and Hart's stage-play was a gem, hilarious and tightly constructed. Adapting it to film, however, drained much of the life out of it.
First of all, the film version comes across and formless and rambling. It's never clear what the central story is: is it the obnoxious houseguest vs. the owners of the house, or is it his secretary's love-affair, or is it something else? On stage, the division of the play into separate acts imposed a sense of order onto all of this, but in the movie its just stitched together. What's more, the movie adds brief scenes - Whiteside arriving in the town, the secretary skating with her boyfriend - that distract from the plot without adding anything.
Almost every good scene is defeated by incompetent choice of camera shots. Close-ups are brought in at inappropriate moments. The rhythm of the film is constantly in flux.
Monty Wooley does not, in my opinion, play the leading role very consistently. Some of the supporting performances are dreadful: the nurse, the young writer/newspaperman (one of the worst actors I've ever seen). Bette Davis is not bad, but her chemistry with Wooley is erratic; sometimes she laughs gently at him, other times she takes a hard-bitten cynical approach to his behavior. The problem is less with her than with the direction. Ann Sheridan and Billy Burke give the only really satisfying performances.
Bette Davis herself complained: "I felt the film was not directed in a very imaginative way. For me it was not a happy film to make--that it was a success, of course, did make me happy."
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Format:VHS Tape
- watching Now, Voyager or Mr Skeffington?
Usually I like to watch a movie twice or even three times when I intend to review it. This one I just can't bring myself to give another chance. Monty Wooley was the star and so aggravating and predominating that Bette Davis' brilliant performance as his secretary was shadowed beyond recall. The best part that didn't involve Bette Davis was the climax when the lady got put into the mummy case. The only other good part that I recall was the skating scene with Bette and Boyfriend.
That is all I can bring myself to say about this. Watch it if you like, but I advise you to rent it first. Then you can make your own judgement.
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4.0 out of 5 stars cruzzardly fun June 16 2002
Format:VHS Tape
The scenery in the play was beautiful, but the actors got in front of it.
-Alexander Woollcott
The Stanley's of Mesalia, Ohio are quite honored to have the famous critic and radio personality Sheridan Whiteside come to dinner. Whiteside, an irascible, elitist, buzzard of a man is less thrilled. When he slips on
their front steps, is confined to a wheelchair, and effectively commandeers the Stanley house, no one's very happy. Soon the tyrannical Whiteside is dispensing flippant advice to the Stanley children, having octopus
and penguins delivered to the house, and dining with convicted murderers on loan from the state penitentiary.
On a more serious note (though still played for laughs, of course), he meddles in the nascent love affair between his devoted secretary (Bette Davis) and a local newspaper man (Richard Travis), who just happens to
be an aspiring playwright. When it begins to look like she'll leave his employee to marry her young man, Whiteside brings in a vampish gold digger, who thinks she'll get to be the lead in what Whiteside assures her is
the young man's masterful drama.
The whole thing is as madcap and zany as it gets, but the film is completely dominated by Monty Woolley as Whiteside. Woolley had played the role on Broadway too, a role that George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart
based on the profoundly unpleasant but very powerful NY Times drama critic Alexander Woollcott. Rarely has egomania been more amusing, though it's sure to offend some sensibilities.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Woolley's Career Breakthrough
Monty Woolley led the kind of life that could have been filmed as fascinating biography. Born into New York wealth, he was the silver-spooned son of the owner of Manhattan's... Read more
Published on May 18 2002 by William Hare
5.0 out of 5 stars A great film!
I very highly recommned this movie. It is very entertaining and well worth seeing. Bette Davis is very good in it. They definetly don't make movies like this anymore.
Published on Jan. 25 2002 by Rosella Ann Myles
1.0 out of 5 stars Great Movie.... Bad TAPE
I ordered this Great Christmas movie and looked forward to viewing it again... however the quality of the video I received was terrible! Read more
Published on Dec 22 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars A great holiday farce!
The holidays are times for fun and laughter. Monty Wooley, Ann Sheridan and Jimmy Durante deliver just that in The Man Who Came To Dinner. Read more
Published on Dec 10 2000 by Vincent Mattaliano Jr.
4.0 out of 5 stars A FINE COMEDY
A wonderful little movie in which Monty Woolley gives his classic interpretation of Sheridan Whiteside, THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER and stayed and stayed..... Read more
Published on May 23 2000 by "scotsladdie"
4.0 out of 5 stars The Houseguest from Hades
Incredibly nasty / fun comedy about a lecturer who is injured while visiting the home of a well-to-do socialite and must spend Christmas in her home convalescing. Read more
Published on April 25 2000 by "mr_nasty"
5.0 out of 5 stars The Houseguest Nobody Would Want
Monty Woolley stars as Sheridan Whiteside, a critic with a gift for insults and getting his way, who falls on the porch of the home of a family eager to meet him. Read more
Published on Feb. 26 2000 by James L.
There are not enough good things to say about this charming film! Monty Wooly is divine, Billie Burke is adorable, and what could be said about Bette Davis? Read more
Published on June 28 1999 by Charles Stern
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