The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)

105-106, 108 or 110 mins | Fantasy | 1 September 1947

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HISTORY

The working title for this film was I Wake Up Dreaming . While a Feb 1946 HR news item lists Theodore Von Hemert as the set decorator, only Casey Roberts received onscreen credit. Boris Karloff was borrowed from Universal for his role as "Dr. Hugo Hollingshead." Because producer Samuel Goldwyn cast Virginia Mayo in both The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Best Years of Our Lives , films which were in production simultaneously, a break in the production of The Best Years of Our Lives was contemplated during Jul 1946 so that Mayo could complete her role in this film. HR news items add Victor Cutler and Arianne Ross, wife of the New Yorker editor Harold Ross, to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
       Work on the script of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty began in Jan 1945, when Ken Englund and Everett Freeman attempted to adapt James Thurber's highly popular short story of the same name into a dramatic property. In Aug 1947, Life magazine published letters written by Goldwyn, asserting that Thurber loved the film. Also published were letters by Thurber, who insisted that, in spite of his involvement in the film's production, he never fully approved Goldwyn's changes. Thurber wrote that in Dec 1945, Goldwyn rejected the script the original writers offered, and sent Englund to Thurber in order to receive his input on the story line. The two worked on a new script for ten days, and after that Thurber's ideas were continually sought out and then ignored by ... More Less

The working title for this film was I Wake Up Dreaming . While a Feb 1946 HR news item lists Theodore Von Hemert as the set decorator, only Casey Roberts received onscreen credit. Boris Karloff was borrowed from Universal for his role as "Dr. Hugo Hollingshead." Because producer Samuel Goldwyn cast Virginia Mayo in both The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Best Years of Our Lives , films which were in production simultaneously, a break in the production of The Best Years of Our Lives was contemplated during Jul 1946 so that Mayo could complete her role in this film. HR news items add Victor Cutler and Arianne Ross, wife of the New Yorker editor Harold Ross, to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
       Work on the script of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty began in Jan 1945, when Ken Englund and Everett Freeman attempted to adapt James Thurber's highly popular short story of the same name into a dramatic property. In Aug 1947, Life magazine published letters written by Goldwyn, asserting that Thurber loved the film. Also published were letters by Thurber, who insisted that, in spite of his involvement in the film's production, he never fully approved Goldwyn's changes. Thurber wrote that in Dec 1945, Goldwyn rejected the script the original writers offered, and sent Englund to Thurber in order to receive his input on the story line. The two worked on a new script for ten days, and after that Thurber's ideas were continually sought out and then ignored by Goldwyn. The tone of Thurber's letters suggest that he was entirely unhappy with the final product, complaining at one point that the psychiatrist scene contained "a bathing girl incident which will haunt me all the days of my life." He also recalled that Goldwyn asked him not to read part of the script, as it was "too 'blood and thirsty.' I read the entire script, of course, and I was horror and struck."
       News items also note that Thurber fans protested when Goldwyn changed the name of the film to I Wake Up Dreaming in reaction to a Gallup poll he had conducted. A May 1947 Collier's article recounts the letters and threats sent to Goldwyn by fans, and the producer's subsequent retraction of the new title. Although many reviewers criticized the element of spectacle added to Thurber's story, the film did very well at the box office. Another adaptation of the story, produced by Paramount Pictures and to be directed by Mark S. Walters, was announced as being in development in spring 2005. By Oct of 2005, Var reported that actor Owen Wilson had dropped out of the project and Paramount was considering Zach Braff to play the lead. At various times, Jim Carrey and Whoopi Goldberg were attached to the project.
       The Secret Life of Walter Mitty marked the first film of future director Robert Altman (1925--2006), who appeared in a bit role as an RAF pilot. Altman, who went on to a long career as a director and writer, received five Academy Award nominations as Best Director, as well as a special Academy Award presented to him in 2006. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
19 Jul 1947.
---
Collier's
5 Jul 1947.
---
Cue
9 Aug 1947.
---
Daily Variety
14 Jul 1947.
---
Film Daily
15 Jul 47
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Feb 46
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Feb 46
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Apr 46
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
23 May 46
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jul 46
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jul 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Aug 46
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 47
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Aug 47
p. 8.
Independent Film Journal
13 Apr 46
p. 26.
Life
4 Aug 47
p. 89.
Life
18 Aug 1947.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
19 Jul 1947.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
19 Jul 47
p. 3733.
New York Times
22 Sep 1946.
---
New York Times
13 Oct 1946.
---
New York Times
19 Jul 1947.
---
New York Times
15 Aug 47
p. 12.
Variety
16 Jul 47
p. 14.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
and The Goldwyn Girls:
Edward Biby
Vernon B. Dent
Robert B. Altman
Chris Pin Martin
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Anatole hats
Prod asst
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber in The New Yorker (18 Mar 1939).
SONGS
"Symphony for Unstrung Heroes" and "Anatole of Paris," words and music by Sylvia Fine.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
I Wake Up Dreaming
Release Date:
1 September 1947
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Chicago, IL: 4 August 1947
Production Date:
early April--21 August 1946
Copyright Claimant:
Samuel Goldwyn Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
4 August 1947
Copyright Number:
LP1176
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
105-106, 108 or 110
Length(in feet):
9,903
Length(in reels):
6
Country:
United States
PCA No:
12017
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On his way to Pierce Publishing in New York City, where he works as a proofreader, milquetoast Walter Mitty has one of his many daydreams in which he is a swashbuckling hero. At work, his boss, Bruce Pierce, steals Walter's ideas and then chastises him when he daydreams he is a famous brain surgeon impressing a lovesick nurse. That night, Walter returns to the home he shares with his mother Eunice and has dinner with his fiancée, Gertrude Griswald, and her mother. To escape from the three women's henpecking, Walter fantasizes that he is a British fighter pilot terrorizing the Nazis and wooing a French bar maid. During his train ride the next day, glamorous Rosalind Van Hoorn attempts to escape from a suspicious-looking man, Hendrick, by pretending Walter is her sweetheart. Walter, recognizing her as the girl from his dreams, agrees to accompany her to meet a friend at the docks, but soon after they locate a cab, he jumps out nervously at his office, leaving his briefcase in the cab. When he then follows her to the docks to retrieve his briefcase, Rosalind's friend, Karl Maarsdam, hides a notebook in the briefcase before returning it to Walter. Maarsdam then invites Walter to share their cab, but as soon as the driver takes off, Maarsdam collapses, dead. Walter and Rosalind race to the police station, but as he tells his story to the police, the cab and the girl disappear. She reappears at his office that evening and brings him to meet her uncle, Peter Van Hoorn, who explains that he is the former curator of the Royal Netherlands Museum, and that when the Nazis invaded he hid ... +


On his way to Pierce Publishing in New York City, where he works as a proofreader, milquetoast Walter Mitty has one of his many daydreams in which he is a swashbuckling hero. At work, his boss, Bruce Pierce, steals Walter's ideas and then chastises him when he daydreams he is a famous brain surgeon impressing a lovesick nurse. That night, Walter returns to the home he shares with his mother Eunice and has dinner with his fiancée, Gertrude Griswald, and her mother. To escape from the three women's henpecking, Walter fantasizes that he is a British fighter pilot terrorizing the Nazis and wooing a French bar maid. During his train ride the next day, glamorous Rosalind Van Hoorn attempts to escape from a suspicious-looking man, Hendrick, by pretending Walter is her sweetheart. Walter, recognizing her as the girl from his dreams, agrees to accompany her to meet a friend at the docks, but soon after they locate a cab, he jumps out nervously at his office, leaving his briefcase in the cab. When he then follows her to the docks to retrieve his briefcase, Rosalind's friend, Karl Maarsdam, hides a notebook in the briefcase before returning it to Walter. Maarsdam then invites Walter to share their cab, but as soon as the driver takes off, Maarsdam collapses, dead. Walter and Rosalind race to the police station, but as he tells his story to the police, the cab and the girl disappear. She reappears at his office that evening and brings him to meet her uncle, Peter Van Hoorn, who explains that he is the former curator of the Royal Netherlands Museum, and that when the Nazis invaded he hid all the national treasures and recorded their whereabouts in a notebook, which a criminal named The Boot is now trying to steal. Frightened, Walter leaves, but as soon as he enters a department store, he finds the notebook in his briefcase and spies Hendrick following him. He runs into the models' salon and hides the notebook in a corset, which is promptly packed up and delivered to a Mrs. Follinsbee. Later that day, one of The Boot's henchmen, Dr. Hugo Hollingshead, attacks Walter at work, causing him to crawl onto the windowsill and into Pierce's office, infuriating his boss. When he goes home, his romantic rival, Tubby Wadsworth, embarrasses him in front of Gertrude. The humiliated Walter escapes into a fantasy in which he is a famous riverboat gambler who wins Rosalind's heart. The next day, Rosalind again appears and convinces him to help her retrieve the notebook, which they eventually find at a corset fashion show. Walter, however, immediately forgets to bring the notebook back to Van Hoorn, forcing Rosalind to sneak into the Mitty house that evening, when Gertrude and her mother are staying over. Walter alarms the other women as he attempts to hide Rosalind's presence, but manages to sneak off to Van Hoorn's with her. There, Rosalind grows suspicious when she sees that Van Hoorn has Marsdaam's passport, and hides the notebook in Van Hoorn's desk without informing her uncle that it is there. Soon after, she spots Van Hoorn's oversized shoe and realizes he must be The Boot, after which he abducts her and administers a sleeping pill to Walter. When Walter wakes, Van Hoorn has gathered Mrs. Mitty and Pierce, and lies to them that Walter has been wandering around the grounds incoherently, that Rosalind does not exist, and that they should take him to see Hollingshead, a pyschiatrist. Although Walter recognizes the doctor as his attacker, Hollingshead soon convinces him that everything has been a daydream. The next day, as he is about to marry Gertrude, he finds a charm Rosalind gave him. Realizing that she is real, he runs to Van Hoorn's, where he bravely discovers Rosalind and awakens her from her shocked state. The criminals are about to catch up to them when the police, Pierce, Mrs. Mitty, Gertrude and Tubby arrive. Their rebukes provoke Walter to finally stand up to them and display an assertiveness which wins him Rosalind's hand and Pierce's respect. +

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

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