What would you do if your favorite celebrity came to dinner…and never left!? That’s the premise of my favorite Thanksgiving movie, “The Man Who Came to Dinner” (1942). Monty Wooley recreates his Broadway hit as obnoxious Sheridan Whiteside, America’s foremost intellectual and radio host (big stuff in pre-TV America). He’s forced by his agent to spend Thanksgiving dinner with your typical mid-Western family for publicity. He takes his first step onto their frozen mid-western porch, becomes wheelchair bound, and takes over their house for the Christmas season.
Warner Bros. put everyone in this film to make sure it would be a smash. Bette Davis plays a smallish role as Whiteside’s long suffering secretary. She agreed to do it as a change of pace from all her wonderful Warner melodramas. There’s Jimmy Durante, Billie Burke (love her!), and the film debut of Mary Wickes who plays Sheridan’s poor nurse and deals with the brunt of his hysterical insults. But the one who steals the show for me is that awesome dame, Ann Sheridan. She is one of the funniest and most underrated stars of her day. Her first scene when she’s by the pool in Hollywood on the phone with Sheridan while her maid is filing her nails…”OUCH!! YOU HURT!”…well, this Queen Bee lives for moments like that.
If you like your Thanksgiving to be crazy, chaotic, witty–and with an all-star cast–give “The Man Who Came to Dinner” a bight!