Sunday Dinner for a Soldier


1h 26m 1944

Brief Synopsis

A poor family in Florida saves all the money they can in order to plan something special for the soldier they've invited to Sunday dinner. They don't realize that their request to invite the soldier never got mailed. On the day of the scheduled dinner, another soldier is brought to their home and love soon blossoms between him and Tessa, the young woman who runs the home.

Film Details

Release Date
Dec 1944
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 21 Dec 1944
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "Each in His Own Way" by Martha Cheavens in Good Housekeeping (Oct 1943).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 26m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,816ft (9 reels)

Synopsis

In Jan 1944, the Osborne family of Tarpon Springs, Florida, is determined to invite a soldier to Sunday dinner despite their poverty. Dudley "Granfeathers" Osborne is the nominal head of the family, although his practical granddaughter Tessa looks after him and her young sister Mary and brothers Michael and Jeep. The children are thrilled about the idea of entertaining a soldier, but when Granfeathers goes to the local U.S.O. office to request "their" soldier, he inadvertently angers widow Agatha Butterfield, who has a crush on him, and she secretly tears up his request card. Granfeathers then spends his pension money on presents for the family, including a dress for Tessa, who is devastated that her monthly budget has been ruined. Tessa has no idea how the family will provide a chicken for the soldier's dinner, and Mary fears that Granfeathers will sacrifice her pet chicken, Miss Easter, which Mary raised from an Easter egg. Tessa reassures Mary that Miss Easter will be safe, but is herself upset over a choice that she must make. Kenneth Normand, a wealthy local businessman, has proposed to Tessa, but Tessa worries about splitting up her family, as Kenneth wants to send the children away to school. Granfeathers tells Tessa that they will all be better off if she accepts, but Tessa, who does not love Kenneth, is unsure. As the week passes, the Osbornes scrub their ramshackle houseboat and pursue their plans for a perfect dinner. On the Saturday before the event, Mary and Jeep are selling berries in order to buy a chicken, and Agatha, who owns a poultry farm, gives them a chicken in exchange for the fruit. When the pair return home, they discover that Michael, who scrubbed barrels all day, has purchased a chicken, and Tessa, who sold her late mother's bracelet, has also added a fowl to the icebox. Much to Mary's dismay, however, Miss Easter is missing, and Granfeathers refuses to say how he obtained his poultry contribution. Tessa chastises her grandfather for his irresponsibilty and fibbing, but later that night, the old man confides in Mary that he left Miss Easter at Agatha's farm in exchange for a dead bird. Determined to appease Mary, Granfeathers returns to the farm and leaves the dead chicken, but is scared off by Agatha's servant Samanthy before he can retrieve Miss Easter. Agatha, who has realized her error in tearing up the request card, tries to find a soldier for the Osbornes, but on Sunday, there are no soldiers to be found. The children are bitterly disappointed until they spot gunner Sgt. Eric Moore strolling on the beach. Eric is on his last day of furlough before going overseas for combat duty, and confirms that his is the airplane that has waved its wings to the kite-flying children every day. Eric is delighted by the family and spends a happy day playing with the children, conversing with Granfeathers and admiring the lovely Tessa. After dinner, Agatha returns Miss Easter, then tells Granfeathers that he must visit her or she will reveal his escapades to Tessa. As Tessa shows Eric her favorite spot, the ruins of a grand hotel on the beach, his deep feelings about family convince her that she has more wealth than Kenneth could ever give her. The Osbornes then accompany Eric to town, where they have their picture taken together. Eric gives Tessa his identification bracelet, and the children watch approvingly as she kisses him goodbye. Eric then climbs into a truck with the other soldiers and passes around the leftovers from the dinner cooked by "his girl." The next day, after Eric signs his allotment over to the Osbornes, his bomber plane takes off, and as it waves its wings to the Osborne children playing on the beach, Tessa whispers her hope that Eric will return home safely.

Film Details

Release Date
Dec 1944
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 21 Dec 1944
Production Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "Each in His Own Way" by Martha Cheavens in Good Housekeeping (Oct 1943).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 26m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
7,816ft (9 reels)

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

According to information in the Twentieth Century Produced Scripts Collection and Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, Martha Cheavens' short story was purchased by the studio under the title "Sunday Dinner for a Soldier," but was published as "Each in His Own Way." Although Walter Bullock worked on an early version of the screenplay, according to the studio records, the extent of his contribution to the released picture has not been determined. In a March 1944 memo, studio production chief Darryl F. Zanuck suggested Charles Coburn, Charles Grapewin or Monty Woolley for the role of "Granfeathers." Earlier, in October 1943, Hollywood Reporter announced that Woolley and Mary Anderson would star in the film, which was to be directed by Lewis Seiler. In April 1944, Hollywood Reporter stated that William Eythe had been cast as the male lead, but in June 1944, Hollywood Reporter noted that Eythe was instead cast in The Czarina (which was released as A Royal Scandal), and that John Hodiak had been borrowed from M-G-M to replace him in Sunday Dinner for a Soldier. The picture marked the screen debut of child actress and former model Connie Marshall. According to a studio press release, background photography was shot in Sarasota, FL. On February 19, 1945, Anne Baxter, John Hodiak and Charles Winninger recreated their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of the story.