DOCTOR DOLITTLE - THE 1967 MUSICAL @ 19 April 2010 08:32 AM
The kids were very young when they first saw the original 1967 musical version of Doctor Dolittle so we watched it yesterday and it was nice to revisit again.



Not to be confused with the Eddie Murphy comedy, which apparently took the premise of Hugh Lofting's classic children's books and left the remainder behind, this Rex Harrison film was adapted directly from the books by the composer/lyricist Leslie Bricusse (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Scrooge) and produced on a very grand scale. Costarring Anthony Newley and Samantha Eggar ("my eyes are green, my hair is auburn and my dress is vivid red"), the epic spectacular was filmed on numerous breathtaking locations, including Tobago for the last sequence, and featured a score that yielded the Oscar winning "Talk to the Animals." An Oscar also was given for special effects, which were impressive in their pre-CG day. It was even nominated for best picture.

Also of note is Sir Richard "Jurassic" Attenborough (with Wizard of Oz-like putty nose) as the circus owner in a very elaborate musical number that included Disney entertainment executive Gene Columbus in the cast. Oh, and in case Samantha Eggar's singing sounds like Charlie Bucket's mom, it's because that's Diana Lee you're hearing.

What I remember is that the music from Doctor Dolittle was recorded by numerous artists in the late '60s, from Sammy Davis, Jr. and Bobby Darin to Alvin and the Chipmunks. The problem was that, while Fox was clearly expecting a Mary Poppins/Sound of Music success, Dolittle did little at the box office largely because audiences were tiring of three-hour musical extravaganzas, Hollywood movies were getting gritier and popular music was getting groovier. Still, taken on its own, this lavish experience stands up very well today as Disneyesque family fun.

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