A jovial and bearded character actor of a certain girth, Monty Woolley came to acting late in life and quickly found success in character roles that were either dyspeptic and cantankerous or genial and lovable, and sometimes dyspeptic and lovable.1942 was his banner year in Hollywood. It was the year he made his most famous film, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and the year he received an Oscar nomination for The Pied Piper, an effort from writer-producer Nunnally Johnson and director Irving Pichel. That was based on Nevil Shute’s novel about a man who dislikes children but helps a pack of them escape from Nazis.
And in the same year, Woolley had an equally strong role here, again from the Johnson/Pichel team. Based on Emlyn Williams’ play, Woolley’s dyspeptic-but-lovable role is that of the sarcastic, alcoholic actor who has faded into an obscurity enabled by his caring, defensive, imprisoned daughter (Ida Lupino), who walks with a limp. A rising composer (Cornel Wilde) woos her and helps revive the old man’s career, but it may all be thrown away. Woolley shines in such antics as his abortive stint as a drunken, surly department store Santa (one won’t confuse him with Edmund Gwenn) and the scene where, even when cold sober, he can’t resist sending up his role on a lachrymose radio serial.
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