I haven't seen this picture myself yet, but am gratified to see that it is available on video and that quite a few people seem to be inclined to find it enjoyable. I'll certainly add my own impressions once I've taken it in personally. I might even read the book.
American humorist H. Allen Smith, who wrote the novel on which this film was based, was in London at the time "Rhubarb" had its premier there and found its reception to be less than rhapsodic. The English, in short, just didn't 'get' it. While browsing through the various London papers, as he reported, "...a great and shining experience falls to my lot... now like a sunburst it leaped from the pages of the Evening Standard. I have, in a sense, been recognized by the hallowed institutions of British criticism... here in this ancient capital of literary excellence."
Herewith, the review:
THE FILM: Rhubarb (Carlton).
THE STARS: Ray Milland, Jan Sterling.
My intelligence is not of a calibre to be easily insulted, but it is still recoiling hurt and cross from contact with this stupendous drivel.
A millionaire, dissatisfied with his relations, leaves all his possessions, including a failing baseball team, to an alley cat which, because of its ferocity and its peculiar predilection for collecting golf balls, appeals to him as a champion of individualism.
Ray Milland, for whose presence in such a dire disaster we have to curse Paramount, is made the cat's guardian.
Jan Sterling, as his fiancee, is allergic to cats, or rather to this one cat, and has a sneezing fit every time she gets within range.
As for the wretched cat, a large beast liable, through amplification, to snarl like a tiger, roar like a lion and purr like a faulty cistern, it has one hell of a time.
Constantly draped over people's arms, swung on chandeliers, chased by dogs, photographed, wrapped in curtains, trapped in nets and attending baseball games, it cannot fail to make everyone, including people allergic to cats, allergic to the manufacturers of this film.
Lacking all wit, grace, humour or charm, power or poetry, this picture should be placed near where rhubarb grows best-- the rubbish heap.
Added Smith: "One reads it agayne and agayne, savoring the words, testing each lilting phrase, and one realizes that giants of critical acumen still walk the Strand in the footsteps of Samuel Johnson, Pope, Matthew Arnold, Beerbohm, Carlyle, McCall, Chesterton, Shaw, and the unknown scribbler who said that Piers Plowman smelt to high heaven."