Daddy Long Legs
Cast & Crew
Jazz-loving millionaire playboy Jervis Pendleton III is persuaded by his stern assistant Griggs to leave his New York mansion to accompany a U.S. State Department fact-finding mission to France. While on an isolated road to Paris, the group's car breaks down, and Jervis walks to find a phone. He soon comes across an orphanage, and while waiting for the matron, watches with amusement as a young woman makes a game out of serving the childrens' meagre lunches. Upon meeting Madame Sevanne, the orphanage matron, Jervis inquires about the girl, Julie Andre, and learns that she has lived there her entire life. Madame Sevanne laments the fact that the eighteen-year-old leads such a dull existence, and that her suitors are boring farmers. When Jervis reaches Paris, he meets his old friend, stodgy embassy attaché Alec Williamson, and asks how to adopt a French orphan. Alec is horrified when middle-aged Jervis mentions that his intended orphan is an eighteen-year-old young woman, although Jervis swears that he only wishes to send her to America to receive a proper education. Alec agrees to make the arrangements on the condition that Jervis' sponsorship of Julie remains anonymous, and Jervis agrees, then enrolls her in Massachusetts' Walston College, to which he is a large contributor. Jervis himself drops off the papers for Julie, who is overwhelmed to learn of her good fortune, but does not catch a glimpse of her mysterious benefactor, whom Madame Sevanne says is named "John Smith." The children, who saw only his shadow, describe him as tall and thin, with legs like a daddy longlegs spider. After her first exciting day at Walston, during which she meets her roommates, Sally McBride and Jervis' niece Linda, Julie begins her first letter to her guardian, for she has been instructed to write to him once a month. The letter soon arrives on the desk of the down-to-earth Miss Prichard, Griggs's secretary, and although they are bemused by Julie's salutation of "Dear Daddy Longlegs," Griggs tells Miss Prichard to file the letter without showing it to Jervis. As the months pass, Julie is disappointed not to receive any replies to her letters, but continues to write and work hard at her studies. After two years, however, Julie expresses her disillusionment in her latest letter, and both Prichard and Griggs, who by now eagerly anticipate Julie's letters, are upset that Jervis shows no interest in her. Griggs decides to show the letters to Jervis, who had completely forgotten about "his" orphan. After reading Julie's letters, Jervis decides to attend a spring dance at Walston on the pretext of visiting Linda, whom he has not seen since she was an infant. At the college, Jervis is delighted to see Julie, who has matured into a poised young woman. Julie confides in Jervis that she would like to care for her guardian, whom she assumes is elderly, after graduation, but is afraid that he no longer has any interest in her. Then, much to the chagrin of Sally's brother Jimmy, who is infatuated with Julie, Jervis stuns the other students by skillfully dancing with Julie to a wild rock and roll number. By the time he returns to New York, Jervis has fallen in love with Julie, although he still has not told her that he is her "Daddy Longlegs." Griggs is suspicious when Jervis offers to "help" Jimmy by obtaining a job for him in far-off Bolivia, but Jervis insists that his motives are pure. A few months later, Jervis invites Linda and Julie to spend the weekend in New York, and is is momentarily nonplussed when Julie arrives unaccompanied by Linda, who is ill. Julie sets Jervis at ease, however, and the couple spends the evening dancing at the city's glamorous nightclubs. The next morning, Jervis purchases an engagement ring for Julie, but when he goes to her hotel to have breakfast with her, their conversation is overheard by Alec, who coicidentally is staying in a suite with a balcony adjoining Julie's. Alec misinterprets the couple's conversation and assumes that Jervis has reneged on his agreement. Alec calls Jervis to his rooms, and although Jervis is outraged by Alec's accusations, he concludes that Alec is right about his and Julie's age difference, and that he must forget about marrying her and bring Jimmy back to the United States. Julie, who has fallen in love with Jervis, is devastated when he telephones with news that he is leaving the country immediately on business. Julie returns to Walston and there begins a scrapbook of the newspaper reports of Jervis' adventures with glamorous women. Despite her emotional pain, Julie does well at school and soon is ready to graduate. Desperate, Julie sends one last letter to her guardian, begging for advice. Miss Prichard, unable to bear Julie's heartbreak, insists that Griggs help her to trick Jervis into returning home and reuniting with Julie. On graduation day, Miss Prichard attends the ceremony and congratulates the bewildered Julie, who cheers up upon hearing that they are going to New York so that she can finally meet her guardian. In New York, Jervis is angry about Griggs's trick and insists that he pretend to be Julie's guardian, until he learns from Linda that she is to marry Jimmy, whom she has always loved and that Julie has been miserable since Jervis' departure. When Julie arrives at the Pendleton mansion, she is ushered in with a group touring Jervis' art collection, and upon seeing the painting of Jervis' grandfather as an elderly man, realizes that he is the "Daddy Longlegs" she had envisioned. Thrilled to be reunited with Jervis, Julie accepts his marriage proposal, and the beaming Griggs and Prichard watch as the couple shares their first kiss.
Ray Anthony And His Orchestra
Charles Anthony Hughes
Hellen Van Tuyl
J. Anthony Hughes
Guy Des Rochers
Samuel G. Engel
Paul S. Fox
Morris "mushy" Harmell
Emil Kosa Jr.
Mrs. Jacqueline Lemoine
Harry M. Leonard
Edward B. Powell
Walter M. Scott
Harold F. Wilson
Daddy Long Legs (1955)
As Astaire grew older, he lost none of his grace as a dancer, but his leading ladies were getting progressively younger. The 1912 novel by Jean Webster, the grandniece of Mark Twain, had been filmed three times previously. The story of an orphan given a college education by an older unseen benefactor who woos her incognito had proved highly adaptable as a vehicle for Mary Pickford in 1919, Janet Gaynor in 1931 and Shirley Temple in 1935 (as Curly Top; she had an older sister to carry the romantic story). There also was a 1938 Dutch film called Vadertje Langbeen. When the studio contacted Astaire about playing the lead he was happy to do a film that treated his age as a plot element. Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck had envisioned Daddy Long Legs as a vehicle for contract musical star Mitzi Gaynor, but Astaire insisted the role go to Leslie Caron, whose work he had admired since Gene Kelly had cast her in An American in Paris (1951). As a result, the script was re-written to have Astaire discover her during a visit to France.
Pre-production moved smoothly, but then Astaire's wife of many years died the day before filming was to begin. The studio postponed the production until he was ready to start, but also contacted Maurice Chevalier to fill in if necessary. Initially, Astaire offered to cover the money spent thus far on the film if they would cancel production, but then he decided work was the best cure. Between takes he would retreat to his trailer and cry, which accounts for his red eyes in some scenes.
Astaire's friend Mercer provided most of the songs, creating both words and music, though he was primarily known as a lyricist. The hit of the film was "Something's Gotta Give," which was recorded by The Maguire Sisters the same year and reached number five on the charts. Other notable versions include Sammy Davis, Jr.'s, Mel Torme's and Ella Fitzgerald's. Daddy Long Legs also revived Johnny Mercer's 1945 hit "Dream," sung on screen by The Pied Pipers as Astaire and Caron danced. During the "Daydream Sequence" -- in which Astaire imagines Caron's fantasies of him as a Texas cowboy, an international playboy and her guardian angel -- his cowboy voice was dubbed by Thurl Ravenscroft, the voice of Tony the Tiger and the singer who introduced "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." That was the only time Astaire's voice was ever dubbed.
This was Astaire's first film in Cinemascope, and he planned the choreography to take advantage of what was then a new shape for the film image. In particular, he used the screen format to create distance between himself and Caron in their dance to "Something's Gotta Give" and to fill the screen with activity in the "Daydream Sequence." Astaire also incorporated ballet elements into the choreography to showcase Caron, whose background was in classical dance. She executed a variety of dance steps at the climax of the "Daydream Sequence" as he danced around her, and he used pirouettes and other twirling steps in their dance to "Dream." The number also includes a rarity in his choreography, a kiss. Unfortunately, Astaire had no connection to the "Nightmare Ballet," a 12-minute sequence staged by Caron's first mentor, Roland Petit. Critics would complain that the number, which was only tangentially related to the plot, slowed the picture down.
The Cinemascope screen also gave ample opportunities to the art department, which gave Daddy Long Legs a lavish look befitting its international setting and Astaire's character. They redressed the Los Angeles International Airport to fill in for LaGuardia and shot exteriors for Astaire's New York home at Andrew Carnegie's Fifth Avenue mansion. Portraits of Astaire, his father and grandfather were painted in the styles of Picasso, John Singer Sargent and James Abbott McNeill Whistler, respectively, with director Jean Negulesco supplying Astaire's portrait. He also painted posters for the "Nightmare Ballet" and used his artistic connections to borrow paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Braque and Claudette Colbert to fill out Astaire's gallery.
Fox also gave the film a solid supporting cast to help carry the comedy in Phoebe and Henry Ephron's adaptation. Thelma Ritter stole every scene she was in as Astaire's secretary, while Terry Moore was suitably pretty and sympathetic as Caron's college roommate. One of Astaire's dancing partners in the "Daydream Sequence" was the young Barrie Chase, who would team with him memorably in a pair of '60s television specials. Also in the company were future Broadway star Liliane Montevecchi and future Oscar® nominee James Cromwell. Daddy Long Legs also is the only movie to feature both actors who played Bea Benaderet's husband, Harry Morton, on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show - Fred Clark and Larry Keating.
The reviews and box office for Daddy Long Legs were solid, though some critics complained about the ancient tale and the stars' pairing. Later versions of the story would be filmed in Japan as an animated musical for TV in 1979 and as a miniseries in 1990, in India in 1984 and in Korea in 2005. The story was so popular in Japan it also inspired a prominent charity, The Foundation for Orphans From Automobile Accidents, popularly known as the Daddy-Long-Legs Fund.
Producer: Samuel G. Engel
Director: Jean Negulesco
Screenplay: Phoebe and Henry Ephron
Based on the novel by Jean Webster
Cinematography: Leon Shamroy
Art Direction: John DeCuir, Lyle R. Wheeler
Score: Cyril J. Mockridge, Alfred Newman
Principal Cast: Fred Astaire (Jervis Pendleton III/John Smith), Leslie Caron (Julie Andre), Terry Moore (Linda Pendleton), Thelma Ritter (Alice Pritchard), Fred Clark (Griggs), Charlotte Austin (Sally McBride), Larry Keating (Ambassador Alexander Williamson), Barrie Chase (Blonde Dancer), James Cromwell (Extra), Diane Jergens, Liliane Montevecchi, Leslie Parrish (College Girls), The Pied Pipers (Themselves).
by Frank Miller
Daddy Long Legs (1955)
Daddy Long Legs (1955) - Fred Astaire in Daddy Long Legs on DVD
It is in the latter role that Jervis finds himself travelling on a rural road through French farmland, along with several other committee members, on their way to Paris. When their car becomes stuck in a mud-hole, Jervis leaves the group to try to find a farmhouse or village from which he can call for help. What he finds instead is a remote orphanage, run by a refreshingly forthright, aging matron, whose only help comes from the orphanage's oldest inmate, the eighteen-year-old waif Julie Andre (Leslie Caron), who shows signs of having talent and charm to spare.
When Jervis finally reaches Paris he meets with the American Ambassador (Larry Keating), to look into the possibility of setting up an endowment for the girl, using one of the Pendleton industries many charitable venues, to send her to Walston College (which is heavily endowed by Pendleton, and so can be relied on to accept the girl without question). The Ambassador is at first appalled by the idea, warning Jervis of the sinister spin that could be put on the situation if anyone were to discover that it is Jervis himself who is manipulating things for the young woman. But he is finally swayed when Jervis assures him that everything will be handled through Pendleton industries, and that he will have no contact with the girl whatsoever.
Virtually overnight Julie is ensconced in the ivied walls of Walston with a complete new wardrobe, her roommate just happening to be Jervis' niece Linda (Terry Moore), and with instructions that her only duty in accepting this generous endowment is that she is to write her benefactor once a month at a post office box kept under the name John Smith, and let him know how she is doing. The only thing she knows about him is that his shadow was seen thrown in relief against the inner wall of the orphanage the night that he visited there to finalize the arrangements: because the shadow legs were elongated, she always thinks of him as Daddy Long Legs.
Although Julie is deliriously happy with her new-found good fortune, she finds it increasingly frustrating that she writes to her benefactor every month, and he never replies, even when she asks him questions. In a wonderful dance sequence, Astaire acts out Julie's fantasies about what her benefactor is like: first she imagines him to be a Texas millionaire—which has Astaire dancing in cowboy boots—then a international playboy, and finally as her guardian angel, allowing a nice dance between Astaire and Caron.
It isn't until Julie's third year at college that Jervis decides he must see how she has progressed. Since he can quite naturally visit his niece Linda without giving any reason for Julie to suspect that he's her benefactor, he calls and tells Linda that he's coming out to visit, and the time he chooses just happens to be the date of the school's annual dance. There Jervis and Julie finally meet, and the rapidly maturing Julie proves to have added poise and a certain sophistication to the charms Jervis first saw in her. They strike an instant rapport that is solidified when the two join into the massive "Sluefoot" dance that the pair end up leading.
Soon after Jervis invites Linda and Julie to visit him in New York, where he has rented a room for them in a luxury hotel. When he meets the plane, he finds that Julie has come alone, Linda begging off with a cold. Jervis takes her dining and dancing, and romance is obviously blooming. But in a twist lifted directly from Noel Coward's Private Lives, the American Ambassador to France just happens to be staying in the suite next to Julie. While breakfasting on the balcony the morning after Jervis' night on the town, the Ambassador overhears them talking, as Julie pours out her heart about wonderful the evening was. The Ambassador intercedes by phone and reminds Jervis that he brought the girl into this country with the help of the American Embassy, and that a breath of scandal would prove disastrous for all involved. Despite his feelings for Julie, Jervis realizes the truth in this and decides to go away. But his faithful assistant, Griggs (Fred Clark), and his equally loyal and efficient secretary Alicia Pritchard (the great Thelma Ritter) conspire to bring him back and unite him with Julie.
Daddy Long Legs is a highly romantic musical that miraculously pulls everything together seamlessly despite the fact that it is very unconventional musical: there is really very little music, and only one song. Fine use is made of Johnny Mercer's wonderful "Something's Gotta Give" for the transition from benefactor and student to equals. In fact, the scene is handled so flawlessly that there isn't a hint that anything could be considered wrong with Jervis and Julie making the transition: it seems perfectly natural.
Both of the stars are in top form. Astaire is well over twice Caron's age, and yet even though he's supposed to be an older man, he doesn't look older, he looks ageless. Caron is astonishing in her growth from giddy freshman to poised young woman, and gets to shine on her own in the fascinating dream ballet sequence in which she dances through several settings trying to connect with Jervis. The stars are given fine support by Clark as the irascible Griggs, and Thelma Ritter, who as far as I'm concerned could do no wrong, as the sympathetic secretary.
Warner Bros.' new dvd offers a splendid transfer from nearly pristine source material, and includes an audio commentary from Ava Astaire McKenzie and film historian Ken Barnes, along with archival comments from Johnny Mercer; still photo gallery; trailers; and collectible lobby cards.
For more information about Daddy Long Legs, visit Fox Home Entertainment. To order Daddy Long Legs, go to TCM Shopping.
by Fred Hunter
Daddy Long Legs (1955) - Fred Astaire in Daddy Long Legs on DVD
Mitzi Gaynor was the studio's first choice to play Julie, but Fred Astaire personally asked for Leslie Caron.
The novel by Jean Webster, grand-niece of Mark Twain, first appeared as a serial in Ladies Home Journal (Apr-September 1912). She wrote a play based on her work, also entitled Daddy Long-Legs, which had its New York premiere on September 28, 1914. In Webster's original story, the orphaned young woman is an American named "Judy Abbott"; several reviews of the 1955 film noted that the character had been changed to accommodate French actress Leslie Caron. Although the film's title is Daddy Long Legs, within the picture, "Julie" addresses her letters to "Dear Daddy Longlegs." [Webster's novel is written as a series of letters through which the story is revealed.] The picture features several elaborate production numbers, including a sequence in which "Jervis Pendleton III" imagines himself as the Texas millionaire, international playboy or guardian angel that Julie's letters speculate he might be, and another during which Julie dreams that she is chasing Jervis in Paris, Hong Kong and Rio de Janeiro.
Twentieth Century-Fox announced plans to produce a musical version of Daddy Long Legs in December 1951, when, according to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Mitzi Gaynor was "penciled in as the star." The news item also reported that Casey Robinson was to produce the picture, with Alec Wilder and William Engvick set to compose the songs. In January 1954, Leslie Caron was borrowed from M-G-M for the production. According to studio publicity, the film was to begin shooting preproduction numbers on September 15, 1954, but was halted due to the death of Fred Astaire's wife Phyllis on September 14, 1954. A modern source reports that Maurice Chevalier was on "stand-by" to assume the role of Jervis if Astaire felt unable to work, but Astaire, who had expressed great enthusiasm for the role when it was offered to him by studio production chief Darryl F. Zanuck, decided to proceed. Although modern sources note that Astaire was supposed to make another film for the studio, Daddy Long Legs was his only picture at Fox.
A Hollywood Reporter news item and studio publicity reported that the portraits of "Jervis Pendleton" and "Jervis Pendleton II" were painted by Emil Kosa, Jr., in the style of James Abbott McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent, respectively, while the portrait of "Jervis Pendleton III," in the style of Pablo Picasso, was painted by director Jean Negulesco. Negulesco also created the poster for "Julie's" dream appearance at the Paris Opera ballet. Studio publicity added that Negulesco borrowed many famous paintings for the "Pendleton art gallery," including a real Picasso, Henri Matisse and Georges Bracque, as well as a portrait of Deborah Kerr's daughter painted by Claudette Colbert. An January 11, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that one sequence of the film was to be shot on location at Los Angeles International Airport, where art directors Lyle Wheeler and John DeCuir had "built a duplicate of New York's LaGuardia Airport." Studio publicity reported that the exterior of Andrew Carnegie's Fifth Avenue mansion was used as the exterior of Jervis' New York home. According to a December 31, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, Milton Krasner briefly filled in for director of photography Leon Shamroy.
Hollywood Reporter news items include the following actors and dancers in the film, although their appearance in the released picture has not been confirmed: Liliane Montevecchi, Claire Sombert, Monica Schilland, Jamie Bowers, Anna Schelska, Claudine Barbini, Pat Trebble, Irina Kosmorska, Anna Maldin, Wilda Beeber, Margie Baker, Valentina Oumansky, Lila Zoli, Gloria Atherton, Patsy Bangs, Marlina Tepel, Arin Evans, Ino McKinsey, Darleen Engle, Bruce Stowell, Alex Ruiz, Leo Wheeler, Frank Radcliffe, Brogg Bain, Robert Rossolat, Dick Gargano, Alberto Felliano, Paul Rees, Wilson Morelli, Sacha Rodin, Jose Ferran, Rich Nordt, Aaron Girard, Carl Ratcliff, Fritz Hess, Bertie Eckhart, Harold DeGard, Chester Hayes, Doyle Brooks, Otto Sinclair, Manuel Reyes, Loren Janes, Carl Dolen, Mark Sutherland, Ken Osmond, David Kasday, Charles Tannen, Moscha Lazrah, Pat Sheehan, Pat Barker, Lysa Baugher, Sheila Meyers, Beth Marie Roe, Joet Robinson, Mitzi Sutherland, Pat Volckso, Carolee Winchester, Bob Bush, Rodney Beiber, Fred Curt, Ted Cook, John Lewis, Don Torillo, Jim Merrill, Clark Lee, Melinda Markey, Diana Peters, Gwen Caldwell, Caroline Scott, Mimi Hutson, John Carlyle, Paul Glass, Robert Lynn, Jr., Thelma Wunder, Alice Clift, Raenell Laskey, Naga Norgen, Barbara Burke, Isabel Randolph, Gilbert Wilson, Lucy Lee Newman, Carroll Newman, Dick Simmons, Denise Lemley, Patricia Ann Schmid, Beverly Thompson, Suzanne Alexander, Vick Carpenter, Jean A. Carroll, Barrie Chase, Dona Lou Cole, Doris Jean Gildart, Betty Jean Hansen, Diane Cecelia How, Alma Jean Moorhead and Jeanne Warren.
According to the Life review of the film, many of the dancers from Roland Petit's Ballets de Paris appeared in the picture. Caron had been a member of the company prior to working in the film. Modern sources state that Thurl Ravenscroft dubbed Astaire's voice in the "Texas Millionaire" dream sequence. Although a May 3, 1955 item in Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column stated that "Fox is going nuts making last-minute changes demanded by the Legion of Decency," no information about censorship problems was found in the film's file at the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library. The picture's gala premiere in Los Angeles was a benefit for St. John's Hospital, and the New York premiere benefitted the March of Dimes. Daddy Long Legs received Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction (Color), Best Music (Scoring of a Musical Picture) and Best Song for "Something's Got to Give."
Jean Webster's novel and play served as the basis for several other films, including the 1919 First National Release titled Daddy-Long-Legs and starring Mary Pickford and directed by Marshall A. Neilan (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20); the 1931 Fox production Daddy Long Legs, which was directed by Alfred Santell and starred Janet Gaynor and Warner Baxter; another Fox picture, released in 1935 and entitled Curly Top-although Webster's materials were not acknowledged in the onscreen credits-which starred Shirley Temple and was directed by Irving Cummings (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40) ; and the 1938 Netherlands production, Vadertje Langbeen, directed by Friedrich Zelnik.
Released in United States on Video September 26, 1991
Released in United States Spring May 1955
Released in United States Spring May 1955
Released in United States on Video September 26, 1991