Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Millionaire" Has Rich Moments

Cleveland Press October 20, 1967

"The Happiest Millionaire" is a pleasant, tuneful, tasteful musical that is also over-long and uneven. The overall effect, however, is one of pleasure and the movie is ideal family entertainment.

The most pleasant part of it all is meeting Tommy Steele, a winning, delightful, witty and energetic song-and-dance man from England. He gives the movie a definite lift every time he shows up which isn't often enough.

"The Happiest Millionaire" is based on a so-so play of the 50's which in turn was based on the life of Anthony J. Drexel, eccentric Philadelphia millionaire who boxed, sang badly at the opera and collected pet alligators.

HIS DAUGHTER, Cordelia, eventually married the heir to the Duke tobacco interests and it is the conflict of a father reluctantly admitting that his daughter is grown up that is the basis for the plot.

As movies do and seemingly must this one has opened up the play to carry the action outside of the Philadelphia mansion, to linger on the blossoming of young love and generally to extend the length into what someone must have thought suitable for reserved-seat showing.

The show is at its best however, whenever it gets back to home base and confines the action to the Drexel mansion.

STEELE PORTRAYS the butler, a young Irish immigrant. He has a scene-commanding manner about him, a warmth and charm mixed with genuine talent.

Fred MacMurray, who talks a song, is comfortable in the role of the wealthy man with a yen for mixing physical fitness training with Bible lessons, and Greer Garson is appropriate as his patient wife.

Lesley Ann Warren is charming as their daughter and John Davidson, who appeared at Musicarnival this past summer makes an attractive leading man.

GLADYS COOPER is on hand briefly and winningly as a wise old aunt. Geraldine Page is good if predictable as the young man's domineering and haughty mother.

The music was written by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman, the team responsible for the "Mary Poppins" music. Their 11 numbers are serviceable and pleasant, very much a part of the story, but not very memorable outside of the show.

AMONG THE BETTER ones are "Fortuosity," an appealing number that opens the movie and introduces Steele; "There Are Those," sung by Miss Cooper and Miss Page with wickedly witty lyrics; and "Let's Have A Drink On It," a rollicking barroom ditty

There are several lively dance numbers choreographed by Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood, who did the same job for "Mary Poppins,'' but they never quite grab you the way those did.

In addition to everyone and everything else there is George. George is an alligator. George dances. It helps.