Life with Father (film)

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Life with Father
Life with Father - Film Poster.jpg
Theatrical Film Poster
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Produced by Robert Buckner
Screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart
Based on Life with Father
1935 novel
by Clarence Day
1939 play by Howard Lindsay
Russel Crouse
Starring William Powell
Irene Dunne
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography William V. Skall
J. Peverell Marley
Edited by George Amy
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • August 14, 1947 (1947-08-14) (U.S.)
Running time
118 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4.7 million[1]
Box office $6.455 million[1]

Life with Father is a 1947 Technicolor American comedy film.[2][3] It tells the true story of Clarence Day, a stockbroker who wants to be master of his house, but finds his wife and his children ignoring him, until they start making demands for him to change his own life. The story draws largely on the insistence by his wife that Clarence be baptized and Clarence's stubborn, sometimes ill-tempered nature. In keeping with the autobiography, all the children in the family (all boys) are redheads. It stars William Powell and Irene Dunne as Clarence and his wife, supported by Elizabeth Taylor as a beautiful teenage girl with whom Clarence's oldest son becomes infatuated, along with Edmund Gwenn, ZaSu Pitts, Jimmy Lydon and Martin Milner.[4] The film and its audio entered the public domain in 1975.[5]

Plot summary[edit]

Irene Dunne and William Powell in Life with Father

Stockbroker Clarence Day (William Powell), is the benevolent curmudgeon of his 1880s New York City household, striving to make it function as efficiently as his Wall Street office but usually failing. His wife Vinnie (Irene Dunne) is the real head of the household. The anecdotal story encompasses such details as Clarence's attempts to find a new maid; a romance between his oldest son Clarence Jr. (Jimmy Lydon) and pretty out-of-towner Mary Skinner (Elizabeth Taylor); a plan by Clarence Jr. and his younger brother John (Martin Milner) to make easy money selling patent medicines; Clarence's general contempt for the era's political corruption and the trappings of organized religion; and Vinnie's push to get him baptized so he can enter the kingdom of God.[6]



Due to the Motion Picture Production Code standards of the day, the play's last line (in response to a policeman asking Mr. Day where he is going), "I'm going to be baptized, dammit!" had to be rewritten for the film, with the final word omitted. Mr. Day's frequent outbursts of "Oh, God!" were changed to "Oh, gad!" for the same reason.

The movie was adapted by Donald Ogden Stewart from the play by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, which was based on the book by Clarence Day, Jr. It was directed by Michael Curtiz.

Memorable quotations[edit]

  • Employment agent: "Sir, before I can let any girl go from this establishment, I must know the character of the home in which she will be employed." Mr. Day: "Madam, I am the character of my home!"
  • Clarence Day, Jr: "...outside green is the best color." Mary Skinner: "That's right. I never thought of it that way. But when you do think of it - it's quite a thought."
  • Upon leaving Clarence Day, Jr. and Mary Skinner alone in the parlor, Mrs. Day turns and says: "Remember, it's Sunday."
  • Mary Skinner announces through tears after sitting on Clarence Day, Jr's lap - (he tells her to "Get up! Get up!"): "Now you just think I am some bold and forward girl."
  • Mr. Day states "I am not a guide to Chinatown and The Bowery."


It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (William Powell), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color (Robert M. Haas, George Hopkins), Best Cinematography, Color and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.[7]

Home media[edit]

As Warner Bros. never owned complete rights to this film (the studio did and still does own the theatrical distribution and music rights), other companies have been able to release home video versions of Life with Father under different licenses; with some varying by quality.


The film earned $5.9 million in rentals in North America.[8][9]

Through a clerical error, the film was not renewed for copyright and has fallen into the public domain. There is a digitally remastered version in the Archive Movie Collection through with a copyright date of 2009.


  1. ^ a b H. Mark Glancy, “MGM Film Grosses, 1924-1948: The Eddie Mannix Ledger,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television , 12, no. 2 (1992), pp. 127-43
  2. ^ Variety film review; August 20, 1947, page 16.
  3. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; August 16, 1947, page 131.
  4. ^ Turner Classic Movie synopsis and production information
  5. ^ New York Times, Life With Father
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Life with Father". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
  8. ^ "All Time Domestic Champs", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
  9. ^ "Top Grossers of 1947", Variety, 7 January 1948 p 63

External links[edit]