December 29 movie: The Man Who Came to Dinner. We ran out of time to watch this at my folks house. So I brought the DVD back home and Georg and I watched it on Saturday night. This is my favorite Christmas movie. It's so delightfully misanthropic.
Coincidentally I'm reading a great biography of Bette Davis (thank you Georg!) which provides a lot of behind the scenes gossip about this movie. Davis' role is strangely restrained and secondary, considering how big a star she was at the time. I had read before that The Man Who Came to Dinner was a punishment, Warner's way of taking Davis down a peg and reminding her that no matter how many Oscars she won, they still called the shots. According to the biography, that isn't true at all. Actually the movie was Davis' idea: she convinced Warner to buy the rights and then campaigned for the starring role (and she almost didn't get it!). The book says that she had just come off a series of heavy, serious movies like The Letter and wanted a comedy where she played a nice character that audiences could root for.
The book, written by a film critic, talked a lot about the "what ifs" of potential stars and directors for The Man Who Came to Dinner. Apparently Orson Welles was at one point attached, to both star and direct! I think Welles would have done a terrific job directing but I can't imagine anyone but Monty Wooley as the star. The author of the biography called the movie a "disappointment," an opinion which I emphatically do not share. The only disappointment to me is Davis' love interest, who is so bland I don't think anyone would have noticed if he'd been replaced with a literal cardboard cutout. Just think what someone like Robert Montgomery would have done with that part. At least it would have been believable that Davis would fall for him.