Need someone to save the girl from a vicious blackmailer in a western? Walter Mitty is here. Need a highly skilled doctor to perform a nerve-racking surgery while up against the clock? Walter Mitty is the man. Need an expertly skilled air pilot to fly in World War 2, or a comedian/entertainer to help all the boys forget about the war with his little musical number? Yes, you guessed it: Walter Mitty.
This is by far one of my favorite stories to read and best loved films. Based on James Thurber's story, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty stretches this story into a 100 minute feature film. Reportedly Thurber didn't like the movie too much, but, honestly, I believe there is little not to love in this movie. It does a superb job projecting the character Walter Mitty Thurber seemed to want to create. There is quite a deal more depth given to this character in the movie, and this is a good thing. Instead of just being a simple-minded man who dreams away from his uneventful life and wife to bigger and better things, this Walter Mitty leads two lives-the real, and the dream-which seemingly interconnect during the film.
There are subtle differences from the short story. For instance, Walter's wife (in the story) is replaced with his nagging mother in the film. He is going to be married, and is not only nagged by his mother but also his fianc?. However, after he witnesses a murder, he begins to question what is real and what illusion is, including the girl of his dreams (Virginia Mayo).
Another superb aspect of the film is simply the performance by Danny Kaye. Kaye embodies the very essence of Walter Mitty so well-there are the goofy moments when he nervously struggles to get away from danger, the entertaining parts where he is singing about musical devices, or showing the latest fashion, and the adventurous scenes where he is trying to help his damsel-in-distress escape countless villains (one of which is played by none other than villain legend Boris Karloff).
Another great thing about the film is its quality. The DVD is in excellent quality, sound, transfer and color are fantastic. I'm so glad they brought this classic to DVD.
This is an exceptional movie for the family to enjoy, or just a movie to cheer you up. It definitely has the comedic flavor that we expect from Danny Kaye films.
I think we can all associate with the dreamer in Walter Mitty, because we all want to be heroic in some way.
on May 24, 2007
I have been in love with this film since I first saw it on TV when I was a child. It is one of those classic Hollywood comedies that just makes you happy. It's got so much going for it: the incomparable Danny Kaye, a hilarious premise involving dangerous jewel thieves, lovely Virginia Mayo, wonderful fantasy/daydream sequences, and the sinister Boris Karloff.
Danny Kaye is completely in his element here, playing a nervous wimp who escapes his dull life (controlling mother, and tedious job at the paperback publishing company) through daydreams of romance and adventure.
Until I saw this movie I had no idea how very gifted Kaye was. He can make a reaction to toast popping up seem hysterically funny. His timing and acting are brilliant, and his physical comedy is formidable.
I just wish that he had made more comedy films in the 40's and 50's. But I suppose it's better to have done a few brilliant gems than a whole bunch of decent movies.
I also recommend his films "Wonder Man", "The Court Jester", "The Inspector General", and also "Knock on Wood" (that last one is basically impossible to find anymore, so I wish they'd do a box set of his dvd movies!)...
on November 24, 2004
While WONDER MAN and THE COURT JESTER might be more consistently wacky, I thought THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (TSLoWM) brought out the vulnerable side of Danny Kaye, one of my faves since childhood (I never missed any of Kaye's movies on WPIX when I was growing up). It usually gets on my nerves when I see movie characters allowing themselves to be as put-upon and henpecked as Kaye's Walter is here, but there was a sweetness about him that made me root for him instead of merely growling, "Oh, tell 'em all to go to hell already" -- and as a result, it's that much more satisfying when Walter finally does tell off his obnoxious so-called friends and loved ones (unlike such "comedies of cruelty" as MADHOUSE, where the last 10 minutes of Revenge Against The Oppressors are the only entertaining parts of the movie)! Although James Thurber, another of my faves, reportedly tried to buy off producer Samuel Goldwyn to keep the film from being made and hated the finished product, I think perhaps Thurber wasn't being quite fair. First off, books and film have different storytelling requirements, and second, the first 10 minutes are almost straight from Thurber's story (except it's Walter and his nagging mom instead of a nagging wife), and it seemed to me that the characters and performances had very Thurberesque qualities about them. Boris Karloff and Konstantin Shayne are delightfully unctuous villains (Fun Fact: their henchman, Henry Corden, later became the voice of Fred Flintstone!). As Walter's literal and figurative dream girl Rosalind van Hoorn, frequent Kaye co-star Virginia Mayo was thoroughly beguiling and never looked lovelier (and hey, the radiant Mayo was a size 12 and nobody considered *her* a "plus size," thank you very much! :-). TSLoWM also contains two of my favorite Kaye/Sylvia Fine musical numbers: "Symphony for Unstrung Tongue" (am I the only one who finds the line "He gets so excited that he has a solo passage" to be subtly salacious? :-) and "Anatole of Paris." To top it all off, it takes place primarily in my hometown and favorite city, New York City, and is set in one of my favorite milieus, pulp magazine publishing! My hubby and I like to think that Uncle Peter's grand home must be located in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, where we used to live, since it looks like the kind of houses we used to see while walking around in the Fieldston area and it didn't seem to take horrifically long for Walter and Rosalind to drive there from the Flatiron district of Manhattan! :-) (Interestingly, the interior of the van Hoorn home looks a lot like the interior of evil Bruno Anthony's home in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN; anybody know if these scenes might have been shot in the same house/set?) I wish the DVD extras had included deleted scenes (there's a bit in the trailer with Karloff and Corden in a pub that I definitely don't recall seeing in the finished film), but it was nice to see Virginia Mayo still alive and well (and bigger than "size 12," but on her it's pleasant plumpness, in my opinion! :-) in the intro and outro, even though she only had time to say one line about most of her co-stars ("Ann Rutherford was delightful...Fay Bainter was a consummate actress...").
on January 18, 2008
One of the all time classic comedic actors, Danny Kaye gives a charming and varied performance as day dreamer Walter Mitty. A helpless hopeful who works for a publishing company and constanly gets himself into trouble by dreaming his life more fantastic. Whether it be doctor, fighter pilot or gambling gentleman, he becomes the man he wishes he could be but is absolutely not. Charming, debonaire, brave and sophisticated. The real Walter Mitty posesses none of these attributes.
Things take a turn for him though as he finds himself mixed up with a beautiful woman who's in trouble and involved in a dangerous plan to retrieve a book containing locations for some hidden WWII paintings. A former nazi named "The Boot" is also aware of the book and will kill anyone in the way of securing it for himself.
Unfortunately for Walter, no one knows or believes his story as these people who constantly call on him for help are never around when anyone else is. His Boss, co-workers, and family all chalk it up to his wild imaginations and story writing career. This all makes for some funny moments where Walters secret life soon becomes his real life. But nobody knows it but him.
Danny Kaye does a wonderful job of selling every performance he's asked to. Every character he plays is totally different from the other and is a tribute to his versitility. He absolutely sells this movie and makes it work. A great performance. Keep an eye out for Boris Karloff in his psychiatrist role as well.
The disc works well for what it is. The color looks very good and natural. Overall, it's pretty clean and doesn't cause any unnecessary distractions. The audio is typically mono and focused to the front speakers. Everything is clearly heard and distinguishable. The score and dialog come across loud and clear.
This is a fun film for all ages. It works very well and can easily be watched again and again. Highly recommended.
on December 28, 2013
This review is for the Warner Home Video release of December 10, 2013.
There are so many prior reviews about the story and the stars of the film,
but I wanted to focus on the quality of this home video release.
This dvd is superb. The picture quality is sharp, clear and clean.
The colors are beautiful and accurate - it's perfect. This film has never looked better
on home video. I suppose a Blu-ray release would show some improvement,
but this dvd is about as good as it gets.
This release contains an interview with Danny Kaye's beautiful co-star,
Virginia Mayo. The dvd includes a theatrical trailer as well as subtitles in
English, French and Spanish.
on May 17, 2012
The problem facing the director of photography (Lee Garmes) and costume designer (Irene Sharaff) when designing this film was to transform Virginia Mayo's standard blonde sweet girl next door image into the larger than life figment of Walter Mitty's imagination. And later, when she enters his real world to turn the beauty factor one notch higher to the totally irresistible level.
The images I've uploaded show how well they succeeded. I can't think of any other "star" with a complexion as perfect as Virginia Mayo and maybe this is why attention is always drawn to her head not her body. As can be seen by looking at some of her different personas she ably plays his ever faithful dream girl but looks even more enticing as a contemporary (40's) glamour girl.
Of course it's great fun watching Kaye being bewitched during their first 3 encounters but Mayo's acting is also so effortless one hardly notices how well she plays her different characters. Best demonstrated when the Gaylord Mitty riverboat gambling dream quickly transitions into their second meeting outside his office where from being his besotted southern belle she morphs into modern seductress - instantly reversing the roles they played 2 minutes earlier.
One incongruity I still find just as bemusing as when I first saw this movie in 1948 is where did Mayo change into her perfect ensembles if she's not living with her wicked uncle in the suburbs (of California)? Did she even have a life of her own beyond always being available to play parts in Walter Mitty's dreams?
Now I'm older the more relevant issue would be who'll figure in his dreams when they are married? Thankfully Hollywood and Jane Austen are not worried about matters connected to mundane reality. Maybe it was purely accidental but only in the last "just-married" scene does Sharaff return Mayo to human-scale normality by giving her a strange half-white dress covered by an enormous black fox fur - which appears to be larger than her.
Nevertheless Mayo's earlier resplendent images and one question remain - how many other Hollywood film stars have ever looked this irresistibly feminine - in glorious Technicolor - at any time in the last 67 years?
on December 25, 2013
The quality, color, sound are great! I would have rated it a 5, except this version of the movie is still incomplete.
When I saw this version (remastered), I though at last it would be restored to its original release content put back with the missing scenes that go in after the "Anatole of Paris" scene, but it just continues to jump into the middle of another scene at his house.
I am disappointed and guess I must have just been daydreaming about seeing as when in came out a long time ago.
Maybe they will restore it in the future, but for now ...ta-pockita-ta-pockita-ta-pockita....kaput-kaput.
on September 20, 2014
James Thurber wasn't too happy with the Sam Goldwyn film adaptation of his 1939 short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but the Technicolor musical comedy proved to be a cash cow at the box office. Danny Kaye stars as Walter, a milquetoast proofreader for a magazine publishing firm. Walter is constitutionally incapable of standing up for himself, which is why his mother (Fay Bainter) has been able to arrange a frightful marriage between her son and the beautiful but overbearing Gertrude Griswold (Ann Rutherford). As he muses over the lurid covers of the magazines put out by his firm, Walter retreats into his fantasy world, where he is heroic, poised, self-assured, and the master of his fate. Glancing at the cover of a western periodical, Walter fancies himself the two-gun "Perth Amboy Kid"; a war magazine prompts Walter to envision himself as a fearless RAF pilot; and so on. Throughout all his imaginary adventures, a gorgeous mystery woman weaves in an out of the proceedings. Imagine Walter's surprise when his dream girl shows up in the flesh in the person of Rosalind van Horn (Virginia Mayo). The girl is being pursued by a gang of jewel thieves headed by Dr. Hugo Hollingshead (Boris Karloff), a clever psychiatrist who manages to convince Walter that he's simply imagining things again, and that Rosalind never existed. At long last, Walter vows to live his life in the "now" rather than in the recesses of his mind: he rescues Rosalind from the gang's clutches, tells his mother and Gertrude where to get off, and fast-talks his way into a better position with the publishing firm. Substituting the usual Danny Kaye zaniness for James Thurber's whimsy, Secret Life of Walter Mitty works best during the production numbers, especially Kaye's signature tune "Anatole of Paris."
on July 27, 2014
Watching the Danny Kaye version after having watched the Ben Stiller remake is a fascinating experience. The modern remake has definite virtues - notably Stiller's little-boy-lost performance in a sophisticated world of New York advertising, as well as the subtext offering an elegy to LIFE magazine, now doomed to appear on the internet only. On the other hand Norman Z. Mcleod's Technicolor version of the Thurber story contains one of Danny Kaye's best performances on film. He was nothing short of a genius - a brilliant slapstick comedian, with an apparently limitless range of facial expressions, with a natural instinct for delivering comic songs full of verbal pyrotechnics. Structurally speaking, the film has a story of sorts, but is basically a star vehicle for Kaye to show off his talents, playing a distressed sea-captain, an English flying ace (complete with cut-glass RP accent), a brilliant card-sharper (complete with cheroot) and a cowboy storming into a studio-set bound western town. His wife Sylvia Fine provides the music and lyrics for two specialty tunes; in one of them he plays a mid-European professor impersonating most of the instruments of the orchestra. With all this verbal and visual wizardry going on, it's hard to concentrate on the plot; but it doesn't really matter, as Kaye is such an endearing performer that he can quite easily win his way into the audience's affections, especially when he plays direct to camera as if performing in the live theater. The film contains one or two good supporting performances, notably from Virginia Mayo as the love-interest playing several roles in Kaye/Mitty's fantastic dreams, and Boris Karloff as a crooked psychiatrist trying to push Kaye/Mitty out of the window of an upper-floor skyscraper, and then putting him under psychological influence in an attempt to extract vital information out of him. But basically the film belongs to Kaye, a superb star vehicle for a fantastically talented actor and performer, who was as much at home in front of a live audience as he was in front of a movie camera.
on April 25, 1999
I have seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty once, but that was all it took for me to love it. The girl he played opposite was fantastic, and had worked with him before in various other movies. Kaye's character in this movie had some pretty wild day-dreams, and sometimes those day dreams got him into trouble. When the girl of those dreams came into his real world, it was funny to watch how he dealt with it. Kaye's talent for singing, and the bar scene in which he played the pilot and pretended to be his old high school teacher, I thought it was the best part of the movie. Any one can love the way that Kaye loves and sometimes loses, and the way he handles it. He was the best actor/singer Hollywood ever had (and needs more like him!!!!), and this is certainly his best movie.