Review: ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’

Some of the deepest-dyed Thurber fans may squeal since there's naturally considerable change from the famed short story on which the screenplay is built. There's a basic switch in the plot that has been concocted around the Mitty daydreams. Thurber's whole conception of Mitty was an inconsequential fellow from Perth Amboy, NJ, to whom nothing - but nothing - ever happened and who, as a result, lived a 'secret life' via his excursions into daydreaming. In contrast, the picture builds a spy-plot around Mitty that is more fantastic than even his wildest dream.

Some of the deepest-dyed Thurber fans may squeal since there’s naturally considerable change from the famed short story on which the screenplay is built. There’s a basic switch in the plot that has been concocted around the Mitty daydreams. Thurber’s whole conception of Mitty was an inconsequential fellow from Perth Amboy, NJ, to whom nothing – but nothing – ever happened and who, as a result, lived a ‘secret life’ via his excursions into daydreaming. In contrast, the picture builds a spy-plot around Mitty that is more fantastic than even his wildest dream.

Danny Kaye reveals a greater smoothness and polish thespically and a perfection of timing in his slapstick than has ever been evident in the past.

Exceedingly slick job is done on the segues from the real-life Mitty into the dream sequences. Mitty’s fantasies carry him through sessions as a sea captain taking his schooner through a storm, a surgeon performing a next-to-impossible operation, an RAF pilot, a Mississippi gambler, a cowpuncher and a hat designer. They’re all well-loaded with satire, as is the real-life plot with pure slapstick.

Virginia Mayo is the beautiful vis-a-vis in both the real-life spy plot, and the dreams. She comes a commendable distance thespically in this picture. Karloff wins heftiest yaks in a scene in which he plays a phony psychiatrist convincing Mitty he’s nuts.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Production

RKO/Goldwyn. Director Norman Z. McLeod; Producer Samuel Goldwyn; Screenplay Ken Englund, Everett Freeman; Camera Lee Garmes; Editor Monica Collingwood; Music David Raksin; Art Director George Jenkins, Perry Ferguson

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1947. Running time: 108 MIN.

With

Danny Kaye Virginia Mayo Boris Karloff Fay Bainter Ann Rutherford Florence Bates

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