The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

A review - by Shlomoh Sherman
January 4, 2014


The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (2013)
Director: Ben Stiller
Writers: Steve Conrad (screenplay), James Thurber (based on the short story by)
Stars: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Jon Daly
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)
Rated PG for some crude comments, language and action violence
Release Day: December 25, 2013 (USA)
Genres: Adventure - Comedy - Drama
Runtime: 114 mins  
Country: USA
Language: English
Filming Locations: Los Angeles, California
Production Co: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Samuel Goldwyn Films, Red Hour Films

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ben Stiller       ... Walter Mitty
Kristen Wiig ... Cheryl Melhoff
Shirley MacLaine ... Edna Mitty
Sean Penn ... Sean O’Connell
Gary Wilmes       ... Walter's Dad

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)
Director: Norman Z. McLeod
Writers: Ken Englund (screen play), Everett Freeman (screen play)
Stars: Danny Kaye, Virginia Mayo, Boris Karloff
Runtime: passed 110 min
Genres: Comedy - Drama - Fantasy - Romance
Release Day: September 1, 1947 (USA)
Plot: A clumsy daydreamer gets caught up in a sinister conspiracy.
Language: English - French - German
Filming Locations: Samuel Goldwyn Studios - 7200 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, California, USA
Production Co: Samuel Goldwyn Company

Cast overview, first billed only:
Danny Kaye       ... Walter Mitty
Virginia Mayo ... Rosalind van Hoorn
Boris Karloff ... Dr. Hollingshead
Fay Bainter ... Mrs. Mitty
Ann Rutherford ... Gertrude Griswold
Gordon Jones ... Tubby Wadsworth

Last week, Suzanne and I watched THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY; - No, not the one with Ben Stiller; the one with Danny Kaye. Both Suzanne and I are fans of Danny Kaye and I remember seeing this movie as a ten year old when it first came out in 1947. So when TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES showed it, we had to watch.

Kaye was such a versitile performer, an actor, a singer, a dancer, a comedian. His patter was fabulous!

Kenzy England, writing about him at http://voices.yahoo.com/danny-kaye-master-patter-7031162.html, had this too say:
"Funnyman Danny Kaye was a gifted, charismatic, and funny actor. He was well known for his ability to tongue-twist patter songs, which became his signature, at lightening speed without batting an eye (or taking a breath, it would seem). The way his mouth twisted this way and that as if it were made of rubber added to the comedy that came to him so naturally. Kaye was the master of patter."

She sites her 3 favorite Kaye patter movies, 'Up in Arms' (1944), 'The Inspector General' (1949), and 'The Court Jester' (1955). I believe that I saw at least the last mentioned. YAY VERILY YAY!

In Walter Mitty, he sings 2 songs using patter and German and French accents. James Thurber, who wrote the original short story from which the film was drawn, absolutely hated the movie and one of the things he hated most was that musical numbers were included. Watching Kaye do those numbers brought me back to a more innocent time.

Mitty, works as a pulp-fiction proofreader for a best selling magazine. His own boring life leads him to daydream himself into heroic situations in which he saves the day, mostly rescuing a damsel in distress. Among his fantasies, he is an ace fighter pilot, a ship captain, a surgeon, a fashion designer, and a Southern riverboat gambler.

His daydreams come true when he meets a beautiful woman, portrayed by the VERY beautiful Virginia Mayo. The woman leads him into a situation involving a group of murderous, political conspirators, wherein he actually has to save this damsel.

The ever-wonderful Boris Karloff portrays one of the villains.

The remake, according to a Ben Stiller interview with Howard Stern, was something that the Samuel Goldwyn Company long wanted to do. Stiller, as director, had a major role in casting. Stern asked Stiller if he had auditioned Kristen Wiig and Sean Penn. Of course he hadn't. There are certain actors one doesn't audition. One doesn't aution Olivier when casting.

The new version is a less innocent one in keeping with the 21st century, and its storyline is different from the 1947 version. Stiller's Mitty is still a daydreamer but his dreams revolve around a co-worker whom he admires. When both his and her jobs are threatened by downsizing, he stops fantasizing and becomes proactive in a real life adventure which leads him on a journey to the Himalayas to find the man [Sean Penn] who can save their jobs.

Each version of the story has things to recommend it to a movie audience. Our age has suffered a loss of innocence, reflected in the updated version in which the visual effects are engrossing but the Danny Kaye version remains Suzanne's favorite and perhaps in a sense mine as well.

Ah, Danny Kaye! They just don't make them as good anymore.

Did You Know?
Despite not having a final budget, Paramount scheduled a December 12, 2005 start date because their option on the remake rights was to end one week later; they would lose the rights if they did not start filming before December 20. However, Owen Wilson dropped out in October 2005 over creative differences. The Hollywood Reporter also speculated that Walter Mitty began to falter after Paramount failed to cast a female lead to star opposite Wilson. Scarlett Johansson had reportedly emerged as the front-runner after screen testing with Wilson earlier in October, but a deal was never signed with the actress. Paramount executives 'Brad Grey (I)' and Gail Berman decided to put Walter Mitty in turnaround in November 2005. Goldwyn found favor at Twentieth Century Fox and, in May 2007, it was announced that Mike Myers was attached to star in the title role. Jay Kogen was hired to write a new script that would be specifically tailored for Myers.

The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on November 3, 1947 with Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo reprising their film roles.

Goofs (2013):
During the final conversation between Walter an Cheryl, Walter's neck chain alternates between visible and hidden throughout.

Quotes (2013): [from trailer] Cheryl: "Life is about courage and going into the unknown."

Goofs (1947): During the scene in the Mitty home's kitchen, after Rosalind van Hoorn has come in the middle of the night during a rain storm to ask for Walter's help, she removes her dress to dry it. As they are talking, Rosalind is shown putting her dress back on and buttoning it all the way to the neck. As the scene shifts and pans back, she is shown once again buttoning the top button of her dress.

Quotes (1947): Walter Mitty: "Here I am, lard face."

Soundtracks (2013):
Dirty Paws, Written by Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Þórhallsson, Performed by Of Monsters and Men, Produced by Of Monsters and Men and Aron Arnarsson, Courtesy of Universal Music Group
Space Oddity, written and performed by David Bowe

Soundtracks (1947):
Bridal Chorus (Here Comes the Bride)- (1850) (uncredited, from "Lohengrin", Written by Richard Wagner [Played at the wedding]

Recent Posts (2013):
"No one left during the end credits" - michaelgeronsin
"CRITICS ARE MORONS." - justin_420
"Encore Kristen Wiig!!!" - acandypiece
"Can we PLEASE get a purely original film? NO MORE REMAKES!" - sargentaaron2004
"Walter Mitty's rating here in IMDB is growing!" - sou300

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Listen to the original short story recording here! -

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