The Happiest Millionaire (1967)

Approved   |    |  Comedy, Family, Musical

The Happiest Millionaire (1967) Poster

Clever yet hapless new butler John Lawless manages a Philadelphia household for quirky and joyful millionaire Anthony Drexel Biddle, his unflappable wife, Cordelia, and their spitfire daughter, Cordy.


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7 October 2002 | nataliefanone
An under-rated Disney Classic
"The Happiest Millionaire" is a lively musical adaptation of the hit 1957 Broadway play that starred Walter Pidgeon as Anthony Drexel Biddle. The play was written by Kyle Crichton, who adapted it from a biographical book he co-wrote with Biddle's daughter Cordelia, "My Philadelphia Father."

As adapted to the screen by AJ Carothers (who would go on to create the TV sitcom "Nanny and the Professor"), "Millionaire" tells the story of eccentric millionaire Biddle and his family in 1916 Philadelphia.

The movie actually isn't really about Biddle at all, instead it focuses on his daughter Cordelia [Lesley Ann Warren in her big screen debut] and her impending romance with Angier Duke [John Davidson in his big screen debut].

The two youngsters fall in love much to the dismay of Angier's mother [Geraldine Page]. The clash between Philadelphia "old money" [the Biddles] and New York's nouveau riche [the Dukes] comes into play, but ultimately love conquers all in the final reel.

Thrown in for good measure is Tommy Steele as "John Lawless", an Irish immigrant whose landed a job as the Biddles' new butler. He's the film's "narrator" of sorts and oversees the proceedings as they unfold.

The score is provided by Disney veterans Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman [of "Mary Poppins" fame], and while this score does not exactly reach the caliber of their work in "Poppins" it's not entirely bad either. There are some "gems": "Fortuosity", "Let's Have A Drink On It", "Valentine Candy" and "Are We Dancing" among them.

The choreography by Marc Beaux and Dee Dee Wood ["Poppins" and "The Sound of Music"] is brought to life by both Tommy Steele and Lesley Ann Warren.

Screen legend Greer Garson is Cordelia Drexel Biddle, Sr. and generally plays it straight opposite MacMurray's eccentric-slightly goofy portrayal. Also in the cast Gladys Cooper ["My Fair Lady"] as Aunt Mary, Paul Petersen ["The Donna Reed Show"] as Anthony, Jr., Eddie Hodges as Livingston and Hermoine Baddeley ["Mary Poppins"] as the Biddle's maid.

At an original 164 minute running time, "Millionaire" may seem to some a bit excessive in length, and while this may be true it is still in my opinion a very entertaining movie which for some reason or another Disney has ignored [save for an occasional 3 am screening on "The Disney Channel"]. It took Anchor Bay Entertainment to save this gem from relative obscurity when in 1998 they licensed the film from the Disney studios and released it on VHS and DVD in both a general release and road show edition. Disney finally got wise and finally dusted off the film's soundtrack and released the long out-of-print score in August 2002.

I recommend this film for it's music, it's light-heartedness and a compelling motion picture debut by the multi-talented Lesley Ann Warren.

Critic Reviews

Did You Know?


The real Anthony Drexel Biddle, Sr. (1874-1948), was a banking magnate and dyed-in-the-wool eccentric whose independent wealth allowed him to pursue such diverse ventures as physical culture (he boxed with Jack Johnson and taught boxing to Gene Tunney), theatricals, and religion. He served as a Colonel in the U.S. Marines in both World Wars. Cordelia Drexel Biddle's (1898-1984) marriage to Andrew Buchannan did not result in a happy ending. Although they had two sons, both of whom became prominent in business and diplomatic circles, the marriage ran into trouble, they were divorced within a few years, and Angier Duke died young, not long after that, in a boating accident. She co-wrote (with Kyle Crichton) the book upon which both the movie and play "The Happiest Millionaire" were based, "My Philadelphia Father". After her divorce from Angier Buchanan Duke (who, unlike his character in the movie, was actually more than a decade her senior), she made a far happier marriage to architect Thomas Robertson, a marriage which lasted until his death in 1962. Like her father, she enjoyed an active life devoted to many charitable activities. By most accounts, she was one of those women who grew more attractive as they grew older, prompting a reporter to state, "The aura of youth clinging to this illusion. It is no product that can be bought in a beauty shop or designer's salon. Hers is a youth that laughs at the insolent years..." Active almost to the end of her life, she died at her home in Southhampton, New York.


John Lawless: Well now, ain't this an elegant neighborhood, all the residents dressed so fine! One day off the boat am I, with a job that's nearly mine! 'Tis a job with an elegant millionaire, and his elegant family! Today I move from immigrant - to high society!


When John and Angie are at the bar, the amounts of Stout in the two glasses change between frames.

Alternate Versions

Originally premiered at 159 minutes, the film was cut to 144 minutes when box office returns were less than expected. Still doing inadequately, the film was further cut to 120 minutes for general release. The longer version was rereleased in 1984.


It Won't Be Long 'Til Christmas
Written by
Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
Performed by Greer Garson and Fred MacMurray
(deleted for the film's general release, but restored for the DVD release)


Plot Summary


Comedy | Family | Musical | Romance

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