Okay, I am going to pull one out of the hat that you have not seen unless you are an aficionado of classic short stories or movies. Today I am going to discuss The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which was both a short story written in 1939 by James Thurber and then a movie in 1947 starring the one and only Danny Kaye, one of my favorite actors of all time in my favorite movie (full disclosure on my part here). For this article I am going to focus on the movie, because it is awesome. No, I am not an old man reliving the past, when I was a kid my parents rented a lot of classic movies to watch, films like Rear Window, Ivanhoe and The Fuller Brush Man. I grew up appreciating classic films. They kind of rock, really there is a nostalgia there you just can’t get in today’s flash, bang, whiz pictures that are pumped out a hundred at a time full of special effects but most of the time no substance.
Aren’t movies really about escape from reality, something we can suspend and immerse ourselves in, and a movie about a man who daydreams to escape has got to be something we can all relate to as well. I mean haven’t you ever daydreamed, maybe about being a secret agent, a war hero, a world-famous musician, actor, or surgeon. Okay, enough about my fantasies, I know you have your own and are now sitting there with your eyes shut, deeply involved with the latest episode of you. I get it, really I do. Daydreaming is something that gets us out of the mundane sometimes, but you’re going to have to open your eyes, just to finish reading the wonderfulness that I have put upon this blog for you. Yes you. Open your eyes. Okay, thank you, let us get back to it then, shall we.
Walter Mitty as I mentioned before is played by Danny Kaye, an actor from the forties through the sixties known for not only his slapstick physical comedy, but his facial expressions and rapid singing ability of nonsense songs that just somehow make sense. (Also check out The Court Jester, 1966, which is probably his most famous film)
The premise of the movie is thus: Walter Mitty, a milquetoast of man lives with his domineering mother and is henpecked by his overbearing, but dumb, fiancé and her bulldog of a mother. He works as an editor of pulp fiction magazines, which were quite popular at the time, and his boss steals all of his ideas. He has a miserable life. This is why he daydreams. The daydreams are phenomenal, they really suck you in, as they should, and the opening ta-pucka-ta ta-pucka-ta that some object makes as he drifts from reality into the dream world where he is confident, loved, respected, etc is a nice transition. Basically in his dreams he gets all the things that everyone wants. Then he gets involved with another woman who drops some information regarding the location of the Dutch Crown jewels that were hidden during the Nazi occupation while he is shopping. Of course there are baddies after this info and that leads Walter into a real double life that he has to hide from the people in his life and discover some confidence in himself.
The big baddie is actually played by none other than Boris Karloff, yes the man who first gave face to Frankenstein in 1931 and subsequent movies, not to mention one of the early horror geniuses. But most of you will remember him most fondly as the narrator and voice of the Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
The movie is a great laugh and look at classic cinema from a time long gone by. I doubt you can find a copy of it on Netflix, but you can probably purchase it online somewhere, or rent it from somewhere, anywhere. Because, honestly if they really remake this classic with Ben Stiller next year as some photographer chasing a missing negative I will literally vomit from anger. To ruin something that wonderful with a cheap remake would be worse than when Hollywood ruined Charade (1963, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, James Coburn) by remaking it into The Truth About Charlie (2002, Mark Wahlberg). Classics are classics folks, no matter how many times you remake them badly. So close your eyes and go on a daydream adventure, then go find a copy of Walter Mitty and watch it!