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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
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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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Woolley's Career Breakthrough May 18 2002
Format:VHS Tape
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 Bristol Hotel. When it came time for Woolley to attend college it was no surprise that he went to Yale, and when he switched schools it was anything but a surprise that he also attended Harvard, only to return later to the New Haven campus to become a professor of English.
Woolley always was attracted to acting, and started the Yale Drama Club while at Old Eli. His best friend at Yale was another silver spooner, the Indianan Cole Porter. The great songwriter helped jump start Woolley's acting career by using his impressive contact list.
Since Woolley was a character performer and highly distinct type with his aristocratic New York accent, which, in the manner of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had a quasi-British sound, he was not as easy to place as authentic leading man types such as a Jimmy Stewart or John Wayne, but eventually the right role came along and Woolley's career soared, after which he would never look back. The comedy writing team of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart found him the ideal role as the pompous broadcaster-literary critic Sheridan Whiteside in what became a resounding Broadway hit, "The Man Who Came to Dinner." It was so successful that the term became accepted in the American vernacular as someone who overstays his welcome. The role was modeled after the articulate and insufferably egomaniacal New York literary critic Alexander Wollcott.
Thankfully, when it came time to cast the film version of the acclaimed play Woolley did not become victimized as have so many great performers who popularized roles on Broadway, and was named to star.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Movie
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.
Published 17 months ago by Dorothee Harmon
4.0 out of 5 stars "The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942) ... Davis/Sheridan/Woolley/Durante...
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,... Read more
Published on Oct. 3 2011 by J. Lovins
2.0 out of 5 stars Why waste time watching this when you could be watching -
- watching Now, Voyager or Mr Skeffington?
Usually I like to watch a movie twice or even three times when I intend to review it. Read more
Published on July 13 2002 by J B
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 22 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. 25 2000 by James L.
5.0 out of 5 stars ONE OF THE GREATEST DRAWING ROOM COMEDIES OF ALL TIME!!
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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