The Happiest Millionaire (1967)

164 or 141 mins | Musical comedy | 23 June 1967

Director:

Norman Tokar

Writer:

A. J. Carothers

Cinematographer:

Edward Colman

Production Designers:

Carroll Clark, John Mansbridge

Production Company:

Walt Disney Productions
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HISTORY

On 20 Nov 1956, Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre began an acclaimed 271-show run of The Happiest Millionaire, a comic portrait of eccentric millionaire patriarch Anthony J. Drexel Biddle, of Philadelphia, PA. Kyle Crichton adapted the play from his book, My Philadelphia Father (1955), on which he collaborated with Biddle’s eldest daughter, Cordelia Drexel Biddle. Several years later, the 15 Aug 1962 Var announced that Cordelia Drexel Biddle sold the motion picture rights to filmmaker Walt Disney. At the time of the sale, Hayley Mills was rumored to portray the young Cordelia, but the property remained untouched by Disney until a 4 Jan 1965 LAT article included the title in the studio’s upcoming lineup.
       Casting continued throughout 1965, which initiated significant script changes. According to the 31 Jan 1966 DV, the picture began as a comedy with three or four musical numbers, but was quickly reworked as a full musical after the casting of singers Tommy Steele, John Davidson, and Lesley Ann Warren. Although the 2 Feb 1966 Var stated they were no longer under exclusive contract at Disney, brothers Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman wrote twelve original songs with the cooperation of screenwriter A. J. Carothers. A 14 May 1966 NYT article credited the critical and commercial success of the Shermans’ Mary Poppins (1964, see entry) and The Sound of Music (1965, see entry) for boosting studio interest in the musical genre following a recent decline in popularity. The 28 Jun 1966 LAT stated that music and choreography were specially tailored to suit the talents of the ... More Less

On 20 Nov 1956, Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre began an acclaimed 271-show run of The Happiest Millionaire, a comic portrait of eccentric millionaire patriarch Anthony J. Drexel Biddle, of Philadelphia, PA. Kyle Crichton adapted the play from his book, My Philadelphia Father (1955), on which he collaborated with Biddle’s eldest daughter, Cordelia Drexel Biddle. Several years later, the 15 Aug 1962 Var announced that Cordelia Drexel Biddle sold the motion picture rights to filmmaker Walt Disney. At the time of the sale, Hayley Mills was rumored to portray the young Cordelia, but the property remained untouched by Disney until a 4 Jan 1965 LAT article included the title in the studio’s upcoming lineup.
       Casting continued throughout 1965, which initiated significant script changes. According to the 31 Jan 1966 DV, the picture began as a comedy with three or four musical numbers, but was quickly reworked as a full musical after the casting of singers Tommy Steele, John Davidson, and Lesley Ann Warren. Although the 2 Feb 1966 Var stated they were no longer under exclusive contract at Disney, brothers Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman wrote twelve original songs with the cooperation of screenwriter A. J. Carothers. A 14 May 1966 NYT article credited the critical and commercial success of the Shermans’ Mary Poppins (1964, see entry) and The Sound of Music (1965, see entry) for boosting studio interest in the musical genre following a recent decline in popularity. The 28 Jun 1966 LAT stated that music and choreography were specially tailored to suit the talents of the performers. All songs featured the actors’ own voices, including that of Fred MacMurray, who assumed the role originated onstage by Walter Pidgeon. The 15 Oct 1967 LAT noted that Lou Nova was the only legitimate performer to carry over to the film, but his involvement could not be determined. A 30 Mar 1966 DV brief claimed that Dwayne Hickman appealed to play one of the two “Biddle” sons, but was deemed too old.
       Principal photography began 23 May 1966, as stated in a DV production chart published four days later. According to the 28 Jun 1966 LAT, filming took place on Stage 2 of the Disney studios in Burbank, CA, with some “Philadelphia” and “New York City” exteriors shot at the Columbia Ranch, also in Burbank. The 18 May 1966 Var noted that art director John B. Mansbridge referenced illustrations in Sears Roebuck catalogs to design the 1916-era sets. Filming was expected to last fourteen weeks, and various sources reported production costs ranging from $4 million to $5.5 million. The Happiest Millionaire was the last film personally overseen by Walt Disney, who died 15 Dec 1966.
       A “Film Assignments” column in the 20 May 1966 DV listed the following crewmembers whose participation could not be confirmed: Paul Feiner, Chris Hibler (assistant directors); Ellya Jacobus (script supervisor); Jack Whitman, Jr. (camera operator); Bob McGowan, Mike Sweeten (assistant cameramen); Bob Coburn, Jr. (stills); Gary Lambrecht, Henry Convertino (grips); Bob Mattey (special effects); Ron Talsky, Emily Sundby (costumer); Larue Matherton, Ruby Felker (hairstylists); Cal Maehl (gaffer); Jack Holton (best boy); Wilbur Russell, Reggie Pierce (props); Frank Millington (drapery); George Anderson (sound recorder); Frank Moorehead (mike); and Billy Mills (cable).
       As reported by the 18 Jan 1967 Var, the first official screening took place two days earlier, as an opening event for Buena Vista Distribution’s weeklong Sales and Production Convention. On 15 Mar 1967, Var confirmed the company’s plans for a “roadshow” release throughout late 1967 and 1968—Disney’s first since Fantasia (1942, see entry). Bookings began with a 23 Jun 1966 premiere and opening at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles, CA. According to the 16 Apr 1967 LAT, proceeds benefitted the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), which Disney helped establish. To counter the possible financial drawbacks of requiring reserved seating for a family film, the 5 Jul 1967 LAT brief stated that the Pantages would continue daily matinees throughout the summer, which were offered at reduced prices. A 1 Oct 1967 NYT news item noted that an additional benefit for CalArts and the Boys Harbor learning center was scheduled for 30 Oct 1967 at the New York Philharmonic Hall. The New York City engagement began 30 Nov 1967 at Radio City Music Hall, where it played through Dec as the venue’s Christmas attraction.
       Although enthusiastic in praise, the 28 Jun 1967 Var review described the breakdown of the film’s lengthy 164-minute running time (not including intermission), which consisted of a ninety-five-minute first act, a sixty-five-minute finale, and two overtures. By contrast, the 1 Dec 1967 NYT review reported a truncated 141-minute version. A 21 Mar 1984 Var story explained that cuts were made to accommodate theater owners, who wanted to schedule more showings per day, and the running time was further trimmed to 118 minutes for general release. Greer Garson’s five-minute solo number, “It Won’t Be Long ‘til Christmas,” was among the footage cut for the later engagements. The 1984 article announced that the original 159-minute stereophonic print had been recovered by Disney archivists, and would air on the Disney Channel that summer in its original form. A home video release was edited to 144 minutes to fit the cassette.
       The Happiest Millionaire received an Academy Award nomination for Costume Design. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
31 Jan 1966
p. 10.
Daily Variety
30 Mar 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
20 May 1966
p. 17.
Daily Variety
27 May 1966
p. 10.
Daily Variety
26 Jul 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
26 Jan 1967
p. 4.
Daily Variety
18 Aug 1967
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
4 Jan 1965
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
28 Jun 1966
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
16 Apr 1967
Section L, pp. 1-2.
Los Angeles Times
4 Jun 1967
Section C, pp. 1-2.
Los Angeles Times
26 Jun 1967
Section D, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
5 Jul 1967
Section D, p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
15 Oct 1967
Section D, p. 11.
New York Times
14 May 1966
p. 17.
New York Times
1 Oct 1967
p. 101.
New York Times
1 Dec 1967
p. 56.
Variety
15 Aug 1962
p. 61.
Variety
27 Oct 1965
p. 22.
Variety
2 Feb 1966
p. 5.
Variety
18 May 1966
p. 15.
Variety
18 Jan 1967
p. 13.
Variety
15 Mar 1967
p. 5.
Variety
28 Jun 1967
p. 6.
Variety
21 Mar 1984
p. 7.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Walt Disney Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Co-prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost
MUSIC
Mus supv, arr & cond
SOUND
Sd supv
Sd mix
Music ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
DANCE
Choreog
Mus numbers stgd by
MAKEUP
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the prod
Main titles
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Happiest Millionaire by Kyle Crichton (New York, 20 Nov 1956), which was based on the book My Philadelphia Father by Cordelia Drexel Biddle, as told to Kyle Crichton (Garden City, NY, 1955).
SONGS
"What's Wrong With That?," "Watch Your Footwork," "Valentine Candy," "I'll Always Be Irish," "Bye-Yum Pum Pum ," "Are We Dancing?," "Detroit," "There Are Those," "Let's Have a Drink on It," "It Won't Be Long 'til Christmas," "Strengthen the Dwelling" and "Fortuosity," words and music by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.
DETAILS
Release Date:
23 June 1967
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening and premiere: 23 June 1967
New York benefit premiere: 30 October 1967
New York opening: 30 November 1967
Production Date:
began 23 May 1966
Copyright Claimant:
Walt Disney Productions
Copyright Date:
22 May 1967
Copyright Number:
LP34963
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
164 or 141
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

The Philadelphia of 1916 is the home of Anthony J. Drexel Biddle, an eccentric millionaire and boxing enthusiast whose chief pastimes are raising alligators and teaching the members of his Bible class the art of self-defense, the virtues of physical fitness, and military preparedness. Newly arrived in the unorthodox household is a young Irish immigrant, John Lawless, who has hired on as the family butler. Biddle and his long-suffering but adoring wife, Cordelia, give in to straight-laced Aunt Mary Drexel's suggestion that they send their tomboyish daughter, Cordy, to a finishing school in New Jersey. Once Cordy has enrolled, she quickly falls in love with Angie Duke, the heir to a tobacco fortune, who is passionately interested in Detroit's burgeoning automobile industry. When the youngsters announce their engagement, Cordy goes to New York to be introduced to the "proper" people and taken to the right places by the socially prominent Mrs. Duke. Not to be outdone, the well-intentioned Mr. Biddle gives a large garden party in Philadelphia. But the overbearing interference of the two parents only succeeds in precipitating a series of arguments climaxed by Angie storming out of the house. Sent by Mr. Biddle to keep an eye on Angie, John Lawless trails him to an Irish pub and cleverly instigates a brawl which lands the young heir in jail. The following morning the Biddles and Mrs. Duke go to bail out Angie. Putting aside their personal grievances, Mr. Biddle and Mrs. Duke consent to the wedding and give their children their blessings. Hoisting Cordy on his shoulder, Angie declares that he and she will elope to Detroit--"the shining city where dreams are booming into gear." Biddle's time ... +


The Philadelphia of 1916 is the home of Anthony J. Drexel Biddle, an eccentric millionaire and boxing enthusiast whose chief pastimes are raising alligators and teaching the members of his Bible class the art of self-defense, the virtues of physical fitness, and military preparedness. Newly arrived in the unorthodox household is a young Irish immigrant, John Lawless, who has hired on as the family butler. Biddle and his long-suffering but adoring wife, Cordelia, give in to straight-laced Aunt Mary Drexel's suggestion that they send their tomboyish daughter, Cordy, to a finishing school in New Jersey. Once Cordy has enrolled, she quickly falls in love with Angie Duke, the heir to a tobacco fortune, who is passionately interested in Detroit's burgeoning automobile industry. When the youngsters announce their engagement, Cordy goes to New York to be introduced to the "proper" people and taken to the right places by the socially prominent Mrs. Duke. Not to be outdone, the well-intentioned Mr. Biddle gives a large garden party in Philadelphia. But the overbearing interference of the two parents only succeeds in precipitating a series of arguments climaxed by Angie storming out of the house. Sent by Mr. Biddle to keep an eye on Angie, John Lawless trails him to an Irish pub and cleverly instigates a brawl which lands the young heir in jail. The following morning the Biddles and Mrs. Duke go to bail out Angie. Putting aside their personal grievances, Mr. Biddle and Mrs. Duke consent to the wedding and give their children their blessings. Hoisting Cordy on his shoulder, Angie declares that he and she will elope to Detroit--"the shining city where dreams are booming into gear." Biddle's time will now be devoted to training marines in hand to hand combat for World War I. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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