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5.0 out of 5 stars Fred McMurray and a good musical, what a combo!
My only criticism of the DVD version of this is that they edited out some of it. I'm used to seeing it with all the movie and it aggravated me that some of it was cut. But it is a very long movie (aren't all musicals?) so that may be why. The story is based on fact (exactly how close it comes I don't know!)and concerns a millionaire who is, to say the least, quite...
Published on July 29 2003 by D. Mckinzie

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3.0 out of 5 stars NOT THE HAPPIEST, BUT CERTAINLY THE MOST TYPICAL FROM DISNEY
Walt Disney's was a visionary film pioneer; he took the fledgling craft of animation and transformed it into an art form of the highest order, and, in the process, altered our collective perception of what childhood is all about. However, occasionally that vision was marred by Disney's own lack of foresight into changing audience tastes. By the end of the 1950s the Walt...
Published on June 22 2004 by Nix Pix


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3.0 out of 5 stars NOT THE HAPPIEST, BUT CERTAINLY THE MOST TYPICAL FROM DISNEY, June 22 2004
By 
Nix Pix (Windsor, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Happiest Millionaire (Sous-titres français) (DVD)
Walt Disney's was a visionary film pioneer; he took the fledgling craft of animation and transformed it into an art form of the highest order, and, in the process, altered our collective perception of what childhood is all about. However, occasionally that vision was marred by Disney's own lack of foresight into changing audience tastes. By the end of the 1950s the Walt Disney Studios had incurred huge expenses on Disney's foray into live action films, the birth of his theme park - Disneyland - and the lack luster box office response to his most recent and most expensive animated feature - Sleeping Beauty. Though the old master was set to recoup his losses, the sumptuously mounted, though often dismal, The Happiest Millionaire (released the year after Disney's death) was the personal and financial failure that rounded out Disney's tenure as the mogul of one of Hollywood's great cinema dream factories.

Throughout the 1950s and 60s road show engagements for movies of distinction were quite common. Road shows were designed to elevate movies to the lofty ambitions of live theater. They usually began with a lush orchestrated prelude, included an intermission half way through, and exit music to escort audiences out of the theater after the final credit sequence. One often dressed up for this sort of premiere event, certainly paid extra to attend and was often provided with a printed program as a keep sake from the occasion. Disney had attempted the road show only once before, on Fantasia (1940) and the result had been an unqualified financial disaster. What a pity then, that The Happiest Millionaire - what should have been an eighty-minute tune-filled - if antiseptic and sexless - melodrama, is over inflated into a gargantuan three hours spectacle that, quite simply, fails to dazzle.
The plot is a fictionalized account of real life circumstances that concern an eccentric Philadelphia millionaire, Anthony J. Drexel Biddle (Fred MacMurray). He runs a combination Bible and physical fitness college of sorts, loves boxing and keeps alligators in a solarium adjacent his dining room. When immigrant John Lawless (Tommy Steele) becomes Biddle's new butler he does indeed find his new surroundings rather odd. Not that Lawless isn't odd himself - it's just that, unlike Biddle's quirkiness, which can be grating to the point of distraction, Lawless becomes a genuinely loveable reprobate of congenial good humor, thanks to Tommy Steele's remarkable performance. The plot is thread bare to the point of nonexistent. It concerns Biddle's only daughter, Cordelia (Lesley Ann Warren). She's a sort of tomboy desperate to be feminine and sent off to a lady's finishing school where she meets and becomes engaged to New Yorker Angie Duke (John Davidson). Mrs. Duke (Geraldine Page) is social snob but Angie doesn't share her values. He wants to forgo the family business and build automobiles in Detroit. True to Disney form, everything does indeed work out in the end with Angie and Cordelia driving off toward an unintentionally apocalyptic matte painting that depicts the Motor City as something of a cross between Blade Runner and Mary Poppins, a glowering jungle of towering chimneys blackening the skies with the aftershocks of modernity.

Plot construction is problematic; As Cordelia's mother, Greer Garson is given extremely little to do. One of Disney's good luck charms - Hemione Baddeley has even less of a say. Equally curious is the fact that after the film takes great pains to introduce the Biddle two sons Tony and Livingston (Paul Petersen and Eddie Hodges) - even giving them a song - it suddenly loses interest in their character development by sending them off to school where, as an audience, we forget that they ever existed.
Of course, the plot - such as it is - would be largely forgivable if Disney's resident song writers, the Sherman Brothers had come up with a score worthy of their best endeavors. Tommy Steele opens the show with a bang with, Fortuosity, but the rest of the score does not live up to expectations and, in spots, is painfully sweet and cuddly. Valentine Candy or Boxing Gloves is so coy one wishes for the elegant Tommy Steele to burst into the room and tap dance its treacle into silence. All in all, Steele is remarkably well served by the score, belting out I'll Always Be Irish and several other songs with such austerity and charm that he easily dismisses the awkward lyrics. His choreography by Mark Breaux and Dee Dee Wood showcase Steele's finer points, particularly in the barroom number that closes the second half of the show. Unfortunately, there are no memorable showstoppers that leave one with a sudden urge to run out and buy the soundtrack or even leave the theater humming.
THE TRANSFER: This re-released DVD of The Happiest Millionaire is about as dismal as the film itself. Everything's present: the Overture, Entr'acte and Exit music, but the transfer is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. Unlike the previously available DVD from Anchor Bay, colors seem somewhat more dated this time around and fine details breaks apart with a considerable amount of pixelization and edge enhancement, especially when viewed on a larger monitor. There are also several cases where mis-registration of the camera negative results in an excessively blurry print - something else absent on Anchor Bay's version. This DVD compresses the entire running time on one side of the disc, which I suspect is the biggest problem. There are no extras, not even the trailer.
BOTTOM LINE: Get the Anchor Bay version instead!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fred McMurray and a good musical, what a combo!, July 29 2003
This review is from: Happiest Milliionaire (DVD)
My only criticism of the DVD version of this is that they edited out some of it. I'm used to seeing it with all the movie and it aggravated me that some of it was cut. But it is a very long movie (aren't all musicals?) so that may be why. The story is based on fact (exactly how close it comes I don't know!)and concerns a millionaire who is, to say the least, quite eccentric. He runs off servants constantly, but manages to hire as his butler John Lawless from Ireland, who fits in perfectly. McMurray, who plays the millionaire who hates change, was perfect in this part, as he fights sending his daughter off to finishing school and then fights even harder when she gets engaged. John Davidson plays the fiance (I think this might have been his first big screen role)and is both good-looking and likeable. The songs are good & some scenes are memorable indeed, like the high-class duel-of-words between Aunt Mary and Mrs. Duke or the hangover scene when they go to get Angie (Davidson) out of jail. Perhaps most memorable of all is the scene where the alligators have thawed out and the maid finds them -- don't ask, just watch the movie. A very enjoyable musical.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Wasn't this Walt's Final Live-Action Film?, March 12 2003
By 
Dave Mason (Los Angeles, CA USA) - See all my reviews
What genius decided to remove the name of Walt Disney from above the title of this film?
As the final production completed while Walt Disney was alive, this film deserved better for this DVD edition. Not only could there have been additional "special features" featuring the songs of the Sherman Brothers, but the spectacular work behind Emile Kuri's set designs should have given cause to at least feature a gallery of his work. Kuri's influence was extensive upon the films created during the final decade of Walt's life, and should be further acknowledged. This was a missed opportunity.
Most people with a VCR don't need an additional DVD. It was the FEATURES that created DVD demand, and it appears that now that there is market momentum toward this new technology, Disney, along with all other studios, is quickly retrenching in order to reduce costs. It is regrettable that they are also diminishing the value of their own brand in the process.
All in all, an unnecessary release in this version.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Get both versions!, Aug. 26 2001
By 
Monty Moonlight (Austin, TX, U.S.A.) - See all my reviews
A carefree millionaire (Disney Style) played by Fred MacMurray lives life his own way, sometimes bordering on Addams Family-esque habbits, such as keeping Alligators as pets and going on a chocolate cake diet? With his two sons soon to leave for school he is disturbed to find that his only daughter is now engaged and will be out of his life too. The story is told somewhat from the cheerful Irish butler's musical point of view. Tommy Steele portrays the butler and steels the show! The film is great traditional Disney fun. I fell in love with non-roadshow version of Happiest Millionaire a few years ago when seeing it on the Disney CHannel and it has become one of my all time favorite films. Then I found out there was a roadshow version, and when I started switching from VHS to DVD a year or so ago I decided to order both versions from Amazon. I recommend fans of the shorter version do what I did and buy both the shorter one, AND this roadshow version. Why? Well, I felt they was so different! I new I loved the shorter version, so I HAD to see the roadshow version! It's just a matter of one having more scenes than the other, but the shorter version is more simple, one you'd watch with your kids, and the longer roadshow version is like, the more adult version. Sometimes you just want to watch the simple, happy short version, and sometimes you want to watch the real deal. I don't know, but I LOVE them both, but when you started out with the short version, it just won't do to only have the roadshow.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Disney at its best!, Nov. 17 1999
By 
I have the belief that Disney is going down the tubes now days. With movies such as "Hocus Pocus", and "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and the deeply disappointing movies such as "Pocahontas" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (one that should not have been made at all from my point of veiw, and not fit for children), Disney is very disappointing. THe Happiest Millionaire is just one of those great movies made when movies were kept clean. There is no need of foul language or sex in this movie, you don't even miss them. Tommy Steele was great in this movie, he was witty, funny and charming. Fred MacMurray played the part well, and the paring of Leslie Ann Warren with John Davidson was brilliant. They were just right for the parts, and did them well. Gladys Cooper as the matriarch Aunt Mary, and Geraldine Page as the pompous Mrs. Duke were hilarious in the their duet song "There are Those". The songs in the movie are easy to remember, and fun to listen to. This in one movie (of many, believe me) that my mom and I like to watch together. I believe that you'll recognize Hermione Baddeley as Mrs. Worth, who, when Mr. Drexel Biddle told her "I could be dying!", replied with out batting an eye, "Indeed you could." (Baddeley played the maid who was always fighting with the cook in Mary Poppins.) This movie is one of a kind, and entirely true, based on the book, My Philadelphia Father, by Cordelia Drexel Biddel.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Why roadshows killed the movie musical..., Aug. 4 1999
By A Customer
A perfect example of why hugely budgeted, tiresomely lengthy film musicals doomed that genre forever beginning in the mid-1960s, THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE is truly one of the nadirs of the roadshow musical. A huge amount of work went into this film; unfortunately, the material is hard pressed to bear the weight of the roadshow accoutrements. Originally planned as a comedy and not a musical, THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE on view in this new DVD was born as a result of the Disney studio having had such success with MARY POPPINS in 1964, coupled with the industry-shaking phenomenon of THE SOUND OF MUSIC in 1965. Big musicals were considered foolproof at that point, but it was a major miscalculation on the part of the film industry.
THA HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE suffers from monotonous pacing, anachronistic costuming and hair styles, a terrible visual look due to the flat, overly bright lighting, and a dearth of production numbers. It's as if a bad '60s sitcom were grafted onto an overly ambitious Broadway musical. The movie wasn't a critical or box-office success, so Disney trimmed 20 minutes from the reserved seat version, and it still didn't catch on. Late 1967 also brought the ruinously expensive DOCTOR DOLITTLE to the screen, and that failure, plus the miscalculation of THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE, began the self-destruction of the film musical. Seeing the latter in its full-length version in 1999 doesn't evoke feelings of nostalgia, rather, it lets us see very clearly how the movie musical died. Sad but true.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Joyous Musical Classic, Aug. 3 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Happiest Mill.. (VHS Tape)
The expression, "They don't make them like that anymore" applies to The Happiest Millionaire, a joyous musical comedy from the folks at Disney. The last film that Walt personally oversaw was made at a time when musicals were extravagantly produced, with opulant sets, lively orchestrations, spirited choreograhy and oscar nominated costume design. Unfortunatly, if you did not see this in its initial release in the late sixties, you probably missed it because Disney buried it in its vault for years. Basking in the glow of Mary Poppins a couple of years before, the studio was hoping for another smash hit and hired the Sherman Brothers to score another Road Show musical. However, it was not to be and after only a moderate success with critics and the public, at a time when musicals were dying, the film all but disappeared except for occasional airings on the Disney channel.I saw the film as a kid and loved it and I find it just as enjoyable today. The cast highlighted by Fred McMurray and Greer Garson are in top form and you'll be singing Fourtuosity long after the fade out.Thank you Anchor Bay for restoring this lost classic that doesn't deserve its obscurity.
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3.0 out of 5 stars lavish disney production does not equal the sum of its parts, Aug. 2 1999
THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE is the last live production that Walt Disney oversaw before his death. The movie is an attempt to emulaite the big blockbuster reserved seat movie musicals popular following the SOUND OF MUSIC's success during 1960s and also to duplicate MARY POPPINS success. The production is lavish in terms of settings and costumes; with a great cast led by Fred MacMurray and Greer Garson; The songs by the Sherman brothers are likeable and not as bad as critics would have you believe; there are some great dance sequences. Unfortunatly, the plot is such a simple trifle which goes on and on for 164 minutes(in the restored version)that the movie eventually becomes a bloated, overlong bore. Its too bad because all the right ingrediants are there except a good story and script. The new DVD finally restores the movie to its original roadshow lenght. MILLIONAIRE was cut by 20 minutes following its premiere engagements.In fact the print which opened at Radio City Music Hall in NYC was already cut. The colors are excellent, the stero sound is good and the source materials are generally in good shape (a few markings here and there are not worth complaing about). This movie is now more a curiousity of its era and the wanning days of Disney's regime. It is certainly worth a look and may appeal to non-discriminating fans of musical movies.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Disney Family Video teaches Great Family Values!, May 1 2000
By 
"nells" (Tallahassee, FL USA) - See all my reviews
I am a fan of Fred MacMurray and so I love this film. However, aside from that this movie is great because is portrays a family that is very close. They are unique and proud of it. The children are taught that being different is good and that the family is most important. I believe that one of America's major problems is that the families are so divided. I love the relationship Cordy has with her father and the relationship between the parents. Cordy's life does not revolve around her friends. Those types of relationships are needed in the world today. The father does not come off looking like a goofball with a wife who has to "fix" him and make him socially acceptable. It is very refreshing to see a Disney movie that is portraying famliy values. I also love the fact that it is a musical by the Sherman Brothers. It is based on the book "My Philadelphia Father" by Cordelia Drexel Biddle. I read the book and loved it. The video is very similar.
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3.0 out of 5 stars my youngest likes it, Feb. 16 2003
By 
hardly_b (Palo Alto, CA USA) - See all my reviews
It's a sweet movie, and it was entertaining enough the first time, but I'll probably never watch it all the way through again. My youngest daughter liked it quite a bit when she was 4-7, and it became part of the regular rotation of comfort films. The music is good, the values are very family oriented, and it's very wholesome.
I got curious about the family on which this movie was based, and I couldn't learn much, but there was such a family, and they are apparently still around and still very rich and connected. One thing I learned is that the person on whom the John Davidson character is based died shortly after marrying the Biddle daughter, although he did leave at least one son. I can't remember much about what I discovered (it's been several years since I looked them up), but I got the distinct feeling that a factual movie about the family would have been quite interesting, and that this might be why they were picked as the subject of this one.
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