THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER: The Essentials
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Celebrated cosmopolitan wit and radio personality Sheridan Whiteside is in the midst of a cross-country lecturing tour when he stops in the small town of Mesalia, Ohio. His long-suffering secretary Maggie has arranged for him to be the dinner guest of the Stanleys, a prominent local family. Whiteside, a snob of the highest order, turns his nose up at the idea but shows up out of obligation. When Whiteside slips and falls on the Stanleys' icy stairs, he is forced to spend his long recuperation time as a guest in their home. With Whiteside threatening to sue them, the Stanleys bend over backwards to make his stay comfortable, but the prickly Whiteside soon becomes the guest from hell. Barking orders at everyone in sight, receiving questionable visitors, running up huge phone bills and hurling insults at anyone within earshot, Whiteside wreaks havoc on the entire household with hilarious results.
Director: William Keighley
Producer: Sam H. Harris, Hal B. Wallis (Executive Producer), Jack Saper (Associate Producer), Jerry Wald (Associate Producer)
Screenplay: Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein
Based on the play The Man Who Came to Dinner by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart
Cinematography: Tony Gaudio
Editing: Jack Killifer
Music Composer: Leo F. Forbstein, Frederick Hollander
Costume Designer: Orry-Kelly
Art Direction: Robert Haas
Cast: Bette Davis (Maggie Cutler), Ann Sheridan (Lorraine Sheldon), Monty Woolley (Sheridan Whiteside), Richard Travis (Bert Jefferson), Jimmy Durante (Banjo), Billie Burke (Daisy Stanley), Reginald Gardiner (Beverly Carlton), Elisabeth Fraser (June Stanley), Grant Mitchell (Ernest Stanley), George Barbier (Dr. Bradley), Mary Wickes (Miss Preen), Russell Arms (Richard Stanley), Ruth Vivian (Harriet Stanley), Edwin Stanley (John), Betty Roadman (Sarah), Charles Drake (Sandy), Nanette Vallon (Cosette), John Ridgely (Radio Man).
Why THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER is Essential
Based on the stage play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, The Man Who Came to Dinner is simply one of the funniest film comedies of all time. Rich with witty tongue-twisting dialogue and sharp zingers, the script is laugh-out-loud funny in all its delicious nastiness.
Real-life critic, lecturer and wit Alexander Woollcott served as the inspiration for the outrageous character of Sheridan Whiteside. The film, along with the successful stage versions, helped solidify Woollcott in the American consciousness and added to his legacy as a celebrity.
In addition to Alexander Woollcott, Kaufman and Hart also slyly based several other characters in The Man Who Came to Dinner on their prominent friends. For instance, the character of Beverly Carlton (Reginald Gardiner) was based on playwright Noel Coward and Banjo (Jimmy Durante) was based on Harpo Marx.
The Man Who Came to Dinner features Bette Davis in one of her very rare appearances in a comedy. Davis, long associated with heavy, dramatic roles loved the light-hearted play and thought that playing Maggie would be a refreshing change of pace for her. It was also unusual for Davis, a big star at the time, to take a second-fiddle role in an ensemble cast, but Davis knew a good story when she saw it, and wanted to be a part of such a well-written piece.
The lead actor Monty Woolley was not a well known name when he starred as Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner and almost didn't get the part because of it. His hilarious performance is key to the film's success and in itself makes the film worth watching as he holds his own against the likes of Bette Davis.
by Andrea Passafiume