The Mouse That Roared


1h 23m 1959
The Mouse That Roared

Brief Synopsis

An impoverished nation declares war on the U.S. hoping to lose and score foreign aid.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
War
Adaptation
Release Date
Nov 1959
Premiere Information
Geneva, Switzerland premiere: 23 May 1959; New York opening: 26 Oct 1959
Production Company
Highroad Productions, Inc.; Open Road Films, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
New York City, New York, USA; England, United Kingdom; London, England, Great Britain; Shepperton , England, Great Britain; Shepperton Studios, England, United States; Shepperton Studios, England, Great Britain; Surrey, England, Great Britain
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Mouse That Roared by Leonard Wibberley (Boston, 1955).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Film Length
7,459ft

Synopsis

In the tiny European Duchy of Grand Fenwick, Duchess Gloriana XII, the Duchy's reigning monarch, meets with Prime Minister Count Rupert Mountjoy and the parliament to discuss their country's impending bankruptcy. Fenwick's economy is dependent upon its export of wine to the United States, and now competition from a California winery named "Enwick" threatens to put the country out of business. To avert bankruptcy, Mountjoy proposes declaring war on the United States, reasoning that once the Americans defeat the Duchy, they will feel obligated to pour financial aid into the country. To accomplish this, Mountjoy sends a Declaration of War to Washington, then appoints Tully Bascombe, who serves Fenwick in the dual capacity of forest ranger and field marshal, to lead a brigade of twenty men to invade the United States. Although Tully is hesitant to abandon the tranquility of the forest for the vagaries of war, he recruits twenty of his reluctant countrymen to carry out their patriotic duty and defend the fortunes of Fenwick. Armed with bows and arrows, the troops hail a bus to Marseilles, where they board a dilapidated freighter bound for New York. Dressed in chain mail and metal helmets, Tully and his troops land in New York on the day of an air raid drill and find the city deserted. Puzzled by the empty streets, Tully picks up a newspaper and reads about the drill, which has been called because of the impending development of the Q bomb, a weapon one hundred times more powerful than the H bomb. As Tully decides to proceed to the arsenal and surrender, Dr. Alfred Kokintz, the developer of the bomb, perfects a football-shaped working model at the New York Institute of Physics. While marching to the arsenal, Tully and his men are mistaken for space aliens by two civil defense squadron leaders who then report an "alien invasion" to headquarters. After taking a wrong turn through Central Park, Tully ends up at the Institute of Physics, where he meets Kokintz and his daughter Helen. Recalling the newspaper article about Kokintz building the bomb, Tully decides to take the scientist, his creation and his daughter hostage and use them as a bargaining chip to win the war. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., the Secretary of Defense has been apprised of the space invaders and orders Gen. Snippet, the officer in charge of New York City, to investigate. When Snippet, accompanied by several police officers, arrives at the institute, Tully decides to take them prisoner, too. As Tully sails back to Fenwick with his prisoners of war, Mountjoy and Minority Leader Benter, unaware of the surprising turn of events, prepare to welcome the American conquerors. The Secretary of Defense, meanwhile, has belatedly received Fenwick's Declaration of War and, aware that the bomb is now in enemy possession, immediately declares defeat. Upon docking in Marseilles, Tully purchases bus tickets for the return trip to Fenwick, where he enters the palace proudly to announce that he has won the war and captured the Q bomb. As word of Tully's victory spreads, mighty countries eagerly offer Fenwick military aid. When Mountjoy, disgruntled by the scuttling of his grand plan, proposes returning the bomb, the duchess insists on billeting the weapon in the dungeon, prompting Mountjoy and Benter to resign in protest. The duchess then appoints Tully the new prime minister. In Washington, meanwhile, the Secretary of Defense decides to fly to Fenwick to broker a peace accord. Mountjoy, determined to return the bomb and lose the war, visits Helen and tells her that he wants to send both her and the bomb back to the United States, then offers to help her escape. As the duchess serenades Kokintz on her harpsichord, and the Secretary arrives to discuss the terms of surrender, Mountjoy and Snippet go to the dungeon to retrieve the bomb. Tully, meanwhile decides to visit Helen, and during a heated argument with her over the fate of the bomb, kisses her and realizes that he has fallen in love. Later, Tully returns to declare his love, and as he pounds on Helen's bedroom door, Mountjoy pulls her out her window and into the duchess' antique automobile in which Snippet and the New York police are waiting to escape. Upon discovering that Helen is missing, Tully runs after the car. Meanwhile, foreign diplomats, playing a board game called "Diplomacy," have lined up outside the palace to vie for the bomb. When the car sputters to a stop on a hill, Snippet, holding the bomb in his lap, orders the others to get out and push. At the top of the hill, the car rolls out of control and crashes into a haystack. Tully catches up just as Snippet climbs out of the hay carrying the bomb. When the bomb begins to emit warning noises, Snippet punts it, and after it is tossed among the police and the diplomats, Tully catches it. Tully then negotiates a peace treaty in which the United States pays Fenwick $1,000,000 and agrees to withdraw Enwick wines from the market. After Tully informs the Secretary that he and Helen are to be married and Kokintz plans to remain in Fenwick to develop a new chewing gun, he warns that he will detonate the bomb unless all "the little nations of the world" are made its guardian. Tully explains that by using the bomb as leverage, the little nations will be able to negotiate worldwide disarmament. After the Secretary grants Fenwick custody of the bomb, Kokintz, accompanied by Helen and Tully, goes to the dungeon to examine it. As Kokintz fondles his creation, he sneezes, dropping the weapon, which falls soundlessly to the ground. Tully, Kokintz and Helen then agree to keep secret the fact that the bomb is "a dud."

Photo Collections

The Mouse That Roared - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for The Mouse That Roared (1959), starring Pter Sellers. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
War
Adaptation
Release Date
Nov 1959
Premiere Information
Geneva, Switzerland premiere: 23 May 1959; New York opening: 26 Oct 1959
Production Company
Highroad Productions, Inc.; Open Road Films, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
New York City, New York, USA; England, United Kingdom; London, England, Great Britain; Shepperton , England, Great Britain; Shepperton Studios, England, United States; Shepperton Studios, England, Great Britain; Surrey, England, Great Britain
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Mouse That Roared by Leonard Wibberley (Boston, 1955).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Film Length
7,459ft

Articles

The Essentials - The Mouse That Roared


SYNOPSIS

Faced with an insurmountable financial crisis, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick decides to declare war on the United States so they can lose and collect financial aid. The Prime Minister's plan goes awry, however, when the invading army of 20, led by the inept Field Marshall Tully Bascombe, manages to kidnap the inventor of the world-shaking Q-bomb. Bascombe's bungling of the scheme suddenly puts Fenwick and its doddering grand duchess at the center of international intrigue, while the Field Marshall finds himself drawn to the inventor's beautiful daughter.

Director: Jack Arnold
Producer: Carl Foreman, Jon Penington, Walter Shenson
Screenplay: Roger MacDougall, Stanley Mann
Based on the novel by Leonard Wibberley
Cinematography: John Wilcox
Editing: Raymond Poulton
Art Direction: Geoffrey Drake
Music: Edwin Astley
Cast: Peter Sellers (Tully Bascombe/Grand Duchess Gloriana XII/Prime Minister Count Mountjoy), Jean Seberg (Helen), David Kossoff (Prof. Kokintz), William Hartnell (Will), Monte Landis (Cobbley), Leo McKern (Benter), Bill Nagy (U.S. Policeman)
C-83m.

Why THE MOUSE THAT ROARED is Essential

After years of supporting roles and outstanding work on radio and television, Peter Sellers shot to international stardom with his three roles in The Mouse That Roared.

The film was the first feature in which Peter Sellers demonstrated his versatility by playing multiple roles, thus paving the way for similar acting stunts in the classic anti-war comedy Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), as well as such later comedies as Undercovers Hero (1974), The Prisoner of Zenda (1979) and his last film, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu (1980).

With its satire of the nuclear arms race, The Mouse That Roared anticipated such Cold War comedies as Dr. Strangelove, The Russians are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966) and The President's Analyst (1967).

After starting his career as a documentarian and then spending years at Universal-International making science fiction films, director Jack Arnold moved into comedy with this film, the genre in which he would specialize for the rest of his career, mostly directing television sitcom episodes. The film's opening, a mock documentary on the history of Grand Fenwick, and the scenes in which New Yorker's mistake the invaders for Martians, echo the director's earlier work.

by Frank Miller
The Essentials - The Mouse That Roared

The Essentials - The Mouse That Roared

SYNOPSIS Faced with an insurmountable financial crisis, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick decides to declare war on the United States so they can lose and collect financial aid. The Prime Minister's plan goes awry, however, when the invading army of 20, led by the inept Field Marshall Tully Bascombe, manages to kidnap the inventor of the world-shaking Q-bomb. Bascombe's bungling of the scheme suddenly puts Fenwick and its doddering grand duchess at the center of international intrigue, while the Field Marshall finds himself drawn to the inventor's beautiful daughter. Director: Jack Arnold Producer: Carl Foreman, Jon Penington, Walter Shenson Screenplay: Roger MacDougall, Stanley Mann Based on the novel by Leonard Wibberley Cinematography: John Wilcox Editing: Raymond Poulton Art Direction: Geoffrey Drake Music: Edwin Astley Cast: Peter Sellers (Tully Bascombe/Grand Duchess Gloriana XII/Prime Minister Count Mountjoy), Jean Seberg (Helen), David Kossoff (Prof. Kokintz), William Hartnell (Will), Monte Landis (Cobbley), Leo McKern (Benter), Bill Nagy (U.S. Policeman) C-83m. Why THE MOUSE THAT ROARED is Essential After years of supporting roles and outstanding work on radio and television, Peter Sellers shot to international stardom with his three roles in The Mouse That Roared. The film was the first feature in which Peter Sellers demonstrated his versatility by playing multiple roles, thus paving the way for similar acting stunts in the classic anti-war comedy Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), as well as such later comedies as Undercovers Hero (1974), The Prisoner of Zenda (1979) and his last film, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu (1980). With its satire of the nuclear arms race, The Mouse That Roared anticipated such Cold War comedies as Dr. Strangelove, The Russians are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966) and The President's Analyst (1967). After starting his career as a documentarian and then spending years at Universal-International making science fiction films, director Jack Arnold moved into comedy with this film, the genre in which he would specialize for the rest of his career, mostly directing television sitcom episodes. The film's opening, a mock documentary on the history of Grand Fenwick, and the scenes in which New Yorker's mistake the invaders for Martians, echo the director's earlier work. by Frank Miller

Pop Culture 101 - The Mouse That Roared


The film's title - The Mouse That Roared - has entered common usage as a description of an unexpected triumph scored by something or someone small and/or unheralded. It has been used to refer to everything from the American craft beer industry to, most recently, the country of Kyrgyzstan, site of a strategic American airbase used in the war in Afghanistan.

Leonard Wibberley published four sequels to The Mouse That Roared: Beware of the Mouse (1958), The Mouse on the Moon (1962), The Mouse on Wall Street (1969) and The Mouse That Saved the West (1969).

In 1963, Walter Shenson produced a sequel, The Mouse on the Moon, based on Wibberley's third Grand Fenwick novel. Peter Sellers was unavailable, so Margaret Rutherford and Ron Moody played the Grand Duchess and the Prime Minister, respectively. David Kossoff returned to play Professor Kokintz, who this time discovers a new rocket fuel that puts Grand Fenwick into the space race.

While working as an executive for CBS, Jack Arnold shot the pilot for a TV series based on The Mouse That Roared, with Sid Caesar cast in Sellers' three roles. The pilot did not sell.

The 1970 stage version of The Mouse That Roared by Christopher Sergel is a popular item with community and high-school theatres.

Henry A. Giroux titled his 2001 study of the influence of the Disney Company's growing power in the media The Mouse That Roared.

The rock group The Mouse That Roared released the 2006 CD Excommunicator, with music written by Stephen Kozik (aka Cloister Maximus III), former drummer for Minmae. They followed a year later with Pop Tomorrow.

John Fumasoli and the Jones Factor titled a 2007 jazz number "The Mouse That Roared."

by Frank Miller

Pop Culture 101 - The Mouse That Roared

The film's title - The Mouse That Roared - has entered common usage as a description of an unexpected triumph scored by something or someone small and/or unheralded. It has been used to refer to everything from the American craft beer industry to, most recently, the country of Kyrgyzstan, site of a strategic American airbase used in the war in Afghanistan. Leonard Wibberley published four sequels to The Mouse That Roared: Beware of the Mouse (1958), The Mouse on the Moon (1962), The Mouse on Wall Street (1969) and The Mouse That Saved the West (1969). In 1963, Walter Shenson produced a sequel, The Mouse on the Moon, based on Wibberley's third Grand Fenwick novel. Peter Sellers was unavailable, so Margaret Rutherford and Ron Moody played the Grand Duchess and the Prime Minister, respectively. David Kossoff returned to play Professor Kokintz, who this time discovers a new rocket fuel that puts Grand Fenwick into the space race. While working as an executive for CBS, Jack Arnold shot the pilot for a TV series based on The Mouse That Roared, with Sid Caesar cast in Sellers' three roles. The pilot did not sell. The 1970 stage version of The Mouse That Roared by Christopher Sergel is a popular item with community and high-school theatres. Henry A. Giroux titled his 2001 study of the influence of the Disney Company's growing power in the media The Mouse That Roared. The rock group The Mouse That Roared released the 2006 CD Excommunicator, with music written by Stephen Kozik (aka Cloister Maximus III), former drummer for Minmae. They followed a year later with Pop Tomorrow. John Fumasoli and the Jones Factor titled a 2007 jazz number "The Mouse That Roared." by Frank Miller

Trivia - The Mouse That Roared - Trivia & Fun Facts About THE MOUSE THAT ROARED


The British edition of Leonard Wibberley's book has the author's original title choice, The Wrath of Grapes.

In addition to the three roles he played in The Mouse That Roared, Sellers was the model for all of the historical figures whose statues were shown around the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.

Eventually, Sellers disowned his work in The Mouse That Roared, particularly his work as the relatively normal Tully. He would later say, "I enjoyed myself more as the Grand Duchess than I did playing myself in the love scenes."

Although the opening narration states that the Duchy of Grand Fenwick is the world's smallest country, at 15 square miles it is actually larger than Monaco and the Vatican.

The Mouse That Roared has earned $50 million to date. It was filmed for $450,000, a low budget even in 1959.

The film premiered in a special screening for diplomats held in Geneva May 23, 1959.

The Mouse That Roared opened officially at the Guild Theatre in New York, where it played for two years.

Columbia Pictures sold the film with the tagline "The Hilarious Story of How the Duchy of Grand Fenwick Waged War on the U.S. -- and Won." Also used was the line "All Is Fair in Laughs and War!"

Memorable Quotes From THE MOUSE THAT ROARED

"The Americans always rush to the aid of the people they defeat....They pour money into the country of their former enemies and do anything to save the people they've beaten." -- Peter Sellers, as Prime Minister Mountjoy, explaining his plan to Peter Sellers, as Grand Duchess Gloriana XII.

"You must remember that the Americans are a very strange people. Whereas other countries rarely forgive anything, the Americans forgive everything. There isn't a more profitable undertaking for any country than to declare war on the United States and be defeated." -- Sellers as Prime Minister Mountjoy.

"We declare war on Monday, we are defeated on Tuesday, and by Friday we will be rehabilitated beyond our wildest dreams." -- Sellers as Mountjoy.

"I don't want anyone hurt." -- Sellers, as Grand Duchess Gloriana, accepting the Prime Minister's plan.

"Maybe it's a holiday." -- Sellers, as Tully Bascombe, wondering why New York City is deserted.

"Fine thing. The United States and the Grand Duchy of Fenwick are at war, and it takes the FBI to find out about it." -- Austin Willis, as the U.S. Secretary of Defense.

"How am I gonna tell the President that we've been invaded by a bunch of 15th-century Europeans." -- Willis, as the U.S. Secretary of Defense.

"Well, Your Grace, we're home. Actually, there's been a slight change of plan. I know it will come as a surprise, a pleasant one, I hope, but we sort of won." -- Sellers, as Tully, to Sellers, as Gloriana.

"I warn you, madam. I know the Geneva Convention by heart."
"Oh, how nice. You must recite it to me some evening. I play the harpsichord." -- MacDonald Parke, as General Snippet, crossing swords with Sellers, as Gloriana.

"Of course we invented the Q-bomb 20 years ago, but the working people of this great democracy are greatly interested in seeing that your Q-bomb does not fall into the hands of the capitalist war-mongering hyenas" -- Message from Soviet Union to the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is not the end of the film. However, something like this might easily happen, and we thought we should put you in the proper mood. And now, back to our story." -- Narrator, after the Q-bomb seems to have gone off.

"You are a dud?" -- David Kossoff, as Dr. Alfred Kokintz, on dropping his bomb.

"The end. We Hope." -- Final title.

Trivia - The Mouse That Roared - Trivia & Fun Facts About THE MOUSE THAT ROARED

The British edition of Leonard Wibberley's book has the author's original title choice, The Wrath of Grapes. In addition to the three roles he played in The Mouse That Roared, Sellers was the model for all of the historical figures whose statues were shown around the Duchy of Grand Fenwick. Eventually, Sellers disowned his work in The Mouse That Roared, particularly his work as the relatively normal Tully. He would later say, "I enjoyed myself more as the Grand Duchess than I did playing myself in the love scenes." Although the opening narration states that the Duchy of Grand Fenwick is the world's smallest country, at 15 square miles it is actually larger than Monaco and the Vatican. The Mouse That Roared has earned $50 million to date. It was filmed for $450,000, a low budget even in 1959. The film premiered in a special screening for diplomats held in Geneva May 23, 1959. The Mouse That Roared opened officially at the Guild Theatre in New York, where it played for two years. Columbia Pictures sold the film with the tagline "The Hilarious Story of How the Duchy of Grand Fenwick Waged War on the U.S. -- and Won." Also used was the line "All Is Fair in Laughs and War!" Memorable Quotes From THE MOUSE THAT ROARED "The Americans always rush to the aid of the people they defeat....They pour money into the country of their former enemies and do anything to save the people they've beaten." -- Peter Sellers, as Prime Minister Mountjoy, explaining his plan to Peter Sellers, as Grand Duchess Gloriana XII. "You must remember that the Americans are a very strange people. Whereas other countries rarely forgive anything, the Americans forgive everything. There isn't a more profitable undertaking for any country than to declare war on the United States and be defeated." -- Sellers as Prime Minister Mountjoy. "We declare war on Monday, we are defeated on Tuesday, and by Friday we will be rehabilitated beyond our wildest dreams." -- Sellers as Mountjoy. "I don't want anyone hurt." -- Sellers, as Grand Duchess Gloriana, accepting the Prime Minister's plan. "Maybe it's a holiday." -- Sellers, as Tully Bascombe, wondering why New York City is deserted. "Fine thing. The United States and the Grand Duchy of Fenwick are at war, and it takes the FBI to find out about it." -- Austin Willis, as the U.S. Secretary of Defense. "How am I gonna tell the President that we've been invaded by a bunch of 15th-century Europeans." -- Willis, as the U.S. Secretary of Defense. "Well, Your Grace, we're home. Actually, there's been a slight change of plan. I know it will come as a surprise, a pleasant one, I hope, but we sort of won." -- Sellers, as Tully, to Sellers, as Gloriana. "I warn you, madam. I know the Geneva Convention by heart." "Oh, how nice. You must recite it to me some evening. I play the harpsichord." -- MacDonald Parke, as General Snippet, crossing swords with Sellers, as Gloriana. "Of course we invented the Q-bomb 20 years ago, but the working people of this great democracy are greatly interested in seeing that your Q-bomb does not fall into the hands of the capitalist war-mongering hyenas" -- Message from Soviet Union to the Duchy of Grand Fenwick. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is not the end of the film. However, something like this might easily happen, and we thought we should put you in the proper mood. And now, back to our story." -- Narrator, after the Q-bomb seems to have gone off. "You are a dud?" -- David Kossoff, as Dr. Alfred Kokintz, on dropping his bomb. "The end. We Hope." -- Final title.

The Big Idea - The Mouse That Roared


While working at the Los Angeles Times, Leonard Wibberley was so struck by the peace treaty between the U.S. and Japan that ended World War II he wrote an editorial suggesting that Japan's peace settlement suggested it was more profitable to lose a war than to win. He expanded on his idea in a serial, The Day New York Was Invaded published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1954. He published it in book form a year later as The Mouse That Roared.

Tyrone Power brought the novel to the attention of Columbia Pictures head of publicity Walter Shenson, who was so impressed he optioned the film rights himself in 1956. He also quit his job to devote himself full time to getting a film version made.

Shenson captured the interest of Carl Foreman, the blacklisted writer who had been working under a series of pseudonyms in England. Foreman had recently begun working under his own name again through his High Road Productions. In between films and the extensive pre-production planning on The Guns of Navarone (1961), he agreed to help get the movie made partly so he would have a project against which to charge office expenses.

Claiming he wanted to give The Mouse That Roared to an inexperienced director, Foreman offered the directing job to Jack Arnold, who had recently finished a lengthy stay at Universal International, where he directed such popular science fiction classics as It Came from Outer Space (1953), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). He had not directed any feature comedies, however, but that didn't pose a problem for Foreman.

Shenson turned the script over to Roger MacDougall, who had written the stage and screen versions of the British comedy classic The Man in the White Suit (1951), and Stanley Mann, primarily a television writer at the time. Shenson and Foreman revised the screenplay, and then allowed Arnold to make his own changes.

Sellers was eager to take on three roles in one film. His hero was Alec Guinness, who had played eight roles in the classic comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949).

Columbia executives insisted that Arnold cast Jean Seberg in the female lead. Even though she had only made two other films (Saint Joan in 1957 and 1958's Bonjour Tristesse), both of which had bombed, they insisted The Mouse That Roared needed a box-office name.

by Frank Miller

The Big Idea - The Mouse That Roared

While working at the Los Angeles Times, Leonard Wibberley was so struck by the peace treaty between the U.S. and Japan that ended World War II he wrote an editorial suggesting that Japan's peace settlement suggested it was more profitable to lose a war than to win. He expanded on his idea in a serial, The Day New York Was Invaded published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1954. He published it in book form a year later as The Mouse That Roared. Tyrone Power brought the novel to the attention of Columbia Pictures head of publicity Walter Shenson, who was so impressed he optioned the film rights himself in 1956. He also quit his job to devote himself full time to getting a film version made. Shenson captured the interest of Carl Foreman, the blacklisted writer who had been working under a series of pseudonyms in England. Foreman had recently begun working under his own name again through his High Road Productions. In between films and the extensive pre-production planning on The Guns of Navarone (1961), he agreed to help get the movie made partly so he would have a project against which to charge office expenses. Claiming he wanted to give The Mouse That Roared to an inexperienced director, Foreman offered the directing job to Jack Arnold, who had recently finished a lengthy stay at Universal International, where he directed such popular science fiction classics as It Came from Outer Space (1953), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). He had not directed any feature comedies, however, but that didn't pose a problem for Foreman. Shenson turned the script over to Roger MacDougall, who had written the stage and screen versions of the British comedy classic The Man in the White Suit (1951), and Stanley Mann, primarily a television writer at the time. Shenson and Foreman revised the screenplay, and then allowed Arnold to make his own changes. Sellers was eager to take on three roles in one film. His hero was Alec Guinness, who had played eight roles in the classic comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949). Columbia executives insisted that Arnold cast Jean Seberg in the female lead. Even though she had only made two other films (Saint Joan in 1957 and 1958's Bonjour Tristesse), both of which had bombed, they insisted The Mouse That Roared needed a box-office name. by Frank Miller

Behind the Camera - The Mouse That Roared


Used to working with Otto Preminger, who would scream at her even before the first take to get the performance he wanted, Jean Seberg had trouble adapting to Jack Arnold's gentler directing style. It often took as many as 20 takes for her to get through a scene.

Seberg only had one line in the first scene shot, which she shared with Peter Sellers and Leo McKern. For the first several takes, she stepped forward for her line, then back when she was finished. When Arnold pointed this out to her, she said she didn't even know she was doing it. By the time she got her movements under control, she couldn't remember the line. After 25 takes, Arnold postponed the scene until a few days later.

Arnold soon learned that Sellers did his best work on the first take and was usually useless by take three. The actor, schooled in improvisation, couldn't keep the lines fresh if he had to say them over and over.

Sellers modeled the Grand Duchess on his grandmother, but also used shtick he had developed for the radio series Ned's a Laugh, on which one of the characters he played was an eccentric old woman named Crystal Jollibottom. The Prime Minister was modeled on Alec Guinness' interpretation of Disraeli in The Mudlark (1950).

While filming The Mouse That Roared, Sellers was acting on stage in the comedy Brouhaha, which also dealt with a mythical kingdom whose ruler develops an outlandish plot to secure U.S. aid. Five days a week, he had to be at the studio at 6:30 a.m. for makeup and wardrobe, then get himself to the theatre by 7 p.m. During location shooting, a driver picked him up at the theatre after the performance and he slept in the car on the way to the film shoot.

The scenes in the ports of Marseilles and New York were both shot in Southampton. By luck, the Queen Elizabeth was just landing there at the time, so Arnold had extras on the Fenwick tugboat get as close to the luxury liner as possible and fire arrows at her. Later he added a scene with Stuart Sanders as the Queen Elizabeth's captain reacting to the attack.

The castle of Grand Fenwick was a façade built on the back lot of England's Shepperton Studios. Arnold also used the surrounding countryside as the forests of Fenwick.

The invasion of Manhattan in The Mouse That Roared was shot in a section of London that had been completely rebuilt after being bombed heavily during World War II. The glass and concrete high rises provided a perfect stand-in for New York. Arnold also filmed background shots on the streets of New York early one Sunday morning, when traffic was at a minimum.

Although Arnold and Shenson thought the dailies were hilarious, Foreman and Columbia's European head didn't get it. Their lack of response was so discouraging, Arnold stopped going to the daily screenings.

Arnold did not ask the studio's permission to make fun of the Columbia logo, convinced they would say no. At the film's opening, "Miss Columbia" discovers a mouse under her skirts and runs off screaming. At the end she returns to her pedestal. Studio executives first heard of the joke when they attended the New York previews, where it got a huge laugh. After that, there was no thought of cutting it, though it is absent from some television prints.

Columbia previewed The Mouse That Roared at two different New York theatres, the Trans-Lux, which was an art house, and Loew's 84th Street, which showed more popular entertainment. Both audiences roared with laughter. As a result, Foreman recalled the prints so the titles could be changed from "High Road presents" to "Carl Foreman presents."

by Frank Miller

Behind the Camera - The Mouse That Roared

Used to working with Otto Preminger, who would scream at her even before the first take to get the performance he wanted, Jean Seberg had trouble adapting to Jack Arnold's gentler directing style. It often took as many as 20 takes for her to get through a scene. Seberg only had one line in the first scene shot, which she shared with Peter Sellers and Leo McKern. For the first several takes, she stepped forward for her line, then back when she was finished. When Arnold pointed this out to her, she said she didn't even know she was doing it. By the time she got her movements under control, she couldn't remember the line. After 25 takes, Arnold postponed the scene until a few days later. Arnold soon learned that Sellers did his best work on the first take and was usually useless by take three. The actor, schooled in improvisation, couldn't keep the lines fresh if he had to say them over and over. Sellers modeled the Grand Duchess on his grandmother, but also used shtick he had developed for the radio series Ned's a Laugh, on which one of the characters he played was an eccentric old woman named Crystal Jollibottom. The Prime Minister was modeled on Alec Guinness' interpretation of Disraeli in The Mudlark (1950). While filming The Mouse That Roared, Sellers was acting on stage in the comedy Brouhaha, which also dealt with a mythical kingdom whose ruler develops an outlandish plot to secure U.S. aid. Five days a week, he had to be at the studio at 6:30 a.m. for makeup and wardrobe, then get himself to the theatre by 7 p.m. During location shooting, a driver picked him up at the theatre after the performance and he slept in the car on the way to the film shoot. The scenes in the ports of Marseilles and New York were both shot in Southampton. By luck, the Queen Elizabeth was just landing there at the time, so Arnold had extras on the Fenwick tugboat get as close to the luxury liner as possible and fire arrows at her. Later he added a scene with Stuart Sanders as the Queen Elizabeth's captain reacting to the attack. The castle of Grand Fenwick was a façade built on the back lot of England's Shepperton Studios. Arnold also used the surrounding countryside as the forests of Fenwick. The invasion of Manhattan in The Mouse That Roared was shot in a section of London that had been completely rebuilt after being bombed heavily during World War II. The glass and concrete high rises provided a perfect stand-in for New York. Arnold also filmed background shots on the streets of New York early one Sunday morning, when traffic was at a minimum. Although Arnold and Shenson thought the dailies were hilarious, Foreman and Columbia's European head didn't get it. Their lack of response was so discouraging, Arnold stopped going to the daily screenings. Arnold did not ask the studio's permission to make fun of the Columbia logo, convinced they would say no. At the film's opening, "Miss Columbia" discovers a mouse under her skirts and runs off screaming. At the end she returns to her pedestal. Studio executives first heard of the joke when they attended the New York previews, where it got a huge laugh. After that, there was no thought of cutting it, though it is absent from some television prints. Columbia previewed The Mouse That Roared at two different New York theatres, the Trans-Lux, which was an art house, and Loew's 84th Street, which showed more popular entertainment. Both audiences roared with laughter. As a result, Foreman recalled the prints so the titles could be changed from "High Road presents" to "Carl Foreman presents." by Frank Miller

The Mouse That Roared


"Only the British could be so funny," declared the Motion Picture Herald in its review of The Mouse That Roared (1959). That statement gave Jack Arnold and Walter Shenson a laugh, for they were the very American director and producer of said motion picture. The Mouse That Roared was made in England, however, and with a British cast. It has since become a comedy classic.

The story imagines a fictitious country called Grand Fenwick going bankrupt because its one export, a wine, has been duplicated by a California company which sells it cheaply. Prime Minister Count Mountjoy (Peter Sellers) tells Grand Duchess Gloriana XII (Peter Sellers, again) that tiny Grand Fenwick must declare war on the United States, lose immediately, and then reap the foreign aid that the U.S. always bestows on countries it defeats. In a tour de force, Sellers plays a third role of Tully Bascombe, the officer who leads Fenwick's 20-man army into New York City. Their plan of defeat goes awry when Bascombe wins the war by capturing the inventor of the United States' "Q-Bomb," which has the capacity of 100 hydrogen bombs. International complications ensue as other countries now want the bomb for themselves.

The screenplay was based on a novel by Leonard Wibberley first serialized in the Saturday Evening Post as The Day New York Was Invaded. Wibberley came upon his story idea while writing an editorial for the Los Angeles Times about the fact that Japan was receiving a windfall of aid from the U.S. after losing WWII. Perhaps, he hypothesized, it was better for a country to lose a war with America than to win. Wibberley's novel found its way to Walter Shenson, who was working as a publicist for Columbia Pictures in England at the time. Shenson loved it, personally bought the screen rights, and pursued producing it. Eventually, Carl Foreman agreed to finance it through his High Road Productions because he saw it as a small, inconsequential film to which he could charge office expenses for The Guns of Navarone (1961), which was entering pre-production. (Foreman, another American, was the blacklisted screenwriter of High Noon, 1952, and had re-established himself in London.)

Columbia Pictures agreed to distribute the picture, and Foreman and Shenson hired Jack Arnold to direct. Though best-known for his sci-fi films like Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), Arnold would later call The Mouse That Roared his favorite film. It's filled with outrageous jokes, starting right off the bat with a visual gag involving the Columbia Pictures statue of liberty logo. She hikes up her skirt and runs off the podium, frightened by a mouse. "I didn't ask them for permission, I just shot it," Arnold later said. "The audience laughed so hard, without even the story beginning, that we were home free. It set the tone for the whole film."

Beneath the movie's comedy is a serious statement on the absurdity of war and the danger of nuclear weaponry. Arnold recalled: "It was a way of making a social comment I felt was important. The most effective way to make a social comment is by satire and comedy... Luckily there was no pressure on me from anybody, except to make a good film from Walter Shenson who was the line producer and who was in complete agreement with what I wanted to do... The producers left me alone because (1) they didn't think it meant anything, and (2) they were just writing it off for expenses anyway."

Columbia did insist on casting Jean Seberg, however. She had just done two pictures for Otto Preminger and was a known "name," unlike Peter Sellers at this time. Arnold described Sellers as "a marvelous improvisational actor, brilliant if you got him on the first take. The second take would be good, but after the third take he could really be awful. If he had to repeat the same words too many times they became meaningless."

The director improvised as well. When he was in Southampton shooting a tugboat scene, "I saw the Queen Elizabeth coming in to [port]. I was on the cameraboat and over the radio I told the captain of the tug to get as close to the Queen Elizabeth as she could get, and tell all the boys to shoot arrows at her. I had three cameras on the boat itself and we got a sensational little sequence." Later on, a replica of the Queen Elizabeth's bridge was constructed on a sound stage and a scene was written for the ship's captain and first mate.

Not everyone was so gung ho during production. Arnold recalled: "Walter and I laughed a lot at the dailies in London, but Carl Foreman and Whiteman, head of Columbia in Europe, weren't laughing. They thought it was a disaster. It was so discouraging I quit going to dailies and asked Walter to watch them for me... When we previewed the finished film, they laughed so hard...that Foreman immediately had all the prints recalled and changed 'High Road Presents' to 'Carl Foreman Presents.'" The Mouse That Roared slowly became a word-of-mouth sensation. It played in small arthouses for a full year before going into general release - something which would be unheard of in today's quick-to-DVD marketing schedules.

A sequel entitled The Mouse on the Moon (1963), directed by Richard Lester, did not star Sellers and is forgotten today. Walter Shenson again produced it, then went on to produce A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965) for The Beatles.

Producer: Jon Penington, Walter Shenson
Director: Jack Arnold
Screenplay: Roger MacDougall, Stanley Mann, Leonard Wibberley (novel)
Cinematography: John Wilcox
Film Editing: Raymond Poulton
Art Direction: Geoffrey Drake
Music: Edwin Astley
Cast: Peter Sellers (Grand Duchess Gloriana/Prime Minister Mountjoy/Tully Bascombe), Jean Seberg (Helen Kokintz), William Hartnell (Will Buckley), David Kossoff (Professor Alfred Kokintz), Leo McKern (Benter), MacDonald Parke (General Snippet).
C-83m. Letterboxed.

by Jeremy Arnold

The Mouse That Roared

"Only the British could be so funny," declared the Motion Picture Herald in its review of The Mouse That Roared (1959). That statement gave Jack Arnold and Walter Shenson a laugh, for they were the very American director and producer of said motion picture. The Mouse That Roared was made in England, however, and with a British cast. It has since become a comedy classic. The story imagines a fictitious country called Grand Fenwick going bankrupt because its one export, a wine, has been duplicated by a California company which sells it cheaply. Prime Minister Count Mountjoy (Peter Sellers) tells Grand Duchess Gloriana XII (Peter Sellers, again) that tiny Grand Fenwick must declare war on the United States, lose immediately, and then reap the foreign aid that the U.S. always bestows on countries it defeats. In a tour de force, Sellers plays a third role of Tully Bascombe, the officer who leads Fenwick's 20-man army into New York City. Their plan of defeat goes awry when Bascombe wins the war by capturing the inventor of the United States' "Q-Bomb," which has the capacity of 100 hydrogen bombs. International complications ensue as other countries now want the bomb for themselves. The screenplay was based on a novel by Leonard Wibberley first serialized in the Saturday Evening Post as The Day New York Was Invaded. Wibberley came upon his story idea while writing an editorial for the Los Angeles Times about the fact that Japan was receiving a windfall of aid from the U.S. after losing WWII. Perhaps, he hypothesized, it was better for a country to lose a war with America than to win. Wibberley's novel found its way to Walter Shenson, who was working as a publicist for Columbia Pictures in England at the time. Shenson loved it, personally bought the screen rights, and pursued producing it. Eventually, Carl Foreman agreed to finance it through his High Road Productions because he saw it as a small, inconsequential film to which he could charge office expenses for The Guns of Navarone (1961), which was entering pre-production. (Foreman, another American, was the blacklisted screenwriter of High Noon, 1952, and had re-established himself in London.) Columbia Pictures agreed to distribute the picture, and Foreman and Shenson hired Jack Arnold to direct. Though best-known for his sci-fi films like Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), Arnold would later call The Mouse That Roared his favorite film. It's filled with outrageous jokes, starting right off the bat with a visual gag involving the Columbia Pictures statue of liberty logo. She hikes up her skirt and runs off the podium, frightened by a mouse. "I didn't ask them for permission, I just shot it," Arnold later said. "The audience laughed so hard, without even the story beginning, that we were home free. It set the tone for the whole film." Beneath the movie's comedy is a serious statement on the absurdity of war and the danger of nuclear weaponry. Arnold recalled: "It was a way of making a social comment I felt was important. The most effective way to make a social comment is by satire and comedy... Luckily there was no pressure on me from anybody, except to make a good film from Walter Shenson who was the line producer and who was in complete agreement with what I wanted to do... The producers left me alone because (1) they didn't think it meant anything, and (2) they were just writing it off for expenses anyway." Columbia did insist on casting Jean Seberg, however. She had just done two pictures for Otto Preminger and was a known "name," unlike Peter Sellers at this time. Arnold described Sellers as "a marvelous improvisational actor, brilliant if you got him on the first take. The second take would be good, but after the third take he could really be awful. If he had to repeat the same words too many times they became meaningless." The director improvised as well. When he was in Southampton shooting a tugboat scene, "I saw the Queen Elizabeth coming in to [port]. I was on the cameraboat and over the radio I told the captain of the tug to get as close to the Queen Elizabeth as she could get, and tell all the boys to shoot arrows at her. I had three cameras on the boat itself and we got a sensational little sequence." Later on, a replica of the Queen Elizabeth's bridge was constructed on a sound stage and a scene was written for the ship's captain and first mate. Not everyone was so gung ho during production. Arnold recalled: "Walter and I laughed a lot at the dailies in London, but Carl Foreman and Whiteman, head of Columbia in Europe, weren't laughing. They thought it was a disaster. It was so discouraging I quit going to dailies and asked Walter to watch them for me... When we previewed the finished film, they laughed so hard...that Foreman immediately had all the prints recalled and changed 'High Road Presents' to 'Carl Foreman Presents.'" The Mouse That Roared slowly became a word-of-mouth sensation. It played in small arthouses for a full year before going into general release - something which would be unheard of in today's quick-to-DVD marketing schedules. A sequel entitled The Mouse on the Moon (1963), directed by Richard Lester, did not star Sellers and is forgotten today. Walter Shenson again produced it, then went on to produce A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965) for The Beatles. Producer: Jon Penington, Walter Shenson Director: Jack Arnold Screenplay: Roger MacDougall, Stanley Mann, Leonard Wibberley (novel) Cinematography: John Wilcox Film Editing: Raymond Poulton Art Direction: Geoffrey Drake Music: Edwin Astley Cast: Peter Sellers (Grand Duchess Gloriana/Prime Minister Mountjoy/Tully Bascombe), Jean Seberg (Helen Kokintz), William Hartnell (Will Buckley), David Kossoff (Professor Alfred Kokintz), Leo McKern (Benter), MacDonald Parke (General Snippet). C-83m. Letterboxed. by Jeremy Arnold

Critics' Corner - The Mouse That Roared


AWARDS & HONORS

The Mouse That Roared is the eighth best selling DVD satire on Amazon.com.

The Critics' Corner: THE MOUSE THAT ROARED

"The joke about the small country that declares war on the United States in expectation of being quickly defeated and then rehabilitated by the conqueror is snowballed into a rambunctious satiric comedy in The Mouse That Roared.... Although it doesn't have Alec Guinness in it, it has a clear Guinness comic quality, and as the next best thing to Mr. Guinness, it has Peter Sellers playing three broad roles."
- Bosley Crowther, The New York Times

"Screen satire can be as risky as a banana-skin on a sidewalk. There are a few occasions when The Mouse That Roars gets oversmart, but on the whole it keeps its slight amusing idea bubbling happily in the realms of straightforward comedy. It's a comedy in the old Ealing tradition."
- Variety

"The kind of irrepressible topical satire whose artistic flaws become increasingly apparent but whose merits outlast them."
- Peter John Dyer

"Twenty Grand Fenwickians, dressed in armor and toting bows and arrows, set sail for New York in a ramshackle tug. That's about as far as the comedy gets. The film abandons its small, amusing idea and goes off on a wearying tangent about a scientist (David Kossoff) with a big bomb and an ingénue-daughter (Jean Seberg), but it was hugely and inexplicably popular."
- Pauline Kael, 5,001 Nights at the Movies

"Hilarious satire...gag before opening titles is a masterpiece."
- Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide

"Lively comedy which sounds rather better than it plays, but has bright moments."
- Halliwell's Film & Video Guide

"Engaging Ealing-ish comedy...Sellers is brilliant as the graciously melancholy Duchess (less good in his other two impersonations as prime minister and army chief), but the script veers wildly between satire and slapstick."
- Tom Milne, TimeOut Film Guide

"On its surface, Mouse conflates alien takeovers, nuclear holocaust, political machinations and military conflict as much as any other Red Menace film of the period. But unlike those films - and unlike Kubrick's Strangelove, which sets off the Doomsday explosion at the film's finale - Mouse is actually a comedy, not just a laughable exercise in paranoia. And so all this satire, conspiracy, and madness are just the backdrop for what remains a sweet love story, as well as another tour de force for Sellers' comic gifts. It's Austin Powers without the bathroom humor, except that it predates Mike Myers' franchise by 40 years. The Q bomb is a dud, a mere plot device to bring Sellers and Seberg together, punish Mountjoy for his lunacy, and make the audience feel safe at home. Because of that, the satirical thrust of the film is dampened considerably."
- Scott Thill, Bright Lights Film Journal

Critics' Corner - The Mouse That Roared

AWARDS & HONORS The Mouse That Roared is the eighth best selling DVD satire on Amazon.com. The Critics' Corner: THE MOUSE THAT ROARED "The joke about the small country that declares war on the United States in expectation of being quickly defeated and then rehabilitated by the conqueror is snowballed into a rambunctious satiric comedy in The Mouse That Roared.... Although it doesn't have Alec Guinness in it, it has a clear Guinness comic quality, and as the next best thing to Mr. Guinness, it has Peter Sellers playing three broad roles." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times "Screen satire can be as risky as a banana-skin on a sidewalk. There are a few occasions when The Mouse That Roars gets oversmart, but on the whole it keeps its slight amusing idea bubbling happily in the realms of straightforward comedy. It's a comedy in the old Ealing tradition." - Variety "The kind of irrepressible topical satire whose artistic flaws become increasingly apparent but whose merits outlast them." - Peter John Dyer "Twenty Grand Fenwickians, dressed in armor and toting bows and arrows, set sail for New York in a ramshackle tug. That's about as far as the comedy gets. The film abandons its small, amusing idea and goes off on a wearying tangent about a scientist (David Kossoff) with a big bomb and an ingénue-daughter (Jean Seberg), but it was hugely and inexplicably popular." - Pauline Kael, 5,001 Nights at the Movies "Hilarious satire...gag before opening titles is a masterpiece." - Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide "Lively comedy which sounds rather better than it plays, but has bright moments." - Halliwell's Film & Video Guide "Engaging Ealing-ish comedy...Sellers is brilliant as the graciously melancholy Duchess (less good in his other two impersonations as prime minister and army chief), but the script veers wildly between satire and slapstick." - Tom Milne, TimeOut Film Guide "On its surface, Mouse conflates alien takeovers, nuclear holocaust, political machinations and military conflict as much as any other Red Menace film of the period. But unlike those films - and unlike Kubrick's Strangelove, which sets off the Doomsday explosion at the film's finale - Mouse is actually a comedy, not just a laughable exercise in paranoia. And so all this satire, conspiracy, and madness are just the backdrop for what remains a sweet love story, as well as another tour de force for Sellers' comic gifts. It's Austin Powers without the bathroom humor, except that it predates Mike Myers' franchise by 40 years. The Q bomb is a dud, a mere plot device to bring Sellers and Seberg together, punish Mountjoy for his lunacy, and make the audience feel safe at home. Because of that, the satirical thrust of the film is dampened considerably." - Scott Thill, Bright Lights Film Journal

TCM Remembers - Leo McKern


TCM REMEMBERS LEO MCKERN, 1920-2002

The recent death of Leo McKern, 82, marked the passing of one of Britain's finest and most respected character actors. He was suffering from ill health in recent years and was moved to a nursing home a few weeks before his death on July 23 2002 in Bath, England. An actor of commanding presence with a deep-throated voice, the portly, bulbous-nosed McKern had a long, distinguished career spanning more than half a century, earning numerous plaudits along the way in all major mediums: theatre, film and television.

Born Reginald McKern on March 16, 1920 in Sydney, Australia; he served with the Australian Army during World War II and worked in regional theatre in his native Sydney before immigrating to England in 1946. It was a slow start, but after a three-year apprenticeship of painting scenery, stage-managing and acting, McKern eventually joined the celebrated Old Vic theatrical company in 1949 and proved one of the more versatile actors in the troupe tackling diverse roles in comedy, the classics and serious contemporary parts.

His film debut came in Murder in the Cathedral (1952) but it took a few years before he made his mark in cinema. Some of his best film work included roles as Peter Sellers' comic henchman in the classic satire The Mouse That Roared (1959); a bungling train robber in the charming Disney film The Horse Without a Head (1963); a nefarious professor who kills off his colleagues for amusement in the brilliant black comedy A Jolly Bad Fellow (1964); Clang, a cartoonish villain in the Beatles' pop film Help! (1965); Cromwell, the persecutor of Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons (1966) and as Thomas Ryan in the David Lean drama, Ryan's Daughter (1970).

Yet despite all the accolades McKern earned in theatre and films, it was television where he foundinternational fame as the wily, irascible barrister Horace P. Rumpole in John Mortimer's Rumpole of the Bailey in 1975. Infusing the character with beguiling skill and energy, McKern made the acerbic, wine swilling, Tennyson-quoting Rumpole a much loved figure that was adored by critics, audiences and even its creator Mortimer. Perhaps Mortimer offered the most fitting tribute when he once referred to McKern - "His acting exists where I always hope my writing will be: about two feet above the ground, a little larger than life, but always taking off from reality." Enough said.

By Michael T. Toole KATY JURADO, 1924 - 2002

Katy Jurado, an Oscar nominee and major actress in Westerns, died July 5th at the age of 78. She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico on January 16th 1924 as Maria Cristina Estella Marcela Jurado Garcia, daughter of a cattle rancher and an opera singer. Jurado started to appear in Mexican films in 1943. After 15 films in her native country, director Budd Boetticher saw Jurado attending a bullfight (Jurado wrote about the subject for Mexican newspapers) and cast her in his Bullfighter and the Lady (1952), her Hollywood debut. For much of her career Jurado alternated between the two film industries. In the US, she was memorable for the sensual energy she brought to roles in High Noon (1952), One-Eyed Jacks (1961) which was directed by Marlon Brando, Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) and John Huston's Under the Volcano (1984). She was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for Broken Lance (1954). Jurado's Mexican films were in a broader range of genres and included Luis Bunuel's El Bruto (1952), Ismael Rodriguez's We the Poor and Miguel Littin's The Widow Montiel (1979). She won three Ariel Awards (Mexican equivalent to the Oscars) and one special award. She was married to Ernest Borgnine from the end of 1959 to summer 1963. One of her final films was The Hi-Lo Country (1998), a contemporary Western directed by Stephen Frears and co-starring Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup and Penelope Cruz.

by Lang Thompson

DOLORES GRAY, 1924 - 2002

Broadway and nightclub star Dolores Gray died June 26th at the age of 78. Her movie career was brief but consisted of high-profile MGM musicals which guaranteed her a place in film history. Gray was born in Chicago on June 7th, 1924 (and where, according to a common story, she was accidentally shot by a gangster as a child and had a bullet in her lung her entire life). As a teenager she began singing in California until Rudy Vallee featured her on his radio show. Gray moved to Broadway in 1944 and then to the London stage in 1947, solidifying her reputation as a singer/actress while constantly giving the gossip columnists plenty to write about. She had two small singing roles in Lady for a Night (1941) and Mr. Skeffington (1944) but didn't really light up the big screen until It's Always Fair Weather (1955) even though Gray reportedly didn't much care for the role. Her rendition of "Thanks a Lot, But No Thanks," which has her gunning down a slew of male dancers on-stage and kicking them through trap doors, is a genuine showstopper. Three more unforgettable musical roles quickly followed: Kismet (1955), The Opposite Sex (1956, which Gray turned down Funny Face to do) and Designing Women (1957). That was it for Gray's film career. She kept busy with TV appearances (mostly singing though she did one 1988 episode of the cult show Dr. Who) and a busy recording and nightclub schedule. In 1987, she appeared in a British production of Follies at Stephen Sondheim's request.

by Lang Thompson

TCM Remembers - Leo McKern

TCM REMEMBERS LEO MCKERN, 1920-2002 The recent death of Leo McKern, 82, marked the passing of one of Britain's finest and most respected character actors. He was suffering from ill health in recent years and was moved to a nursing home a few weeks before his death on July 23 2002 in Bath, England. An actor of commanding presence with a deep-throated voice, the portly, bulbous-nosed McKern had a long, distinguished career spanning more than half a century, earning numerous plaudits along the way in all major mediums: theatre, film and television. Born Reginald McKern on March 16, 1920 in Sydney, Australia; he served with the Australian Army during World War II and worked in regional theatre in his native Sydney before immigrating to England in 1946. It was a slow start, but after a three-year apprenticeship of painting scenery, stage-managing and acting, McKern eventually joined the celebrated Old Vic theatrical company in 1949 and proved one of the more versatile actors in the troupe tackling diverse roles in comedy, the classics and serious contemporary parts. His film debut came in Murder in the Cathedral (1952) but it took a few years before he made his mark in cinema. Some of his best film work included roles as Peter Sellers' comic henchman in the classic satire The Mouse That Roared (1959); a bungling train robber in the charming Disney film The Horse Without a Head (1963); a nefarious professor who kills off his colleagues for amusement in the brilliant black comedy A Jolly Bad Fellow (1964); Clang, a cartoonish villain in the Beatles' pop film Help! (1965); Cromwell, the persecutor of Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons (1966) and as Thomas Ryan in the David Lean drama, Ryan's Daughter (1970). Yet despite all the accolades McKern earned in theatre and films, it was television where he foundinternational fame as the wily, irascible barrister Horace P. Rumpole in John Mortimer's Rumpole of the Bailey in 1975. Infusing the character with beguiling skill and energy, McKern made the acerbic, wine swilling, Tennyson-quoting Rumpole a much loved figure that was adored by critics, audiences and even its creator Mortimer. Perhaps Mortimer offered the most fitting tribute when he once referred to McKern - "His acting exists where I always hope my writing will be: about two feet above the ground, a little larger than life, but always taking off from reality." Enough said. By Michael T. Toole

Quotes

How did the war go?
- Grand Duchess Gloriana
Well, this is a bit of a surprise. A pleasant one, I hope. I think we've won.
- Tulley Bascombe
Ladies and gentlemen, this is not the end of the film. However, something like this might easily happen, and we thought we should put you in the proper mood. And now, back to our story.
- Narrator

Trivia

Notes

The film opens with the figure of "Miss Columbia" (the statue that serves as the studio's trademark) jumping down off her pedestal because she is frightened by a mouse hiding under her dress. The film ends with the written proclamation: "The end. We Hope." Miss Columbia then climbs back onto her pedestal. After the opening credits roll, an offscreen narrator introduces that history of the Duchy of Grand Fenwick and its inhabitants. The scene in which "Helen" and "Mountjoy" drive off with the bomb ends with footage of a nuclear explosion. The narrator then explains that this is not the end of the film, but that the footage was included to "put audiences in the mood." The action then continues as "Tully" runs after the car.
       According to publicity material contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library, author Leonard Wibberley had the idea for the novel on which the film is based while working as an editorial writer for the Los Angeles Times. Wibberley, fascinated by the peace treaty negotiated between the United States and Japan, wrote a satirical editorial in which he suggested that Japan was awarded so much aid for losing the war that perhaps it would be better to lose than win. Wibberley later expanded his thesis into a serialized novel titled The Day New York Was Invaded, which ran in Saturday Evening Post on 25 December 1954.
       When the novel was published in book form, the title was changed to The Mouse That Roared. Walter Shenson, who was then working as the head of publicity for Columbia Pictures in Britain, was given a copy of the book by actor Tyrone Power. Shenson was so impressed by the book that he bought the screen rights in 1956 and resigned from Columbia in 1957 to devote his energy to producing the film, which marked his debut as a producer. Shenson went on to produce a 1963 sequel titled The Mouse on the Moon, directed by Richard Lester and starring Margaret Rutherford and Terry-Thomas (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70).
       A premiere of the film was held for a group of diplomats in Geneva, Switzerland on May 23, 1959. According to publicity materials, the film's interiors were shot at the Shepperton Studios in England and location filming was done in the English Channel and in Surrey, England. Although an October 1958 Los Angeles Examiner news item stated that Columbia had hired Jean Seberg to play one of the female leads and was trying to persuade Kathryn Grant to play the other, the character played by Seberg is the only ingénue in the film. The Life magazine review called Peter Sellers, who was relatively unknown in the United States at the time of the film's release, "the funniest actor England has sent to America since Alec Guinness."

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1959

Released in United States March 1996

Film spawned a sequel "Mouse On the Moon" directed by Richard Lester.

Released in United States 1959

Released in United States March 1996 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "The Films of Jean Seberg" March 15-28, 1996.)