The Man Who Came to Dinner

1942

The Man Who Came to Dinner

Critics Consensus

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83%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 6

81%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,832
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Movie Info

The George S. Kaufman/Moss Hart Broadway hit The Man Who Came to Dinner was inspired by the authors' mutual friend, waspish critic/author Alexander Woollcott. Generously bearded ex-Yale professor Monty Woolley, no mean curmudgeon himself, plays the Woollcott character, here rechristened Sheridan Whiteside. While on a lecture tour in Ohio, Whiteside slips on the ice outside his hosts' home; until his broken leg heals, the hosts (Grant Mitchell and Billie Burke) are forced to put up (and put up with) the imperious Whiteside. This means enduring an unending stream of Whiteside's whims, caprices and vitriolic bon mots, as well as his long-distance phone calls, eccentric guests and a variety of critters, ranging from penguins to octopi. Like the real Woollcott, Whiteside insists upon stage-managing the lives of everyone around him. He is particularly keen on discouraging a romance between his faithful secretary Maggie Cutler (top-billed Bette Davis) and local newspaper editor Bert Jefferson (Richard Travis). Once he realizes he's gone too far in this respect, Whiteside is forced to reunite the lovers. That's only one aspect of a three-ring-circus plotline that accommodates a Lizzie Bordenish axe murderess, takeoffs of Woollcott intimates Harpo Marx, Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence, and a general practitioner who's willing to let his patients suffer for a chance to pitch his interminable memoirs to Whiteside. Featured in the cast are Jimmy Durante as "Banjo" (the Harpo clone), Reginald Gardiner as the Noel Coward-like Beverly Carlton, Anne Sheridan as the predatory Gertrude Lawrence counterpart Lorraine Sheldon, and Mary Wickes as the long-suffering Nurse Preen ("You have the touch of a love-starved cobra!") The script, by the Epstein brothers, manages to retain most of the play's best lines and situations, even while expanding Bette Davis' role to justify her start status; it's a shame, though, that we are robbed of Sheridan Whiteside's imperishable opening line, "I may vomit!"

Cast

Monty Woolley
as Sheridan Whiteside
Bette Davis
as Maggie Cutler
Ann Sheridan
as Lorraine Sheldon
Richard Travis
as Bert Jefferson
Reginald Gardiner
as Beverly Carlton
Billie Burke
as Mrs. Stanley
Elisabeth Fraser
as June Stanley
Grant Mitchell
as Ernest Stanley
George Barbier
as Dr. Bradley
Mary Wickes
as Miss Preen
Russell Arms
as Richard Stanley
Ruth Vivian
as Harriett Stanley
John Ridgely
as Radio Man
Herbert Gunn
as Radio man
Creighton Hale
as Radio Man
Pat McVey
as Harry
Laura Hope Crewes
as Mrs. Gibbons
Frank Coghlan Jr.
as Telegram Boy
Frank Moran
as Michaelson
Chester Clute
as Mr. Gibbons
Roland Drew
as Newspaperman
Sam Hayes
as Announcer
Hank Mann
as Expressman
Cliff Saum
as Expressman
Jack Mower
as Plainclothesman
Frank Mayo
as Plainclothesman
Gig Young
as Bit Part
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Critic Reviews for The Man Who Came to Dinner

All Critics (6) | Top Critics (1) | Fresh (5) | Rotten (1)

  • Here, in the space of an hour and fifty-two minutes, is compacted what is unquestionably the most vicious but hilarious cat-clawing exhibition ever put on the screen, a deliciously wicked character portrait and a helter-skelter satire, withal.

    Sep 30, 2006 | Rating: 4.5/5 | Full Review…
  • Whiteside is not a pious gay hero. Rather his uncanny gift for throwing shade and reading the obtuse may be the secret to his eternal charm.

    Apr 19, 2018 | Full Review…
  • Wonderful cast, story and direction in classic comedy.

    Aug 14, 2007 | Rating: 5/5
  • Monty Woolley repeats his stage role in this smart adaptation of Kaufman and Hart's Broadway play, inspired by the Algonquin celebs (Alexander Woolcott, Harpo Marx, Noel Coward).

    Jul 11, 2006 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
  • The great cast mirthfully brings on the savage dialogue and relishes in the malicious nature of the satire.

    Jan 7, 2005 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Man Who Came to Dinner

  • May 07, 2011
    Regular folks run headlong into crazy eccentric celebrity when a radio star (Wooley,raucously unbridled) convalesces in small town Ohio. Ann Sheridan plays the bad girl, Bette Davis, and Bette Davis plays Ann Sheridan, the good girl, and then they fight ... talk about love!
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Sep 05, 2010
    A very funny movie, but I didn't get to see the end, I want to watch it again sometime.
    Aj V Super Reviewer
  • Jan 02, 2010
    When celebrity personality and generally unpleasant Sheridan Whiteside stops by to have dinner with a family of wealthy socialites and falls and hurts himself on their front steps, he winds up having to stay for far longer than just an evenings dinner and makes a great nuisance of himself. Mr. Whiteside's assistant (Bette Davis) winds up falling in love with the local newspaper reporter and the diabolical Whiteside tries to concoct a way to keep her in his employ. Based on the 1939 play by Kaufman and Hart, The Man Who Comes to Dinner is a biting look at the world of celebrity elitism, and is fairly relevant today. Monty Woolley plays Whiteside as a boss from hell, straight from The Devil Wears Prada, which I'm sure drew heavily from this film. Bette Davis and Ann Sheridan play against type, or that is they're playing each others roles, take your pick (Davis plays the sweet girl, Sheridan plays the tough broad). The appearance of Jimmy Durante is a bit of a surpise, contrasting the quick verbal exchanges earlier in the film for his schtick-loaded goofiness. Durante also takes the film in a hokey direction, plot-wise (Jimmy Durante is a very odd looking man that modern viewers might find off-putting). However, these are minor quibbles for a film that has nothing major going for it to begin with. It's not a terribly hilarious film, but it is amusing.
    Devon B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 26, 2009
    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.
    Byron B Super Reviewer

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