The Absent-Minded Professor


1h 37m 1961
The Absent-Minded Professor

Brief Synopsis

A college professor fights off corrupt businessmen to market his new anti-gravity invention.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Fantasy
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1961
Premiere Information
New York opening: 16 Mar 1961
Production Company
Walt Disney Productions
Distribution Company
Buena Vista Film Distribution Co., Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "A Situation of Gravity" by Samuel W. Taylor in Liberty (22 May 1943).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 37m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.75 : 1

Synopsis

Ned Brainard, the science professor at a smalltown college, is so forgetful that he has left his fiancée, Betsy Carlisle, waiting at the altar on two different occasions. Though determined not to miss the third ceremony, he becomes engrossed in an experiment and again fails to appear. He does not become a bridegroom, but he does become the inventor of a black, rubbery, antigravitational substance which rises to a greater height each time it is bounced. After naming the product "flubber," he substitutes it for the motor of his old Model T and is soon soaring through the sky. Giddy with success, he secretly places some flubber on the shoes of the college's basketball players, enabling them to bounce over the heads of their opponents and win an easy victory. Word of his discovery soon attracts the attention of a scheming alumnus, Alonzo Hawk, who steals the professor's car. Ned places some flubber on Alonzo's shoes, however, and leaves him bouncing higher and higher on his front lawn. Then, with the aid of Betsy, he rescues his car and takes off for Washington, D. C. After completely upsetting the Pentagon's defense system, he lands on the White House lawn and becomes a national hero and, finally, Betsy's husband.

Photo Collections

The Absent-Minded Professor - Pressbook
Here is the original campaign book (pressbook) for Disney's The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), starring Fred MacMurray. Pressbooks were sent to exhibitors and theater owners to aid them in publicizing the film's run in their theater.
The Absent-Minded Professor - Movie Poster
Here is the original release American 3-Sheet movie poster for the Walt Disney film, The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), starring Fred MacMurray.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Fantasy
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1961
Premiere Information
New York opening: 16 Mar 1961
Production Company
Walt Disney Productions
Distribution Company
Buena Vista Film Distribution Co., Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "A Situation of Gravity" by Samuel W. Taylor in Liberty (22 May 1943).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 37m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.75 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Art Direction

1961

Best Cinematography

1961

Best Special Effects

1962

Articles

The Absent-Minded Professor


Walt Disney Studios entered the field of live-action features in the early 1950s, first with a series of historical adventures filmed in England (Treasure Island [1950], The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men [1952], The Sword and the Rose [1953], and Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue [1954]), followed by several adventure fantasies filmed in Hollywood, starting with the prestigious 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954). The tone of Disney's live-action films changed following the surprising success of The Shaggy Dog (1959); rather than a rollicking adventure, here was a slapstick situation comedy involving a family setting and a strong fantasy element. Two of the stars of The Shaggy Dog, Fred MacMurray and Tommy Kirk, were recruited for the like-minded romp The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), which proved to be an even bigger box-office bonanza for Disney; it was imitated by that studio for years.

The story by Samuel W. Taylor was simple and well-suited for supporting a series of inventive special effects sequences. Professor Ned Brainard (Fred MacMurray) teaches science at small-town Medfield College. His experiments lead to comic explosions, both in his classroom and at his home garage laboratory. One particular explosion causes him to miss (for a third time!) his nuptials to fiancee Betsy Carlisle (Nancy Olson). Brainard's attentions are diverted by a new discovery: a gooey substance which defies gravity by bouncing ever higher with each impact. The Professor dubs the flying rubber substance "Flubber." When the greedy town tycoon Alonzo Hawk (Keenan Wynn) threatens to close down Medfield College, Prof. Brainard sets out to use Flubber to save the school. He discovers that a bit of the stuff applied to the sneakers of the school's basketball team does wonders for their scoring percentage! Other applications of the substance eventually lead the professor on a dangerous mission to the White House via his flying, Flubberized Model T automobile!

Songwriters Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman penned "The Medfield Fight Song," for The Absent-Minded Professor. It was the first song the Sherman brothers wrote for a Disney film; they would go on to compose numbers for many animated and live-action features at the studio, including The Parent Trap (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963), Mary Poppins (1964), The Jungle Book (1967), and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971).

The Absent-Minded Professor was nominated for three Oscars®: Best Cinematography (Black-and-White), Best Art Direction, and Best Special Effects. The Hustler (1961) took home the first two honors, and while the Disney film should have been a shoe-in for the Best Special Effects prize, that honor went instead to the only other nominee, The Guns of Navarone (1961).

The success of this film led to a direct sequel which reunited almost the entire cast and crew, although Son of Flubber (1963) proved to be even more lightweight than its predecessor. The formula for Disney's live-action success was hit upon, however, leading to a seemingly endless series of madcap science-situation comedies from the studio such as The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964), The Monkey's Uncle (1965), The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), and many others. The setting of Medfield College itself was repeated in several of Disney's other live-action comedies. The Absent-Minded Professor has been remade twice – as a 1988 TV movie starring Harry Anderson, and a big-budget Robin Williams vehicle, Flubber (1997).

Producer: Walt Disney
Associate Producer: Bill Walsh Director: Robert Stevenson
Screenplay: Bill Walsh, story by Samuel W. Taylor
Cinematography: Edward Colman
Film Editing: Cotton Warburton
Art Direction: Carroll Clark
Set Decoration: Hal Gausman, Emile Kuri
Music: George Bruns
Special Effects: Peter Ellenshaw, Eustace Lycett, Robert A. Mattey, Joshua Meador
Cast: Fred MacMurray (Prof. Ned Brainard), Nancy Olson (Betsy Carlisle), Keenan Wynn (Alonzo P. Hawk), Tommy Kirk (Biff Hawk), Leon Ames (President Rufus Daggett), Edward Andrews (Defense Secretary), Ed Wynn (Fire Chief).
BW-97m.

by John M. Miller

The Absent-Minded Professor

The Absent-Minded Professor

Walt Disney Studios entered the field of live-action features in the early 1950s, first with a series of historical adventures filmed in England (Treasure Island [1950], The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men [1952], The Sword and the Rose [1953], and Rob Roy, the Highland Rogue [1954]), followed by several adventure fantasies filmed in Hollywood, starting with the prestigious 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954). The tone of Disney's live-action films changed following the surprising success of The Shaggy Dog (1959); rather than a rollicking adventure, here was a slapstick situation comedy involving a family setting and a strong fantasy element. Two of the stars of The Shaggy Dog, Fred MacMurray and Tommy Kirk, were recruited for the like-minded romp The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), which proved to be an even bigger box-office bonanza for Disney; it was imitated by that studio for years. The story by Samuel W. Taylor was simple and well-suited for supporting a series of inventive special effects sequences. Professor Ned Brainard (Fred MacMurray) teaches science at small-town Medfield College. His experiments lead to comic explosions, both in his classroom and at his home garage laboratory. One particular explosion causes him to miss (for a third time!) his nuptials to fiancee Betsy Carlisle (Nancy Olson). Brainard's attentions are diverted by a new discovery: a gooey substance which defies gravity by bouncing ever higher with each impact. The Professor dubs the flying rubber substance "Flubber." When the greedy town tycoon Alonzo Hawk (Keenan Wynn) threatens to close down Medfield College, Prof. Brainard sets out to use Flubber to save the school. He discovers that a bit of the stuff applied to the sneakers of the school's basketball team does wonders for their scoring percentage! Other applications of the substance eventually lead the professor on a dangerous mission to the White House via his flying, Flubberized Model T automobile! Songwriters Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman penned "The Medfield Fight Song," for The Absent-Minded Professor. It was the first song the Sherman brothers wrote for a Disney film; they would go on to compose numbers for many animated and live-action features at the studio, including The Parent Trap (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963), Mary Poppins (1964), The Jungle Book (1967), and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). The Absent-Minded Professor was nominated for three Oscars®: Best Cinematography (Black-and-White), Best Art Direction, and Best Special Effects. The Hustler (1961) took home the first two honors, and while the Disney film should have been a shoe-in for the Best Special Effects prize, that honor went instead to the only other nominee, The Guns of Navarone (1961). The success of this film led to a direct sequel which reunited almost the entire cast and crew, although Son of Flubber (1963) proved to be even more lightweight than its predecessor. The formula for Disney's live-action success was hit upon, however, leading to a seemingly endless series of madcap science-situation comedies from the studio such as The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964), The Monkey's Uncle (1965), The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), and many others. The setting of Medfield College itself was repeated in several of Disney's other live-action comedies. The Absent-Minded Professor has been remade twice – as a 1988 TV movie starring Harry Anderson, and a big-budget Robin Williams vehicle, Flubber (1997). Producer: Walt Disney Associate Producer: Bill Walsh Director: Robert Stevenson Screenplay: Bill Walsh, story by Samuel W. Taylor Cinematography: Edward Colman Film Editing: Cotton Warburton Art Direction: Carroll Clark Set Decoration: Hal Gausman, Emile Kuri Music: George Bruns Special Effects: Peter Ellenshaw, Eustace Lycett, Robert A. Mattey, Joshua Meador Cast: Fred MacMurray (Prof. Ned Brainard), Nancy Olson (Betsy Carlisle), Keenan Wynn (Alonzo P. Hawk), Tommy Kirk (Biff Hawk), Leon Ames (President Rufus Daggett), Edward Andrews (Defense Secretary), Ed Wynn (Fire Chief). BW-97m. by John M. Miller

Quotes

Let's see, flying rubber, Flubber.
- Prof. Ned Brainard
Corners beautifully doesn't it?
- Prof. Ned Brainard

Trivia

Notes

Son of Flubber, q. v., is a sequel.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States March 16, 1961

Released in United States March 17, 1961

Released in United States on Video August 13, 1996

Based on the short story "A Situation of Gravity," written by Samuel W. Taylor.

Released in United States March 16, 1961 (New York City)

Released in United States March 17, 1961 (Los Angeles)

Released in United States on Video August 13, 1996

Released in USA on video as part of Walt Disney's Family Film Collection.