The Man Who Came to Dinner - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Man Who Came to Dinner Reviews

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August 16, 2016
Although Monty Wooley is not billed first, he's the star and this stage play role he plays requires presence, which he certainly has here. There's some good humour here, nothing at belly-laugh level, more raised smiles.
July 17, 2016
[8/10] -- Despite a few pop culture reference hiccups here and there, "The Man Who Came To Dinner" maintains a stunningly sophisticated sense of humor that transcends the test of time. Spearheaded by the bitingly sarcastic, fantastically witty titular performance from Monty Woolley, the film easily ranks up against some of the best screwball comedies I've ever seen. If only more comedies nowadays - and from this era - contained the sheer comedic diversity as this overlooked gem.
December 10, 2015
"My great-aunt Jennifer ate a whole box of candy every day of her life. She lived to be 102, and when she'd been dead for three days, she looked better than you do now!"

The Man Who Came to Dinner is one of the greatest comedy scripts in theater history, filled with drop-dead lines like this. The role of Sheridan Whiteside was modeled after Alexander Woollcott, a charter member of the Algonquin Round Table, a running literary salon of the greatest wits of their day. This movie is one of the few relics of this golden age of cutthroat chitchat. For all the talent that whiled away their days at the Algonquin, amazing little of lasting literary merit has come down from it. Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, Franklin Adams, Heywood Broun - the most notorious wits of their day. Name something any of them wrote. If you're very well-versed, you may know the title of a short story or two, but mostly, they are best known for the one-liners that emerged out of stories of their hanging out at the Algonquin.

Happily, George Kaufman and Moss Hart managed to write this tribute to the biting humor of this generation of wits. The Algonquin Round Table was a vital link in the development of American comedy, from Mark Twain through to Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl, and one needs to understand it to understand American humor.

Monty Woolley crushed the role of Sheridan Whiteside on Broadway, and the wonder of the movie version is that they bothered looking for anyone else to play the role before they settled on him again.

Bette Davis isn't exactly miscast as Maggie Cutler. It's more that she's overqualified for it. IMDb trivia tells me that Jean Arthur and Myrna Loy were considered for the role. I wouldn't say that they would have been better in the role, but they probably would have made more sense.

The tough role in the play is the part of Banjo, which was modeled after Harpo Marx, and played by Jimmy Durante. Of course, Durante looks and sounds like no one but Durante. But I would be very curious to see some effort to portray the real-life Harpo Marx. Certainly he didn't act like his on-screen persona, but he was certainly capable of physical insanity, combined with the verbal wit of which he was by all accounts also fully capable.
August 31, 2015
When you say comedy, this just has to be on the list. Mr Whiteside is a big time cynic who comes to have dinner with Mr Stanley & his family, but the Stanley's had the least gratitude for the ice that made Mr whiteside slip & break his hip. Instead of attending only a dinner, he takes over a part of the house to camp in while he heals. To attend to him 24hrs is his nurse whom he never spares a sarcastic comment. *the best ever*! His stay brings along more people & more trouble for the stanleys. Mr Whiteside supports the kids to pursue their dreams that their parents had not allowed. To top it all off, even the exotic pets have a place to stay. Mr Stanley keeps boiling for a good reason, waiting for the day that Mr Whiteside would recover, but luck barely sides him!!!! :) Its definitely 100 mins of tumbling over with laughter!
August 28, 2015
Hilarious and witty dialogue in a screenplay that is based on a stage play and the great acting by the whole cast is what makes this picture a standout. Monty Wooley, Bette Davis, and Ann Sheridan are particularly noteworthy in this picture, but the whole cast is great. The real life story behind the inspiration for this play and therefore this film adaptation is just as amusing as the film.
½ August 27, 2015
A brilliantly crafted Christmas film, that isn't necessarily about Christmas.
December 24, 2014
It's not funny and it's not much of a holiday movie either. It takes place during the holiday season, but you won't find the spirit of Christmas here. The story is actually kind of an unpleasant one with the main character faking an injury and pulling off a scheme. I found it disappointing and boring. (First and only viewing - 12/24/2014)
½ November 15, 2014
Screenwriters Moss Hart & George S. Kaufmann created this hilarious story based upon the personas of playwright Noel Coward, film critic Alexander Woollcott, and theater actress Gertrude Lawrence. It became a Broadway hit, then this box-office sensation. Bette Davis convinced Warner Brothers to make this film... Delicious Sarcastic Wit 1940s Style--Christmas punch with a splash, nay, double-shot of arsenic... An evergreen classic of comedic brilliance!!
April 22, 2014
TO DO REVIEW

Monty Wooley brilliantly delivers the Groucho-like insults penned with supreme wit by the Marxian play and film write. Kaufman, of course, co-wrote many of the Marx's best works and was a good friend of Harpo, upon whom the character "Banjo" is based.
The entire cast is brilliant save for Richard Travis who, while not distractingly bad, is somewhat outclassed by the likes of Bette Davis, Billie Burke, Mary Wickes, and Reginald Gardiner.

The film lasts for nearly two hours and seldom lets the viewer up for air. This is a film that you may have to see several times to notice every clever line or plot development. And since it was originally a play, most of it takes place in one room. That being the living room of the put-upon Ohio businessman and his brow-beaten family. Along the way, Whiteside begins meddling in the lives of others, as well. He practically incites a rebellion by the couple's teenage children. He comes up with more insults than one can count for his nurse. And some of the funniest moments deal with an aging doctor attempting to get Whiteside to look at his manuscript about his profession. Many famous people appear and are referred to throughout the film. Most of the pop culture references are really dated, but not so much that it really bogs the film down. The acting is wonderful. Jimmy Durante and Ann Sheridan liven things up in support. The film is rather smug in how it was written by and about famous people who obviously look down on normal Midwestern folk. But the humor is harmless, and all too enjoyable.

The Man Who Came to Dinner is a little uneven, but it's mostly entertaining. The unevenness comes mainly from the dullness of the budding relationship which the film holds in focus. The original play is very well written, especially the dialogue. It was actually performed at my high school when I was there. But its the cast here that excels. Monty Woolley is great in the titular role. He plays Sheridan Whiteside to absolute perfection. Bette Davis is quite good as his secretary, but the role is actually somewhat below her standards. I'm sure she took the role because she loved the play so much and was sure it'd be a hit, but that role is pretty dull. Ann Sheridan perhaps gives the film's most memorable performance as an egotistical Hollywood diva who's not sure whether she wants to marry British nobility for money or just chase around cute guys. Also noteworthy are Billie Burke as Mrs. Stanley, the Ohio society woman who invites Whiteside to dinner, Reginald Gardiner as an eloquent celebrity friend of Whiteside (far underused), and the incredibly insane Jimmy Durante as Banjo. He comes into the film very late, but he very nearly steals the show.
August 27, 2013
It truly is surprising that a film as intelligent as "The Man Who Came to Dinner" isn't as highly ranked as other comedies of the era, such as "Ball of Fire" or "His Girl Friday." It could be because it's a little long, or that Monty Woolley today isn't a celebrated movie star, but even so, this is a comedy too unnaturally witty and vicious to be forgettable.  While there are moments that drag, and Woolley's shtick gets a little tiring by the end, the film is so one-of-a-kind (seriously) and ingenious that there's a lot to appreciate, and of course, laugh at.
The man who comes to dinner is Sheridan Whiteside (Wolley). He is a radio personality, and has been invited by Daisy and Ernest Stanley (Billie Burke and Grant Mitchell), a wealthy family. But just as he arrives at their lovely home, he slips on their icy steps, breaking his hip. Once inside, he announces he's going to sue them; so begins the plight of his intolerable personality.
Once he arrives, he never leaves because his is apparently too weak. Whiteside is demanding, rude, selfish, and gifted with a tongue dipped in acid. He makes nearly everyone in the house miserable, and he effectively ruins the Stanley's Christmas. Whiteside is truly an awful man which makes you question: how would I react if an annoying dinner guest never left?
"The Man Who Came to Dinner" shockingly isn't a Bette Davis vehicle, or a ploy for Ann Sheridan to show off her sexiness as always.  Instead, Davis is put into a secondary role (which works out smoothly) and Sheridan gets to show off her impeccable comedic timing rather than be an object.  Instead, this is Monty Woolley's show, and there isn't a second where you can't help but smile at how well he delivers his wicked lines, with true conviction and larger-than-life volume.
He says things as cruel as "My great-aunt Jennifer ate a whole box of candy every day of her life. She lived to be 102.  When she'd been dead three days, she still looked better than you do now." But he gets away with it, maybe because his character has the talent to whip out spectacularly mean lines so quickly that it catches people off guard or they're mesmerized by his insane wit. Truly, he is a guest from hell, and Woolley obviously enjoys getting to portray someone so wacko.
The screenplay is extremely well-written; it's not only funny, but it is well-balanced.  When you have a character as over-the-top as Sheridan Whiteside, it's not hard to have him take over the film.  Yet he doesn't get the chance, because each individual character has snappy qualities that make them just as interesting.  Just seeing their reactions to the terrible man that came to dinner makes watching them worthwhile.  Their are many phenomenal supporting performances to include: of course Davis and Sheridan are excellent, but any second Billie Burke's ditzy character arrives on the scene or Mary Wickes (Nurse Preen) shrieks at Whiteside's latest trouble, it isn't hard to get a good chuckle.  And Jimmy Durante stops by in a scene-stealing moment as Whiteside's obnoxious friend Banjo.
The extraordinary satire and sharp comedic timing by its actors make "The Man Who Came to Dinner" worth a watch.  Maybe even more than one, because there's so much going on that it's hard to notice everything.
December 25, 2012
A quick and snappy script. A cast of characters with impressive credits. A wonderful classic film. It will draw you in over and over.
December 21, 2012
a delightful version of a popular stage play
December 17, 2012
Manic classic comedy with a lots of star power. When the world famous writer and lecturer Sheridan Whiteside (Monty Woolley) breaks his leg while visiting the home of a prominent Ohio family, he must stay there to recuperate. The family at first is estatic to have him stay until they realize what an over-bearing and pompous windbag he really his. Joining him is his personal assistant Maggie Cutler (a subdued Bette Davis). In between frustrating the head of the family, Sheridan, or Sherry as most everyone calls him, must also contend with a newspaper man who is trying to get an interview. The man and Maggie promptly fall in love and Maggie tells Sherry she is leaving him. That won't do so Sherry calls his favorite actress Lorraine Sheldon (a fabulous Ann Sheridan) to come there and break up the happy couple. There are laughs galore in this film and its at a pretty good clip too. Monty Woolley is outstanding in his role as Sherry. He may be hard to deal with it but in the end he will eventually start warming up to others. It's unusual seeing Ms. Davis in a role like this. I mean she has done comedy before and well, but here she is very low key. There are times she kinda fades into the background and is over powered by Ann Sheridan's character. Davis is still good here but I wish during her confronatation scene with Sheridan she was allowed to let loose. In the meantime Ann Sheridan has an absolute great time as Lorraine, trading wisecracks with Sherry and slinging insults to everyone else. Jimmy Durante pops by for a cameo towards the end and he gets a few laughs. The very funny Billie Burke is also on hand as the mother of the put upon family. The Man Who Came To DInner is a solid comedy which I thoroughly enjoyed.
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Sheridan Whiteside: [opening a box of candy] Ah, pecan butternut fudge!
Nurse Preen: Oh, my, you mustn't eat candy, Mr. Whiteside, it's very bad for you.
Sheridan Whiteside: My great aunt Jennifer ate a whole box of candy every day of her life. She lived to be 102 and when she'd been dead three days she looked better than you do *now!*
½ August 12, 2012
Solid screwball comedy. Bette Davis feels miscast as the (a) love interest; there's something so cold about her even when she is trying to play light and warm-hearted.
July 17, 2012
i laughed from start to finish during "the man who came to dinner". so many great one liners, as well as a hilarious scene stealing performance from monty woolley.
May 7, 2012
Monty Woolley realiza todo un "tour de force" interpretando al egocentrico e insoportable Sheridan Whiteside en una comedia tan aguda y acelerada, que necesitara verla varias veces para abarcar todos los gags y referencias. Bette Davis es genial como la paciente secretaria Maggie Cutler y Jimmy Durante es un derroche de energia y humor en el breve papel del actor Banjo. Magnifica direccion, magnifica puesta en escena, magnifica comedia.
Super Reviewer
March 3, 2012
Director William Keighley brought another Kaufman and Hart stage play to the screen in early 1942. This time it was adapted by the Epstein brothers. I have read the play and this screenplay remains fairly faithful to the original. Sheridan Whiteside (Woolley) is based on Alexander Woollcott and three of Sherry's friends who come to visit are based on real people too. Diva Lorraine Sheldon (again Sheridan) is based on Gertrude Lawrence, British Beverly Carlton (Gardiner) is based on Noel Coward, and crazy comedian Banjo (Durante) is based on Harpo Marx. They are not pure imitations, but very funny creations by the three actors. For a bit more modern reference, Sheridan Whiteside is kind of how I imagine an older Orson Welles was, or kind of like the character Frasier. Sherry despises Midwestern suburban-ism. It has been arranged that he stop in a small Ohio town on a public relations tour. Mr. and Mrs. Stanley (Mitchell and Burke) have won the opportunity to have this celebrity dine with them. Even though the town is not very small and the Stanleys are not backward, it is torture for Sheridan Whiteside to be confined to their house after he injures his hip slipping on ice on their front porch. Sherry is full of insults, schemes and name dropping, and he is hilarious. The dialog is so sharp. Maggie Cutler (Davis) is Sherry's secretary and the only person who can trade insults with him as an equal. Maggie is given a bit more focus, while the Stanley's butler and cook are reduced a bit in the story. It is great to see Bette Davis in a light comedic role. I can't say I'm a big fan of hers based on the limited dramatic roles I've seen her play, but it is nice to see she can be romantic and playful and funny. Maggie falls for local newspaper man Bert Jefferson (Travis) who also finds a way into Sherry's good graces by showing he can come back with some true wit, that is until Sherry jealously decides Jefferson shouldn't steal Maggie away. How will Sherry's scheme unravel? How much of the local craziness can Sherry stand (um, excuse me, sit through in his wheelchair)? How much of Sherry's impositions can the Stanleys tolerate? This is a great screwball comedy with a large ensemble cast.
January 15, 2012
They don't make 'em like this anymore. The jokes are fast, furious and very pointy, including some great zingers by Bette Davis. who looks quite young and beautiful. I got a great kick out of Billie Burke's every appearance due to her distinctive Glinda the Good Witch voice, it was great! And I bet none of you have ever even seen Jimmy Durante before, who injects the old vaudville flavor into his appearance.

This is fast, furious, madcap and really hilarious! The man who you all have seen as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street (Monty Woolley is amazing as the nasty author/critic Sheridan Whiteside. Some of the topical humor will pass you by if you are younger than 55, say, but if you are literate the Noel Coward character (Beverly) and of course the main protagonist Sheridan Whiteside is based on witty, cranky Alexander Woollcott.

I greatly enjoyed seeing the great character actress Mary Wickes in her very first movie. She plays the nurse who can barely deal with Mr. Whiteside. You don't know her name, but when you see her you will recognize her!

You can watch this over and over and laugh at new things every single time.
January 14, 2012
Great classic comedy, and one of Bette Davis' best roles, in my opinion. Great viewing anytime, including Christmas. One of our family favorites!
December 18, 2011
This was a nice holiday film. Bette Davis is very subdued comparatively. Billie Burke is great as is Ann Sheridan.
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