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Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time

Director: Alexander Hall

Cast: Cary Grant, Janet Blair, James Gleason


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Once Upon a Time is one of the least well-known of Cary Grant's movies from the '40s -- indeed, it's a film so obscure, and was so seldom shown on television, that this reviewer can remember fans wondering if they'd actually seen it, or if it were some figment of their imagination. Perhaps its obscurity was a blessing, because this is just about the best


Once Upon a Time is one of the least well-known of Cary Grant's movies from the '40s -- indeed, it's a film so obscure, and was so seldom shown on television, that this reviewer can remember fans wondering if they'd actually seen it, or if it were some figment of their imagination. Perhaps its obscurity was a blessing, because this is just about the best looking film from the '40s Columbia Pictures library. The image is so sharp and rich, and the source so clean that it might make preservationists cry, and the sound is a good match -- can it be that the master materials were pulled from the vault for striking new prints so infrequently, that the film has been handed down to us in uniquely pristine form? The classic Capra movies should all look this good. Somebody at the studio obviously liked this release, because the 89-minute movie has been given 28 chapters. The disc opens automatically to the main menu, which is easy to manipulate. The chapter selections are well labeled and placed. The special features are limited to subtitles in five languages, and a selection of original trailers from three other Columbia titles, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, His Girl Friday, and It Happened One Night -- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is presented in so pretentious a fashion as to provoke laughter from this observer, while the It Happened One Night trailer is notable for its exceptionally rough condition, an unintended reminder of what the original videocassette edition of the movie looked like at the outset of the '80s, before it underwent major restoration.Based on Norman Corwin's satirical radio play My Client Curley, Once Upon a Time is an engaging bit of whimsy, completely dominated by the personality of star Cary Grant. It all begins when fly-by-night Broadway producer Jerry Flynn (Grant) learns of a trained caterpillar (!) that dances to the tune of "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby." In short order, Jerry has promoted Curly the Caterpillar to international stardom-and in the process he alienates both Pinky Thompson (Ted Donaldson), the impressionable 9-year-old who owns Curley, and Pinky's attractive older sister Jeanne (Janet Blair). Eventually, Flynn comes to his senses and regains his essential decency-though it's too late to continue capitalizing on Curley, who has turned into a non-dancing butterfly! Full of delightful contemporary references and "cameo appearances" by such celebrities as producer Walt Disney and radio commentator Gabriel Heatter (both played by uncredited impressionists), Once Upon a Time proved an agreeable diversion for wartime audiences.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
It's fairly clear what Columbia Pictures and director Alexander Hall had in mind when they made Once Upon a Time -- Hall, who had previously given us Here Comes Mr. Jordan, was hoping for lightning to strike twice with this whimsical tale, inthe hope of reaching audiences looking for 90 minutes' escape from the third full year of war. Luckily, he and Cary Grant were on the same page. During the 1940's, Grant had decided it was time to prove himself as more than a popular screen personality -- he wanted to show off his acting ability and chose a series difficult roles, in movies such as None But the Lonely Heart, Penny Serenade, and Once Upon a Time. The latter was, in its time, perhaps his most challenging role, as he had to walk a fine line, portraying a man torn by his conflicting practical and whimsical sides, his opposed larcenous and his well-meaning natures, and his cynical and idealistic sides -- all while convincing audiences that there was, indeed, a dancing catterpillar in the box, and that he could actually cheat the little boy to whom it belonged, and still turn out to be a good man at the end. Hall and the writers, who included Lucille Fletcher (of Sorry, Wrong Number and Hitchhiker fame), managed to touch some important bases along the way -- perhaps the best scene in the movie, and the one that plays the truest today, is the montage depicting the public debate over whether Grant's Broadway producer or the scientific community should possess the catterpillar -- Once Upon a Time may have offered escapism, but the scene in which the pilots (one played by a young Lloyd Bridges) tell of kids dodging bombs in Chunking was a reminder of when and where this movie was made. Janet Blair is a bit too much of a scold to take seriously for most of the movie, but then, it's difficult to tell just how seriously -- beyond those scenes mentioned, and the rather mawkish ending -- the movie was meant to be taken.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:

Special Features

Closed Caption; Digitally mastered audio and video; Remastered in high definition; Full screen presentation; Audio: English; Subtitles: English, French, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish; Bonus trailers; Interactive menus; Scene selections

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Cary Grant Jerry Flynn
Janet Blair Jeannie Thompson
James Gleason "The Moke"
Ted Donaldson Pinky Thompson
Howard Freeman McKenzie
William Demarest Brandt
Art Baker Gabriel Heatter
Paul Stanton Dunhill
Mickey McGuire Fatso
Eddie Acuff Shipyard Worker
Iris Adrian Girl
Murray Alper Soldier
Kirk Alyn Attendant
George Anderson Actor
Henry Armetta Barber
Vi Athens Actor
William Austin Assistant Hotel Manager
Don Barclay Actor
Charley Bates Actor
Billy Bevan Cop
Lionel Braham Weight Lifter
Lloyd Bridges Captain
Lucille Browne Miss Flemmin
Eddie Bruce Clerk
George Bruggeman Trapeze Artist
Leonard Carey English Bobbie
Lane Chandler Doorman
Bill Chaney Actor
Cliff Clark Actor
Charles Coleman Actor
Mary Currier Secretary
George Davis Waiter
Pedro de Cordoba Actor
Vernon Dent Business Man
John Dilson Actor
Jeff Donnell Brooklyn Girl
Pauline Drake Telephone Operator
Tom Dugan Police Announcer
George Eldredge Actor
Fern Emmett Teacher Type
Walter Fenner Walt Disney Double
Mary Field Actor
Clyde Fillmore FBI Executive
James Flavin Actor
Almeda Fowler Actor
Edward Gargan Actor
Vaughan Glaser Actor
Richard H. Gordon Actor
William Gould Editor
Gary Gray Actor
Harrison Greene Actor
Joseph J. Greene Rajah Pirate
Eula Guy Actor
Frank S. Hagney Assistant Cyclist
Eddie Hall Bike Rider
Esther Howard Actor
Frederic Howard Photographer
Marilyn Johnson Actor
Erwin Kalser Scientist
John Kelly Truckman
Phyllis Kennedy Actor
Tom Kennedy Actor
Nolan Leary Elevator Man
Grace Lenard Actor
Anne Loos Actor
Robert Lowell Lieutenant
Alex Melesh Actor
Sybil Merritt Actor
Torben Meyer Hotel Manager
Ida Moore Gossipy Woman
George Neise Actor
Jack Norton Customer
Spec O'Donnell Actor
Garry Owen Mug
Emory Parnell Radio Cop
Barbara Pepper Taxi Girl
Cyril Ring Man
Ronnie Rondell Actor
Christian Rub Janitor
Sid Saylor Shipyard Worker
Harry Strang Actor
Robert Tafur Gaucho
Ray Teal Actor
George Tyne Jitterbug
John Tyrrell Usher
Gary Bruce Technical Sergeant
Ruth Warren Fatso's Mother
Pierre Watkin Radio Stage Manager
Cecil Weston Bits
Robert B. Williams Stage Manager
John Abbott Reporter
Charles Arnt Reporter
Ian Wolfe Reporter
Jack Lee Reporter
Thelma Joel Chorus Girl
Norval Mitchell Masseur
Walter Pietila Actor
Lawrence Lathrop Call Boy
William Yip Actor

Technical Credits
Alexander Hall Director
Lionel Banks Art Director
Norman Corwin Original Story
Walter Donaldson Songwriter
Louis Edelman Producer
Irving Fineman Screenwriter
Gene Havlick Editor
Frederick Hollander Score Composer
Edward C. Jewell Art Director
Lewis Meltzer Screenwriter
Franz Planer Cinematographer
Robert Priestley Set Decoration/Design
Oscar Saul Screenwriter
Morris W. Stoloff Musical Direction/Supervision

Scene Index

Side #1 --
   Play Movie
      Subtitles Off
   Scene Selections
      His Girl Friday
      It Happened One Night
      Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

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