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Life with Father

Life with Father(1947)


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The opening titles card reads "Clarence Day's Life with Father. Although there is a copyright statement on the film, it is not listed in the U.S. Catalog of Copyright Entries for Motion Pictures. Clarence Day, Sr. was a governor on the New York Stock Exchange. His father, Benjamin, founded the New York Sun and his brother, Benjamin, Jr., invented the Ben Day process for color printing. Clarence Day, Jr.'s books were originally published as a series of essays in the New York Evening Post, Harpers and The New Yorker. After Day's death in 1935, the stories became the basis of a play by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. The play's original Broadway run lasted for eight years.
       Hollywood Reporter news items add the following information about the production: In 1940, Samuel Goldwyn offered $200,000 for screen rights to the Oscar Serlin production of the play, but the purchase did not take place because Serlin demanded a three-year clearance clause before the exhibition of the film. In July 1944, Mary Pickford negotiated with Serlin for rights, planning to star in the film with William Powell. Warner Bros. acquired the screen rights to the play in November 1944 for a reputed down payment of $500,000 plus a percentage of the net proceeds. As part of the agreement, the film was not to be released before 1947 and the property was to revert back to Oscar Serlin after a period of seven years.
       The agreement also stipulated that Warner Bros. could make only one film based on the play, the script could use only that part of Clarence Day's life which was included in the Broadway play, and that the owners were to have editorial rights over matters of good taste in the film version. Both Lindsay Crouse and Mrs. Day were to be technical advisors on the film's production, but only Mrs. Day is credited on the film. Howard Lindsay and Dorothy Stickney, stars of the stage production, tested for the lead roles. Rosalind Russell was considered for the part of "Vinnie Day," and Bette Davis, Rosemary DeCamp and Mary Pickford also tested for the role. Fredric March was considered for the role of "Clarence Day," as was Ronald Colman.
       According to information in the file on the film at the USC Cinema-Television Library, Shirley Temple and Ann Todd tested for the role of "Mary;" Freddie Bartholomew tested for "Clarence;" and Cora Witherspoon tested for "Aunt Cora." Director Michael Curtiz disliked ZaSu Pitts's performance as Aunt Cora so much that he attempted to replace her mid-film, but as no acceptable substitute could be found, she continued in the role. William Powell and Elizabeth Taylor were borrowed from M-G-M for the production. Studio production notes included in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library state that with the exception of Martin Milner, a natural redhead, all the actors playing members of the Day family had dyed red hair.
       The film's premiere was held at the Lakewood Theater in Skowhagen, MN, where the play had its first tryout on the same day eight years earlier. Modern sources note that half of the released prints billed Dunne first and the other half listed Powell's name first. First run theaters were required to alternate prints and advertising alternated the same way. The film received the following Academy Award nominations: Powell for Best Actor, Robert Haas for Art Direction, George James Hopkins for Set Decoration, Peverell Marley and William V. Skall for Best Color Cinematography, and Max Steiner for Best Musical Score. In a July 31, 1948 Saturday Evening Post article, Powell cited the character of "Clarence Day" as his favorite screen role to date. Clarence Day's stories about his father also served as the basis for a television series starring Leon Ames and Lurene Tuttle, which ran from November 1953 until July 1955.