Cast & Crew
The Dionne Quintuplets: Yvonne, Cecile, Marie, Annette, Emelie
In Moosetown, Canada, in the timberlands north of Montreal, Dr. John Luke, the town's only doctor for thirty-five years, delivers the annual baby of Asa Wyatt and his wife as winter begins and the last boat until spring leaves. When a diphtheria epidemic endangers the town's children, Dr. Luke calls his brother Paul, a doctor in Montreal, for more serum. Because Sir Basil Crawford, head of the trading company which employs most of Moosetown's men, will not immediately send a plane to deliver the serum, Paul's son Tony flies in the serum with his pal Greasy. Greasy plans to get married that Saturday, but because a wing breaks during the landing, he and Tony are stuck there until spring. Tony and Mary MacKenzie, daughter of the stern company district manager "Mac," fall in love despite Mac's disapproval. Dr. Luke visits his brother's hospital in Montreal, and after Sir Basil rebuffs his request for a proper hospital in Moosetown, Dr. Luke eloquently presents his plea before a Medical Association dinner, thus angering Sir Basil. In Moosetown, Tony proposes to Mary, but when Mac takes a swing at him, Tony fights back, breaks Mac's arm and flies away with Greasy, ignoring Constable Jim Odgen's warrant for his arrest. When Dr. Luke returns, he finds that Sir Basil has hired a company doctor, who discovers that Dr. Luke has no license to practice. Dr. Luke admits that after he received his degree, he did not have the twenty dollars for a license and says that it slipped his mind to get one later. Dr. Luke plans to leave, but Asa insists that he deliver his wife's new child. With the constable's reluctant help, Dr. Luke delivers and keeps alive the first surviving quintuplets in medical history, and after the news spreads throughout the world and Moosetown is inundated with tourists, Dr. Luke is awarded the Order of the British Empire, which he accepts on behalf of all country doctors. He gets a license, Mac rips up the warrant for the arrest of Tony, who returns, and a modern hospital is built by the trading company in Moosetown.
The Dionne Quintuplets: Yvonne, Cecile, Marie, Annette, Emelie
Helen Jerome Eddy
J. Anthony Hughes
Harry C. Bradley
Charles E. Blake
Daniel B. Clark
Philip De Esco
Darryl F. Zanuck
A note at the end of the credits on the film reads, "Scenes of the Dionne Quintuplets were photographed at Callander, Ontario under the supervision of Dr. Allan R. Dafoe." The quintuplets were delivered by Dr. Dafoe on May 28, 1934 near Callander, Ontario. The quintuplets, who were wards of His Majesty King Edward VIII, became a world-wide sensation, and in 1936, over one million tourists came to Canada to look at them in their playground through a one-way window in twice-daily "shows," according to a pressbook for their next film, Reunion (see below). Hollywood Reporter called the births "the leading news story of the generation." According to news items, just after the births, reporter Charles E. Blake of the Chicago American flew an incubator to Callander in response to Dr. Dafoe's urgent plea for one to supplant the heated bricks that he was using to keep the babies alive. Blake gained the confidence of the doctor and, more than a year later, wrote a story about the births and mailed it to a friend in Hollywood. One studio turned it down, but Darryl Zanuck accepted the story and brought Blake to Hollywood, where he worked with screenwriter Sonya Levien. With Blake's story, Zanuck was able to sign the quints after Paramount and Lasky were turned down. Some sources state that the babies were paid $85,000 for the film, while others claim they received $50,000. According to Los Angeles Herald Express, Will Rogers was considered for the role of the doctor when plans for the film were first undertaken.
Jean Hersholt, Dorothy Peterson, Henry King and the camera and sound men spent seventeen days shooting scenes with the babies at Callander. The quints were allowed forty-five minutes of work per day. Cameraman Dan Clark developed a blue filter for his lights that would not bother the babies after experimenting for weeks with other eighteen-month-old children. King disregarded his script and got whatever shots he could of the quints playing by themselves and with Hersholt and Peterson. These extended scenes occur at the end of the film, before "Dr. Luke" receives the Order of the British Empire. According to a news item, before filming began, Canadian union men filed a protest with immigration authorities against the importation of American technicians and photographers. The dispute was settled when it was agreed that one Canadian union man would be employed for every American in the company admitted into Canada. According to San Francisco Chronicle, the quintuplets' parents, Oliva and Elzire Dionne, were angry that Twentieth Century-Fox offered them only $700 in compensation to have an actor and actress portray them in the film.
This was the first film other than newsreels in which the quintuplets appeared. Hollywood Reporter noted that the film, which they list as opening on March 4, 1936 in 326 theaters, had "one of the largest, if not the largest, day-and-date engagements in motion picture history." Other sources listed the release date as March 6, 1936 and March 20, 1936 and noted that there would be simultaneous premieres on 5 March at New York's Radio City Music Hall and in Toronto. At its preview on February 26, 1936, the film was 110 minutes in length. According to Hollywood Reporter, the film was barred from Germany "for some mysterious reason" when it was first released, but it was shown in 1937 under the title Fun flinge (Quintuplets) and won recommendation as an important foreign film from the committee for the appraisement of film merit, which termed it a valuable film from the "view of population policy."
Material for a film entitled The Country Doctor, including treatments by Don Marquis dated November 4, 1930 and December 4, 1930 and a plot outline by Marquis, Izola Forrester and Sonya Levien dated November 25, 1930 is located in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library. Research for that projected film was conducted in Jackson, Wyoming. Although Levien wrote the screenplay for the 1936 film, it is substantially different from the material written in 1930. According to modern sources, Joseph Sawyer and Kane Richmond were also in the cast. Twentieth Century-Fox produced two further films starring the Dionne Quintuplets: Reunion (see below), filmed later in 1936 when they were two years and three months, and Five of a Kind (see below), filmed in 1938 when they were four years old. In May 1937, according to news items, the studio at first planned to star the quints in a film to be entitled Mother Knows Best, but in Jun, they decided not to produce a film with the quints at that time because they said that the babies at age three were "too old to toddle and too young to talk, sing and dance."