Life with Father (1947)

116 or 118 mins | Comedy | 13 September 1947

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HISTORY

The opening titles card reads "Clarence Day's Life with Father . Although there is a copyright statement on the film, it is not listed in the U.S. Catalog of Copyright Entries for Motion Pictures. Clarence Day, Sr. was a governor on the New York Stock Exchange. His father, Benjamin, founded the New York Sun and his brother, Benjamin, Jr., invented the Ben Day process for color printing. Clarence Day, Jr.'s books were originally published as a series of essays in the New York Evening Post , Harpers and The New Yorker . After Day's death in 1935, the stories became the basis of a play by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. The play's original Broadway run lasted for eight years.
       HR news items add the following information about the production: In 1940, Samuel Goldwyn offered $200,000 for screen rights to the Oscar Serlin production of the play, but the purchase did not take place because Serlin demanded a three-year clearance clause before the exhibition of the film. In Jul 1944, Mary Pickford negotiated with Serlin for rights, planning to star in the film with William Powell. Warner Bros. acquired the screen rights to the play in Nov 1944 for a reputed down payment of $500,000 plus a percentage of the net proceeds. As part of the agreement, the film was not to be released before 1947 and the property was to revert back to Oscar Serlin after a period of seven years.
       The agreement also stipulated that Warner Bros. could make only one film based on the play, the script could use ... More Less

The opening titles card reads "Clarence Day's Life with Father . Although there is a copyright statement on the film, it is not listed in the U.S. Catalog of Copyright Entries for Motion Pictures. Clarence Day, Sr. was a governor on the New York Stock Exchange. His father, Benjamin, founded the New York Sun and his brother, Benjamin, Jr., invented the Ben Day process for color printing. Clarence Day, Jr.'s books were originally published as a series of essays in the New York Evening Post , Harpers and The New Yorker . After Day's death in 1935, the stories became the basis of a play by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. The play's original Broadway run lasted for eight years.
       HR news items add the following information about the production: In 1940, Samuel Goldwyn offered $200,000 for screen rights to the Oscar Serlin production of the play, but the purchase did not take place because Serlin demanded a three-year clearance clause before the exhibition of the film. In Jul 1944, Mary Pickford negotiated with Serlin for rights, planning to star in the film with William Powell. Warner Bros. acquired the screen rights to the play in Nov 1944 for a reputed down payment of $500,000 plus a percentage of the net proceeds. As part of the agreement, the film was not to be released before 1947 and the property was to revert back to Oscar Serlin after a period of seven years.
       The agreement also stipulated that Warner Bros. could make only one film based on the play, the script could use only that part of Clarence Day's life which was included in the Broadway play, and that the owners were to have editorial rights over matters of good taste in the film version. Both Lindsay Crouse and Mrs. Day were to be technical advisors on the film's production, but only Mrs. Day is credited on the film. Howard Lindsay and Dorothy Stickney, stars of the stage production, tested for the lead roles. Rosalind Russell was considered for the part of "Vinnie Day," and Bette Davis, Rosemary DeCamp and Mary Pickford also tested for the role. Fredric March was considered for the role of "Clarence Day," as was Ronald Colman.
       According to information in the file on the film at the USC Cinema-Television Library, Shirley Temple and Ann Todd tested for the role of "Mary;" Freddie Bartholomew tested for "Clarence;" and Cora Witherspoon tested for "Aunt Cora." Director Michael Curtiz disliked ZaSu Pitts's performance as Aunt Cora so much that he attempted to replace her mid-film, but as no acceptable substitute could be found, she continued in the role. William Powell and Elizabeth Taylor were borrowed from M-G-M for the production. Studio production notes included in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library state that with the exception of Martin Milner, a natural redhead, all the actors playing members of the Day family had dyed red hair.
       The film's premiere was held at the Lakewood Theater in Skowhegan, ME, where the play had its first tryout on the same day eight years earlier. Modern sources note that half of the released prints billed Dunne first and the other half listed Powell's name first. First run theaters were required to alternate prints and advertising alternated the same way. The film received the following Academy Award nominations: Powell for Best Actor, Robert Haas for Art Direction, George James Hopkins for Set Decoration, Peverell Marley and William V. Skall for Best Color Cinematography, and Max Steiner for Best Musical Score. In a 31 Jul 1948 SEP article, Powell cited the character of "Clarence Day" as his favorite screen role to date. Clarence Day's stories about his father also served as the basis for a television series starring Leon Ames and Lurene Tuttle, which ran from Nov 1953 until Jul 1955. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Aug 46
p. 272.
Box Office
23 Aug 1947.
---
Daily Variety
15 Aug 1947.
---
Film Daily
15 Aug 47
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 1940.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 43
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jul 44
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Nov 44
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Nov 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Dec 45
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Feb 46
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Apr 46
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jun 47
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Aug 47
p. 3.
Life
18 Aug 47
pp. 64-66.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
16 Aug 47
p. 3781.
New York Herald Tribune
30 Nov 1944.
---
New York Times
16 Aug 47
p. 6.
The Saturday Evening Post
31 Jul 1948.
---
Variety
6 Dec 1944.
---
Variety
20 Aug 47
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
2d cam
Cam tech
Asst cam
Asst cam
Stills
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Asst props
Asst props
MUSIC
Orch arr
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff dir
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup
Makeup
Hair col specialist
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
Unit pub
Scr supv
Best boy
Diction coach
STAND INS
Stand-in for William Powell
Stand-in for Irene Dunne
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Life with Father by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, as produced by Oscar Serlin (New York, 8 Nov 1939) and the books God and My Father (New York, 1932) and Life with Father (New York and London, 1935) by Clarence Day.
SONGS
"Sweet Marie," words by Cy Warman, music by Raymond Moore.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Clarence Day's Life with Father
Release Date:
13 September 1947
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Skowhegan, ME: 14 August 1947
New York opening: 15 August 1947
Production Date:
11 April--12 August 1946
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
116 or 118
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In New York City in 1883, businessman Clarence Day strives to run his Madison Avenue home as efficiently as his business. His temperamental outbursts over the smallest infractions so terrorize the servants that even the charm of his sweet-tempered wife Vinnie cannot keep a maid longer than a few days. Vinnie and Clare have four sons, all of whom are redheaded like their parents. The eldest, Clarence, Jr., is headed for Yale. John, the next eldest, likes to invent things, while brother Whitney struggles to learn his catechism, and Harlan, the youngest, is most interested in his dog. Knowing how much Clare dislikes it when visitors stay in the house, Vinnie neglects to tell her husband that their cousin, Cora Cartwright, and her young companion, Mary Skinner, will spend a week with them. Clare is even more put out when he learns that Vinnie has promised that he will take Cora and Mary to Delmonico's restaurant for dinner. As usual, however, Vinnie gets her way. Clare even agrees to take Clarence, who has developed a crush on Mary, to dinner. Later, Mary divulges that she is a Methodist, unlike the Days, who are Episcopalian. During the course of the ensuing religious discussion, it is revealed that Clare has never been baptized. Vinnie is very upset and insists that Clare rectify the oversight to ensure that they will be reunited after death, but Clare refuses, certain that God would never be so imprudent as to deny him entry into heaven. In the meantime, Clarence becomes convinced that wearing Clare's made-over suit forces him to behave like his father. When ... +


In New York City in 1883, businessman Clarence Day strives to run his Madison Avenue home as efficiently as his business. His temperamental outbursts over the smallest infractions so terrorize the servants that even the charm of his sweet-tempered wife Vinnie cannot keep a maid longer than a few days. Vinnie and Clare have four sons, all of whom are redheaded like their parents. The eldest, Clarence, Jr., is headed for Yale. John, the next eldest, likes to invent things, while brother Whitney struggles to learn his catechism, and Harlan, the youngest, is most interested in his dog. Knowing how much Clare dislikes it when visitors stay in the house, Vinnie neglects to tell her husband that their cousin, Cora Cartwright, and her young companion, Mary Skinner, will spend a week with them. Clare is even more put out when he learns that Vinnie has promised that he will take Cora and Mary to Delmonico's restaurant for dinner. As usual, however, Vinnie gets her way. Clare even agrees to take Clarence, who has developed a crush on Mary, to dinner. Later, Mary divulges that she is a Methodist, unlike the Days, who are Episcopalian. During the course of the ensuing religious discussion, it is revealed that Clare has never been baptized. Vinnie is very upset and insists that Clare rectify the oversight to ensure that they will be reunited after death, but Clare refuses, certain that God would never be so imprudent as to deny him entry into heaven. In the meantime, Clarence becomes convinced that wearing Clare's made-over suit forces him to behave like his father. When his stern reaction to Mary's innocent flirtation sends her away in tears, Clarence becomes determined to earn enough money to buy his own suit. He and John get a job selling patent medicine and try it on Vinnie without her knowledge. The medicine makes Vinnie so ill that Clare, believing her to be near death, promises that he will be baptized if she gets well. When Vinnie recovers, however, Clare reneges on his promise. Unknown to Clare, Vinnie then arranges for him to be baptized at a church in Audubon Park so that he will not be embarrassed in front of his acquaintances, but he remains adamantly opposed. Vinnie's opportunity arrives when Clare is repulsed by a ceramic pug dog that she recently purchased and refuses to be baptized as long as it remains in the house. Vinnie quickly dispatches Clarence to return the dog to the store and authorizes him to spend the money on a new suit, which just happens to cost exactly the same amount as the piece of pottery. The next morning, Cora and Mary return for another visit and, wearing his own suit, Clarence makes up with Mary. Taking advantage of the confusion, Vinnie arranges for an expensive cab to drive Clare to Audubon Park. Although Clare protests the expense and denies that he agreed to be baptized if the pug was returned, Vinnie uses her own subtle persuasion to round up the entire family to witness Clare's long-postponed baptism. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.