Life with Henry

1h 20m 1941

Brief Synopsis

Young Henry Aldrich would like to "win" a trip to Alaska. But in order to participate, he first has to put up $100. The whole matter sounds awfully fishy. Henry and his pal Dizzy go into the soap business. Their attempt to raise money turns into a disaster when they get the soap formula wrong. But the Alaska trip is really on the level. It's been organized by Sylvanus Q. Sattherwaite, businessman and philanthropist. But Henry still doesn't have the money...

Film Details

Release Date
Jan 24, 1941
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
United States

Technical Specs

1h 20m
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels


Inspired by an advertisement to join an educational summer trip to Alaska, Centerville teenager Henry Aldrich writes to Sylvanus Q. Sattherwaite. Before Henry is accepted, Sattherwaite, who lives in Chicago, stipulates that Henry must earn $100 for the trip and must get three recommendations from adults. Henry's father Samuel thinks that his son is being duped by mail fraud and insists that Henry drop the idea. Henry nevertheless sends the addresses of civil engineer Bill Van Dusen, laundry woman Cleopatra Johnson, and neighbor Joseph Anderson for Sattherwaite to gather the recommendations. After Henry is publicly disgraced at a movie theater because the manager accuses him of cheating on bank night, his friend Bill inspires him to earn money by making and selling soap bars, which Henry and his friend, Dizzy Stevens, make in a big tub in the Aldrich family basement. Success comes when Henry's friend, Kathleen Anderson, encourages him to have local kids sell the soap on commission to their families. One evening, Henry's parents host a dinner party at their home for representatives of the International Canning Company, which is considering building a mushroom-canning factory in Centerville that will use locally grown mushrooms. Henry leaves a saucepan filled with soap in the kitchen and the Swedish cook, Anna, mistakes it for her mushrooms. The dish is inedible and the nauseated guests are further surprised when Henry's soap factory explodes. The canning representatives leave the next day and the entire town, whose clothes have disintegrated because of Henry's homemade soap, blame Henry for the disaster. When Sattherwaite writes to Anderson asking for a recommendation, Anderson describes Henry as a "scatterbrained, witless, destructive, asinine and reprehensible boy." Sattherwaite's interest in Henry is piqued by this description because he believes that most troublesome boys are just boys with too much undirected energy. Henry's father demands that Sattherwaite refund Henry's earnings and accuses him of fraud. Unknown to Samuel, however, Sattherwaite is the head of the International Canning Company, and when he returns the money he mentions that "canning toadstools is also a federal offense." Bill encourages Henry not to give up, and so Henry hitchhikes to Chicago. Sattherwaite's secretary will not let him in, however, and he only gets in when he is mistaken for the fan mechanic. Henry "fixes" the fan by plugging it in, but the wind blows Sattherwaite's papers out the window and Henry leaves in disgrace. Sattherwaite is impressed by Henry's perseverance after he learns of his true identity and goes to Centerville. Sattherwaite receives a cold reception in town, and matters get worse when Bill knocks him out because he thinks that Sattherwaite hurt Henry in Chicago. Sattherwaite is thoroughly disgusted and prepares to leave when Henry visits him at his hotel. At first, Sattherwaite is put off because nosy reporters try to push him around for a story, but he finally sits quietly with Henry who explains that despite his best intentions, he always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. While they eat dinner, Sattherwaite encourages Henry and is delighted when he tastes the local mushrooms and finds them to be delicious. Henry accompanies Sattherwaite out of the hotel, and astonished town leaders learn that Henry is responsible for Sattherwaite's reconsideration of their town for his factory. Sattherwaite promises to take Henry to Alaska.


Jackie Cooper

Henry Aldrich

Leila Ernst

Kathleen Anderson

Eddie Bracken

"Dizzy" Stevens

Fred Niblo

Mr. [Samuel] Aldrich

Hedda Hopper

Mrs. Aldrich

Kay Stewart

Mary Aldrich

Moroni Olsen

Sylvanus Q. Sattherwaite

Rod Cameron

Bill Van Dusen

Pierre Watkin

Mr. [Joseph] Anderson

Lucien Littlefield

Mr. Stevens

Frank M. Thomas

Joe Nye

Etta Mcdaniel

Cleo[patra] Johnson

Hanley Stafford

Theatre manager

Edith Evanson

Anna, Swedish maid

Rand Brooks

Daniel Gordon

Doris Lloyd

Mrs. Anderson

Frances Carson

Mrs. Stevens

Charlotte Treadway

Mrs. Joe Nye

Josephine Whittel

Aunt Harriett

Thurston Hall

Mr. Woodring

Winifred Harris

Mrs. Woodring

Theodore Von Eltz

Mr. Rappaport

Mary Currier

Mrs. Rappaport

Wanda Mckay

Girl on stage

Charles Trowbridge

Executive associate

Paul Everton

Executive associate

Edward Earle

Executive associate

Helen Mackellar

Sattherwaite's secretary

Fay Helm

Office secretary

Gordon Hart

Business man

John H. Dilson

Business man

George Anderson

Business man

Harry C. Bradley

Business man

Adrian Morris


Frances Morris

Switchboard operator

Jack Clifford

Coulter, mailman

George Meader

Mr. Allen, storekeeper

Armand "curley" Wright


Ivan Miller


J. Anthony Hughes

Bus driver

George Barton

Shipping clerk

Harry Lash

Lunch counter attendant

Syd Saylor


Earle Dewey


Douglas Fahy


William Hall

Ticket taker

Jean Phillips


Sam Ash


Gus Reed


Cyril Ring


Harry Depp


Tina Marshall


Frances Raymond

Elderly woman

Lillian West

Elderly woman

Nell Craig


Helen Dickson

Lady next to Henry

Fern Emmett

Lady back of Henry

Danny Mummert

Six-year-old boy

Robert Winkler

Freckle-faced kid

Ruth Rogers


Betty Mclaughlin


Arthur Stuart Hull

Stanley Mack

George Melford

James Dundee

John Sylvester

Ronnie Rondell

Ned Norton

Clarence Badger Jr.

Betty Farrington

Rita Owin

Besse Wade

Jan Buckingham

Mary Akin

John Laird

Prince, A Dog

Great Dane

Film Details

Release Date
Jan 24, 1941
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
United States

Technical Specs

1h 20m
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels




According to press information, the character "Sylvanus Q. Sattherwaite" was based on Detroit coal magnate George E. Buchanan, who reportedly created a program for adolescents to take educational trips to Alaska. This film was the second in a series of films featuring the "Aldrich Family." The first in the series was Paramount's 1939 film What a Life!, directed by Jay Theodore Reed and starring Jackie Cooper (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.5029). Cooper was later replaced by actor Jimmy Lydon in the role of "Henry Aldrich," and Charles Smith took over the role of "Dizzy Stevens" for Henry Aldrich for President.
       A CBS radio series, also inspired by Clifford Goldsmith's 1938 play What a Life!, was first broadcast on July 2, 1939 as a summer replacement for "The Jack Benny Show." The Aldrich Family was became so popular that the network brought the series onto its regular schedule on October 17, 1939. The series initally starred Ezra Stone as "Henry Aldrich" and House Jameson as "Sam Aldrich." Although the cast changed several times before the series went off the air in 1953, Stone reprised his role in the late 1940s, as did Jameson. The show opened each week with the character of Mrs. Aldrich calling our "Henry! Henry Aldrich!" to which Henry would answer "Coming, Mother." The lines became familiar parts of American popular culture and were frequently parodied in radio and in film. A television series called The Aldrich Family ran on CBS from October 2, 1949 through May 29, 1953. Jamesan and others in the radio series recreated their roles for television.