Life with Father (1947)

Life with Father
William Powell and Irene Dunne

'Life with Father' is an American domestic comedy film made in 1947, directed by Michael Curtiz and starring William Powell and Irene Dunne with Elizabeth Taylor, Edmund Gwenn, ZaSu Pitts, Jimmy Lydon and Martin Milner. It is a charmingly told, character-focused witty movie about a family in late nineteenth century New York.

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In the 1930's humorist and autobiographer Clarence Day Jr. wrote a series of popular books, "God and My Father", "Life With Father", and "Life With Mother", which became the basis, in 1939, of a Broadway play, which was, in turn, made into the 1947 movie and later, a television series. The Broadway production was extremely popular and with over 3,200 performances holds the record for the longest-running non-musical play on Broadway, finishing its run on July 12, 1947.

The movie was released when the play's run ended and immediately proved popular with the public and critics alike. It received 4 unsuccessful nominations for Academy Awards, for Best Actor (William Powell, getting his third and final Oscar nomination), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color (Robert M. Haas, George Hopkins), Best Cinematography, Color (Peverell Marley, William V. Skall) and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Max Steiner).

The plot line is wonderfully simple and describes episodes in the life of the Day family, particularly the eccentric father, Clarence, played by William Powell, and his much loved wife Vinnie played by Irene Dunne. We observe a series of family events as Vinnie constantly outwits her husband whilst letting him think that he is in charge as they face a series of problems, mostly caused by their four sons. Vinnie works hard to get her husband baptized and events come to a head when her eldest son, played by James Lydon has a romance with the pretty country girl Mary, played by a young Elizabeth Taylor. There are many fine comic moments and the movie offers an amusing and gently satirical glimpse into Victorian manners and attitudes.

The performances are uniformly good, particularly from William Powell and Irene Dunne, ably supported by Elizabeth Taylor, the comic actress ZaSu Pitts and the young Martin Milner. The whole is beautifully complemented by the score by Max Steiner.

Not one of Hollywood's best known movies but its a real gem.

Main Cast

William Powell ... Clarence Day, Sr.
Irene Dunne ... Vinnie Day
Elizabeth Taylor ... Mary Skinner
Edmund Gwenn ... Rev. Dr. Lloyd
ZaSu Pitts ... Cousin Cora Cartwright
Jimmy Lydon ... Clarence Day, Jr.
Emma Dunn ... Margaret ... the cook
Moroni Olsen ... Dr. Humphries Elisabeth Risdon ... Mrs. Whitehead
Derek Scott ... Harlan Day
Johnny Calkins ... Whitney Day
Martin Milner ... John Day
Heather Wilde ... Annie
Monte Blue ... The Policeman
Mary Field ... Nora
Clara Blandick ... Miss Wiggins


Director ... Michael Curtiz
Producer ... Robert Buckner
Screenwriter ... Donald Ogden Stewart
Based on the play by ... Russel Crouse, Howard Lindsay
From the Original Book by ... Clarence Day
Production Company ... Warner Bros. Pictures
Cinematography ... Sidney Hickox
Format ... Color (Technicolor)
Original Music ... Max Steiner
Release date ... August 14, 1947
Running Time ... 118 minutes

Academy Awards

Four Unsuccessful Nominations
Best Actor ... William Powell
Art Direction/Set Direction (Color) ... Robert M. Haas, George Hopkins
Cinematography (Color) ... Peverell Marley, William V. Skall
Music Score ... Max Steiner