The Great Mr. Nobody (1941)

This was a last minute addition to our holiday watch list, when we learned that it had a reference to our favorite holiday drink, Tom & Jerrys.

We’re glad we added it because it is a pleasant little movie with many familiar character actors, but we probably won’t be including it in future Christmas cinema garlands.  The plot is just too thin and disjointed.  It bears some resemblance to Good Sam and perhaps even It’s a Wonderful Life, as it focuses on a perfectly good man who forgoes his own dreams to help others who are down and out.  Eddie Albert’s character (Dreamy Smith) just does not have the complexities of Sam Clayton and George Bailey and never faces a “dark night of the soul” as they do.  Similar to It’s a Wonderful Life, it takes the intervention of a strong woman (in this case the lovely Joan Leslie) to save him.

PLOT SUMMARY

Dreamy Smith (Eddie Albert) has a dream of quitting his job in the classified ad section of a New York newspaper to become partners with his roommate (Alan Hale) on a sailing ship.  But every time he comes close to fulfilling his dream some mishap or someone in trouble gets in the way.  He gets taken advantage of by everyone, including his boss, who steals his clever ideas. Despite being pushed by his girl friend (Joan Leslie), he never seems to stand up for himself.  Finally fortified by some alcohol, he stands up to his boss but is fired.  That’s when Mary intervenes, and Dreamy is ultimately recognized as a quiet hero for all of the people he has helped.

CHRISTMAS CONNECTION

The film concludes on Christmas Eve, but the holiday connection is fairly thin.

CHARACTER ACTORS

Eddie Albert (Dreamy Smith) was best known for his starring role as Oliver Douglas in TV’s Green Acres, but he had many fine supporting film roles, such as Brother Rat (1938), Roman Holiday (1953), The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956), The Sun Also Rises (1957) and The Longest Day (1962).

Joan Leslie (Mary Clover) had some wonderful roles in the early 1940s, including Velma in High Sierra (1941), Gracie Williams in Sergeant York (1941), Mary Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) and Connie Reed in Two Guys from Milwaukee (1946).

Alan Hale (“Skipper” Martin) is best remembered as the side kick of Errol Flynn in several pictures, including The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and The Sea Hawk (1940). His other notable roles include It Happened One Night (1934), Imitation of Life (1934) and The Strawberry Blonde (1941).  He was the father of Alan Hale Jr., who played the Skipper in TV’s Gilligan’s Island.

John Litel (John Wade) has appeared previously in Christmas Eve and Pocketful of Miracles.

Dickie Moore (“Limpy” Barnes) was a popular child actor, appearing in such films as Blonde Venus (1932), Oliver Twist (1933) and as Dickie in many of the Our Gang shorts in the 1930s.

William Benedict (Jig) had hundreds of character roles, often in newspaper offices, including Libeled Lady (1936), Theodora Goes Wild (1936) and Meet John Doe (1940).  He played Cary Grant’s caddy in Bringing Up Baby (1938).

George Irving (Dr. Carlisle) is most familiar as Mr. Peabody in Bringing Up Baby (1938), but he also had notable roles in A Night at the Opera (1935), Sergeant York (1941) and Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942).

Paul Hurst (Michael O’Connor) started appearing in silent films in 1913 and later had roles in notable films, such as Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938), Gone with the Wind (1939) and The Ox-Bow Incident (1943).

Charles Halton (Mr. Bixby) has been seen previously as the detective in The Shop Around the Corner and the bank examiner in It’s a Wonderful Life.

ASTAIRE CONNECTION

Joan Leslie danced with Fred Astaire in The Sky’s the Limit (1943).

William Benedict appeared with Astaire in Second Chorus (1940).

Paul Hurst appeared with Astaire in The Sky’s the Limit (1943).

WHY WE LOVE LIKE THIS MOVIE

There are many familiar faces but no standout performances.  It was along wait till the last five minutes of the film to see the Tom & Jerrys being ladled out of a large punch bowl into special mugs.  This makes the fifth film in our list to mention the holiday drink; the others were Beyond Tomorrow, The Cheaters, The Apartment and Never Say Goodbye.

WHERE CAN YOU SEE THE FILM

The film is occasionally shown on Turner Classic Movies but is not currently scheduled in the coming months.

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