Making the Grades
Walter Mitty (Danny Kaye) may be a dutiful son, but his mother’s (Fay Bainter) constant nagging has driven him into a secret world of daydreams. Here his usually drab existence transforms into endless opportunities for dare-doing as he bravely faces dangers at sea, gunslingers in the Wild West and heroically pilots a plane through war-torn skies. (These little forays into his imagination also allow the movie to showcase the incomparable talents of Danny Kaye, as he sings, dances and clowns his way through these scenes.)
Along with running errands for his mom, Walter works at a publishing company that produces racy detective novels with ghoulish illustrations on the covers (some of these are seen as posters decorating the office walls). The job ought to be perfect for someone with his penchant for creative thought. Yet instead, his boss berates him for his absent-mindedness while at the same time stealing Walter’s best ideas and calling them his own.
Then one day some real intrigue stirs in his mundane world. A beautiful woman (Virginia Mayo)—who bares a striking resemblance to the damsel-in-distress that stars in all his fantasies—waltzes into his life and somehow makes him a partner in crime. Before he is even sure he can distinguish fact from fiction, the befuddled man finds himself deeply involved in a murder and the disappearance of a little black book full of valuable information.
Although this actual adventure includes a killing (a man is stabbed and bloodstains are seen on his clothes), moments of peril and some comical entanglements in women’s lingerie, it also helps the true Walter Mitty discover his unique talents. He learns he can play an important part in the real world—not just in his illusions.
Some of the threats in the script are serious, however the story’s humorous feel and the slapstick antics keep the plot light. The action should be silly enough for older children to find funny. As well, the film may give parents a chance to share an old Hollywood icon with a new generation of movie viewers.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 1947.
Why does Walter Mitty daydream? What problems does he face because of it? Does anything good come from his wandering imagination?
When is creativity a blessing? When is it a curse? How can someone like Walter Mitty find a balance between the two?
This movie was made in 1947—just a couple of years after World War 2. How does that recent history enter into the plot of this film? What derogatory things about the enemy are included in the script? Would such comments be considered politically correct today?