8 January 2003 | allenblank
Underrated and underseen Disney musical
When Walt Disney died, he had various projects in the works and at various stages. After the success of Mary Poppins he wanted to make more big budget Roadshow musicals. A year after his death the Disney company released "The Happiest Millionaire", a wonderful film that originally ran 2 hours and 45 minutes. After the LA premiere the company afraid of a huge loss kept cutting the film down till it lost one whole number and parts of other ones and finally was cut by a whole half an hour on his general release, which was done with minimal publicity, and didn't do much at the box office.
A year later they had another Roadshow musical to release, "The One And Only, Genuine, Original Family Band. But after the failure of "The Happiest Millionaire", the company that Walt let behind were running scared. They decided to premiere the 2 hour and 15 minute film At Radio City Musical Hall for it's Christmas Show. But because of their stage show among other concessions, they told Disney that they will only show the film as their Christmas Attraction if they cut the film to under 2 hours. So for the Music Hall premiere they cut the film to 1 hour and 50 minutes, but still were going to release the long version as a Roadshow attraction. But the shortened film didn't do well, plus other Roadshow attractions that did have a Roadshow release failed at the box office. So Disney decided to release the shortened version of the film in general release the following spring, without much fanfare. The film died at the box office and was then shown as a two parter, cut even more, on the Wonderful World of Disney the following year.
This film didn't deserve it's fate. At it's current state it's still a fun musical about Grandpa (Walter Brennan) a devout Democrat who organised his family into a band to play at the Democratic Presidential convention for the current US President, Grover Cleavland. But his granddaughter (Lesley Ann Warren) has a teaching job off in the Dakota territory for a man(John Davidson)that she's fallen in love with. So Grandpa made the ultimate sacrifice and instead of going to the democratic convention they went to Dakota, a primary Republican area. Grandpa stirs up trouble and the two loves fight, then on the eve of election, everything comes to a head to a great climax. One interesting trivia in the film is that one of Warren's bothers is played by young Kurt Russell and a girl that Davison uses to get Warren jealous is a young dancer named Goldie Jeanne Hawn, yes Goldie Hawn.
In the wake of the release of the DVDs of the restored Roadshow version of "The Happiest Millionaire" and the restored version of "Bedknobs and Broomsticks", maybe Disney will dust this film off and restore it as well for a future DVD release. I can only hope.