A veterinarian who can talk to animals
embarks on a journey to find a mythical sea snail.
Doctor Dolittle (1967)
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Written by Leslie Bricusse
Starring Rex Harrison, Samantha Eggar, Anthony Newley,
William Dix, Richard Attenborough, Geoffrey Holder, Peter Bull
Based on the novels The Story of Doctor Dolittle, The Voyages of
Doctor Dolittle, and Doctor Dolittle's Circus by Hugh Lofting
Oscar Wins - Best Visual Effects, Best Original Song
(Talk to the Animals)
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Cinematography,
Best Art Direction, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score (Leslie Bricusse), Best Musical Score (Lionel Newman
and Alexander Courage)
The making of Doctor Dolittle is almost as notorious as the film itself, currently the most critically panned film to ever be nominated for Best Picture. Apparently, the budget was overblown, the animals were next to impossible to control, and Rex Harrison relished in making everyone's life difficult by being a colossal dick. The film's many accolades are the result of blatant bribery by 20th Century Fox to the Academy members. And yet, despite all this backstory and a two and a half hour runtime, there's something so charming and delightful about this film. Even at his worst, Rex Harrison was a joy to watch.
Harrison plays the kind Dr. John Dolittle, who loves animals but kinda hates people. He teaches himself to talk to animals, who all adore him. When he is declared insane by an irate magistrate (Bull), the animals break him out of prison and he escapes with his friend Matthew (Newley), a young boy named Tommy (Dix), and Emma (Eggar), a woman whose grown to appreciate his gifts. Together, they embark on a journey to find the mythical Great Pink Sea Snail, and this journey takes them to the island paradise, Sea Star Island. Look, the narrative is overly long and pretty much none of the songs hit. This score is based almost entirely on Harrison's performance.
In the 1960's, 20th Century Fox banked heavily on three movies to get them out of the hole. They were Star!, Hello, Dolly! and Doctor Dolittle. All three failed horribly at the box office and nearly bankrupted Fox, but all three were also up for multiple Oscars. It just goes to show that an Oscar does not equate to quality, though it does still mean something to me. Doctor Dolittle isn't the worst film I've seen score a Best Picture nomination, but it does have a lot of problems that should've kept it out of the running.