Happiest Millionaire, The (film)

Happiest Millionaire, The (film) In words and music, this is the story of “the happiest millionaire, ” nonconformist Anthony J. Drexel Biddle, and his unusual Philadephia family, seen through the eyes of their new to the U.S. Irish butler. The year is 1916, and in the busy household on Rittenhouse Square each of the family members has hopes and dreams. For Mr. Biddle it is strengthening the “Biddle Bible Class, ” campaigning for military preparedness, and caring for his prized alligators. For daughter Cordelia Biddle, it is first love with the wealthy Angie Duke, who is infatuated with the automobile. For Mrs. Biddle it is keeping order in the family despite frozen alligators, a wedding, confrontations with the Duke family, World War I, and comforting her husband when the children have left home.  Premiered in Hollywood on June 23, 1967. Directed by Norman Tokar. 159 min. (164 min. with overtures) for the original roadshow version; 144 min. for the stereo general release; 141 min. for the mono general release.  Stars Fred MacMurray (Anthony J. Drexel Biddle), Tommy Steele (John Lawless), Lesley Ann Warren (Cordelia Drexel Biddle). John Davidson (Angie Duke), Greer Garson (as Mrs. Biddle in her last feature film role), Geraldine Page (Mrs. Duke), Gladys Cooper (Aunt Mary), Hermione Baddeley (Mrs. Worth), Paul Petersen (Tony), Eddie Hodges (Liv), and Joyce Bulifant (Rosemary). This was the Disney Studio’s most lavish and starry musical production since Mary Poppins. The Sherman brothers, Richard and Robert, wrote twelve songs, including “I’ll Always Be Irish, ” “Detroit, ” “Fortuosity, ” “Watch Your Footwork, ” “Valentine Candy, ” “There Are Those, ” “Let’s Have A Drink On It, ” and “Strengthen The Dwelling.” The film was heavily edited during its release due to the Studio’s disappointment that the film did not equal Mary Poppins’ success. Cut footage from the original 159 min. roadshow version and the stereophonic sound track were restored and a heretofore unseen musical number, “It Won’t Be Long ‘Til Christmas, ” sung by Greer Garson and Fred MacMurray, was added for a Disney Channel airing in November 1984, though some dialogue preceding the song was still missing. The film has many highlights, from Tommy Steele, Fred MacMurray, and Greer Garson’s portrayals, to a pair of mischievous alligators who dance with Steele. Some exhilarating dance numbers, including a riotous barroom sequence, were staged by Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood. The film’s origins date back to the published true story of the Biddles, written by Cordelia Drexel Biddle and Kyle Crichton, which was subsequently made into a successful Broadway comedy.  A J Carothers adapted the screenplay when Walt Disney enlisted the Sherman brothers to make it into a musical event. There were other contenders for the role of Mr. Biddle, including Rex Harrison, who was favored by the Sherman brothers, Burt Lancaster, and Brian Keith, but Walt Disney chose his favorite, Fred MacMurray, whom he had wanted from the beginning. Released on video in 1984.