This hit Broadway comedy became a comparably popular film thanks to a smart adaptation, strong performances, and the fortunate retention of the play's star, Monty Woolley. The celebrated John Barrymore had been slated for the role but he had trouble with the dialogue. Luckily, another
genuine movie star--Bette Davis--was eager to take a secondary role in this fanciful account of some thinly veiled real celebrities in an unlikely situation. Theater critics Alexander Woollcott, Harpo Marx and Noel Coward were among the brainy wits who met regularly at the Algonquin Hotel to
exchange witticisms over lunch. Resourceful playwrights George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart utilized what they knew of the lunchers, placed them in a "fish out of water" setting, and crafted a funny, acerbic play and film.
Sheridan Whiteside (Woolley as Woollcott), a popular acid-tongued radio host, is traveling cross-country on a lecture tour with Maggie Cutler (Davis), his tolerant secretary. They stop in a small town in Ohio and accept a dinner invitation from Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Stanley (Mitchell and Burke), a
prominent local family. Whiteside slips on a patch of ice in front of the Stanley house and gets carried inside spewing insults and threats of lawsuits. The Stanleys--who embody the kind of old-fashioned Middle American values that the intellectual Whiteside abhors--are terrified by the prospect
of scandal, so they do their best to keep their "guest from hell" comfortable while he throws their household into chaos, advising the Stanley children to flee the social constraints of Ohio. The plot thickens when Maggie falls for local newsman-playwright Bert Jefferson (Travis). Fearing that he
may lose his loyal employee, Whiteside schemes to break up the relationship.
Cynically witty lines, top-notch characterizations (Ann Sheridan is a delight), and welcome guest appearances by Jimmy Durante (as a Harpo Marx figure) and Reginald Gardner (doing a take on Noel Coward) make for classic comedy.
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- Review: This hit Broadway comedy became a comparably popular film thanks to a smart adaptation, strong performances, and the fortunate retention of the play's star, Monty Woolley. The celebrated John Barrymore had been slated for the role but he had trouble with t… (more)