Rhubarb


1h 34m 1951

Brief Synopsis

Rich, eccentric T.J. Banner adopts a feral cat who becomes an affectionate pet. Then T.J. dies, leaving to Rhubarb most of his money and a pro baseball team, the Brooklyn Loons. When the team protests, publicist Eric Yeager convinces them Rhubarb is good luck. But Eric's fiancée Polly seems to be allergic to cats, and the team's success may mean new hazards for Rhubarb.

Film Details

Release Date
Sep 1951
Premiere Information
New York opening: 29 Aug 1951; Los Angeles opening: 27 Sep 1951
Production Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.; Perlberg-Seaton Productions
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Los Angeles--Wrigley Field, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Rhubarb by H. Allen Smith (New York, 1946).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 34m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11 reels

Synopsis

Impressed by the spunk of a mangy, orange tom cat, who steals country club golf balls and chases large dogs, eccentric millionaire Thaddeus J. Banner, the owner of the lackluster Brooklyn Loons baseball club, decides to adopt the animal. Using a state-of-the-art trap, T. J.'s press agent, Eric Yeager, captures the feisty cat and presents him to his boss, who names him Rhubarb. Upon his release, Rhubarb wrecks T. J.'s study, but eventually makes friends with his owner. After enjoying many years of companionship with Rhubarb, T. J. dies and leaves most of his $30 million estate to his pet. To the disgust of T. J.'s spoiled daughter Myra, who is to receive only a modest stipend, Eric is named Rhubarb's guardian and moves into the Banner estate. Rhubarb's inheritance makes him an overnight celebrity, and Eric and his butler, retired baseball pitcher Doom, are besieged by phone calls, telegrams and visitors. Eric must also contend with the Loons, who are refusing to play because their competitors are razzing them about their feline owner. To get the Loons back on the field, Eric introduces Rhubarb to the team, then secretly arranges for the two players who voluntarily pet the cat to receive an unexpected tax refund. As hoped, the superstitious athletes become convinced that Rhubarb is a good-luck charm and agree to play again. Eric's relief proves short-lived, however, when he learns that his fiancée, Polly Sickles, the daughter of team manager Len, is violently allergic to cats and he must disinfect himself every time he sees her. After Rhubarb's appearance at the Loons's ball park inspires the team to score against St. Louis, the St. Louis manager sicks his dog mascot on the cat. Instead of running away, Rhubarb chases the terrified canine across the field. The Loons win, and Eric, who has arranged to marry Polly right after the game, rushes home to remove all traces of Rhubarb from his body. On his way to the church, Eric realizes that he has forgotten the wedding ring and returns home, only to find Myra trying to kill Rhubarb. Eric saves the cat and orders Myra to move out, but has to postpone the wedding when the team insists that he stay with Rhubarb around the clock. Rhubarb joins the team during their next road trip, but while the Loons's record steadily improves, Eric grows increasingly lonely. Desperate, he and Polly make plans to marry in secret, but are again thwarted when Myra files a lawsuit against Eric, charging that the real Rhubarb is dead. To prove her claim, Myra's lawyers demand that Eric's supporters pick out Rhubarb from a group of four orange tabbies. Although no one can identify Rhubarb by sight, Polly, who has just learned from her doctor that she is allergic only to Rhubarb, verifies his identity when she sniffs each cat but sneezes only around Rhubarb. After determining that no irritants were used on Rhubarb, the judge dismisses Myra's suit. With Rhubarb's troubles apparently over, the Loons move into first place and enter a pennant race with New York. Betting on the cross-town matchup is intense, and when Manhattan bookie Pencil Louie realizes that he will have to pay out $270,000 if Brooklyn wins the series, he kidnaps Rhubarb. He then offers to kill the cat if Myra can raise $50,000. Without Rhubarb, the Loons start to lose, and all attempts to track the cat down fail. During the final game, Eric rents a plane and seeds some clouds with dry ice to cause a rainstorm. The game is postponed, but when the Brooklyn police chief gets a tip that a Manhattan bookie has Rhubarb, the Manhattan chief refuses to help. Aware now that what she is actually allergic to is the vicuna scarf on which Rhubarb sleeps, Polly and Eric scour Manhattan betting parlors until Polly's allergy leads them to Pencil Louie and Myra. After Eric pummels him, the bookie reveals Rhubarb's whereabouts, and Eric and Polly rush to the apartment hideout. There, Rhubarb, who is watching the final game on television, becomes excited when the female cat who always sits behind him at the stadium appears onscreen, and escapes from his captor. Eric and Polly see Rhubarb running toward Brooklyn and follow him in a cab, pursued by Pencil Louie and his thugs. The police finally arrest the thugs, and after climbing the stadium wall, Rhubarb dashes across the field as the crowd roars its approval. With Rhubarb back, the Loons win the game and the pennant. Later, Eric and Polly and their new baby, and Rhubarb and his mates and kittens enjoy a stroll through the park together.

Cast

Ray Milland

Eric Yeager

Jan Sterling

Polly Sickles

Gene Lockhart

Thaddeus J. Banner

William Frawley

Len Sickles

Elsie Holmes

Myra Banner

Taylor Holmes

P. Duncan Munk

Willard Waterman

Orlando Dill

Henry Slate

Dud Logan

James J. Griffith

Ogilthorpe "Oggie" Meadows

Jim Hayward

Doom

Donald Macbride

Pheeny

Hal K. Dawson

Mr. Fisher

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Paul Douglas

Man on park bench

Strother Martin

Michael "Shorty" McGirk

Hilda Plowright

Katie

Adda Gleason

Maid

Richard Karlan

Pencil Louie

Edwin Max

Fish Eye

Anthony Radecki

Ball player

Leonard Nimoy

Ball player

Bill Thorpe

Ball player

Frank Fiumara

Ball player

Lee Miller

Ball player

Roberta Richards

Reporter

Ira Stewart

Reporter

Roy Gordon

Golfer

Stuart Holmes

Golfer

Eric Wilton

Golfer

Wilbur Mack

Golfer

Rex Moore

Caddy

Joe Terry

Caddy

Harold J. Kennedy

Sporting goods salesman

Harry Varteresian

Elbert

Hans Herbert

Doctor

Al Ferguson

Policeman in garden

Paul Maxey

Mr. Reese

Douglas Wood

Mr. Carrol

Harry Cheshire

Mr. Seegle

Herrick Herrick

Newspaper reporter

Stanley Mckay

Newspaper reporter

Micheline Lange

Newspaper reporter

Stanley Orr

Newspaper reporter

Douglas Carter

Newspaper reporter

John Breen

Western Union boy

Grace Lenard

Kitty

Edward Clark

Judge Loudermilk

Howard Gardiner

Bailiff

Tristram Coffin

Dr. Stillman

Arthur Lovejoy

Minister

Ruth Packard

Minister's wife

Gus Taillon

Sexton

Carl Saxe

St. Louis ball player

Billy Wayne

St. Louis manager

Howard Negley

Deputy sheriff

Donald Kerr

Taxi driver

Edward Biby

Weather predictor

Mike P. Donovan

Bartender

Ralph Sanford

Brooklyn chief of police

James Flavin

Manhattan chief of police

John Russell Daly

Detective

Mack Gray

Man in polo coat

Jack Daly

Officer

Don Haggerty

Officer

Wallace J. Hood

Umpire

George Sherwood

Mr. Thompson

Bill Meader

Photographer

Herman Boden

Photographer

Dolly Jarvis

Photographer

Henry Wise

Baseball pitcher

Charles Sullivan

Man with binoculars

Madge Blake

Mrs. Emily Thompson

Buck Harington

Proprietor

Sandra Gould

Housewife

Oliver Blake

Cadaver Jones

Sam Pierce

Barber

Will Orlean

Hoodlum

Frank Scannell

Hamburger Harry

Ben Welden

Oily Moe

Frank Sully

Big Head Charlie

Jerry James

Policeman

Gail Bonney

Woman with dog

Joe Bryan

Radio announcer

Charles Campbell

Announcer

Billie Bird

Mona Lizzie

Jack Stoney

Henchman

Joe Ploski

Henchman

Dorothy Vernon

Sedal M. Bennett

Billy Vincent

Curtis Jarrett

Film Details

Release Date
Sep 1951
Premiere Information
New York opening: 29 Aug 1951; Los Angeles opening: 27 Sep 1951
Production Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.; Perlberg-Seaton Productions
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Los Angeles--Wrigley Field, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Rhubarb by H. Allen Smith (New York, 1946).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 34m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11 reels

Quotes

Now listen ya lug, you're in the chips now, the blue chips. So stop acting like a goon squad. This is an okay dame. She doesn't want a nickel of your dough.
- Eric Yeager
stroke him very gently on his head.
- Eric Yeager
Why, he doesn't even hiss.
- Polly Sickles
You're now a member of the club.
- Eric Yeager
A Rhubarb. It's a donnybrook... a dust-up...
- Ball Player
Lady, you know what happens at a sale, when two women get hold of the same dress? THAT's a Rhubarb!
- Eric Yeager
.
- Eric Yeager

Trivia

Fourteen different cats portrayed Rhubarb at different points in the film. Each cat was trained to do a different trick. Three of the most identical cats appeared in the courtroom scene where Polly Sickles has to choose which one is the real Rhubarb.

Notes

According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, independent producer Mike Todd purchased the screen rights to H. Allen Smith's best-selling novel Rhubarb in October 1946. Although credited onscreen as "Rhubarb," the star's real name was Orangey Murray. His complete onscreen credit reads: "and introducing the newest addition to Hollywood's great galaxy of stars-that dynamic, exciting, scintillating personality Rhubarb (by special arrangement with the S.P.C.A., A.H.A., Y.M.C.A., U.C.L.A, B.P.O.E., R.F.C.)."
       According to news items and studio publicity material, contained in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library, producers William Perlberg and George Seaton spent six months searching for a cat to play Rhubarb and held auditions to find one. Bing Crosby and James Mason reportedly offered their cats for the part. After reviewing hundreds of applications, the producers selected Orangey Murray, a former stray cat from Sherman Oaks. Frank Inn, assistant trainer of Lassie, trained Orangey Murray for the part. According to publicity, Orangey Murray was given his own dressing room and Hollywood apartment, where he lived with his stand-ins during filming. The last scene in the film includes a gag in which Rhubarb and his new cat family are seen passing by actor Paul Douglas as he sits on a park bench reading a newspaper. Douglas, who won acclaim in the 1949 Twentieth Century-Fox film A Letter to Three Wives, notices the long line of cats and kittens trailing Rhubarb and says, "What a cat-a litter from three wives!"
       Athlete-turned-actor Jim Thorpe's adopted son Bill Thorpe, also known as William Thurlby, made his screen debut in the production. Hollywood Reporter news items add Hank Wells, James Conaty and Jack Gerrlings to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Publicity material notes that the film's baseball scenes were shot at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. According to a publicity item contained in the film's copyright records, songwriters Jay Livingston and Ray Evans wrote a jingle for the mock television commercial that is used in one scene. Rhubarb marked Seaton and Perlberg's first release as a production team at Paramount. According to an August 1951 Variety item, Paramount promoted the picture by planting a phony story in the New York World Telegram about an Orangey Murray kidnapping and sponsoring "meet Rhubarb" events at supermarkets. Although Hollywood Reporter announced in March 1951 that Lubin was planning a sequel to Rhubarb called Rhubarb's Daughter, no film sequel was ever made. In 1967, author Smith published a sequel to his novel, entitled Son of Rhubarb.