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Danny Kaye, Virginia Mayo Dir: Norman Z. McLeod

Once upon a time, when I was 18, I was in an improv troupe. We had a performance on the day that Danny Kaye died and I asked our director (a college student) if we could dedicate that night’s performance to him, you know because he was a classic comedian and all. The director said, “Who’s that?” I said, “Nevermind,” and walked off.

To put it mildly and succinctly, Danny Kaye was a comic genius. His specialty was making silly faces while singing silly songs very quickly. If you needed that, he was your man. If you didn’t need that, well, he could do whatever you wanted him to.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is based on a James Thurber story about a man who is a henpecked husband and escapes into an imaginary dreamworld whenever he gets the chance. For the movie, they added a thrilling storyline to his reality. I could say more but I won’t. You really do need to trust me on these things. I promise if I were standing behind you for a trust fall, I would definitely try to catch you.

The feel of this movie is very similar to “My Favorite Brunette”, which is another film I will recommend to you when the time is right. It also shares the theme of accidental intrigue.

The wonderful Virginia Mayo plays opposite Kaye and is definitely able to hold up her side of every scene she is in. You can tell she was a smart, insightful woman. She has really cool costumes too.

And now I feel it is my duty to explain a little about the director, Norman Z. McLeod. He directed a lot of comedies which are considered classics today, though his name isn’t as well known as say, Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder, or Preston Sturges. He’s famous, but not that famous. Here’s a short list of some of his most famous films before he made Mitty: Horse Feathers, Topper (!), and Merrily We Live. After Mitty, he went on to direct many Bob Hope films like Road to Rio, The Paleface, My Favorite Spy, and Casanova’s Big Night (one of my favorite Hope movies). FYI, the best Bob Hope movie is The Ghostbreakers. You need to know that or else you may not get into heaven.

So let me sum this up. You have a great cast, a great director, a great story and a little time on your hands. Obviously you need to watch the movie.

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