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After being a smash on Broadway, The Man Who Came to Dinner was successfully adapted for the screen with leads Bette Davis and Monty Woolley. The screwball comedy expertly poked fun at a well-to-do family whose guest stays far beyond his welcome.
1. The film was inspired by a real person.
Playwright Moss Hart had promised critic Alexander Woollcott that he would write a part for him in a play. To remind him of the promise, Woollcott stopped by Hart’s house and made himself at home as an obnoxious, demanding guest. In telling the story to his writing collaborator George S. Kaufman, he remarked that he was glad Woollcott didn’t break his leg and have to stay. And that was the kernel that became The Man Who Came to Dinner. The play also includes this dedication: "To Alexander Woollcott, for reasons that are nobody's business." Jimmy Durante’s character was also allegedly based on Harpo Marx.
2. Hollywood stars were considered.
Olivia de Havilland, Myrna Loy, and Jean Arthur were considered for the role of Maggie. Bette Davis campaigned for the part after seeing the Broadway play and suggested John Barrymore as the intruding houseguest. However, Barrymore needed the assistance of cue cards, and so Monty Woolley, who originated the role on stage, was cast instead. Also, at one point, Howard Hawks thought of directing with Cary Grant in the lead, and Orson Welles was interested in being both a director and star.
3. Bette got bit during production.
Davis bent down to pet a Scottie named Mike, and the pooch nipped at her nose. Production halted as Bette went home to recover from the injury. She said, “Well, after this experience, I still loved dogs, except the one who bit me. I’m not really a turn-the-other-cheek person, and besides, I didn’t have another nose to turn.” Perhaps the dog wouldn’t have bitten her if he’d known that Davis had been the President of the Tailwaggers Club, a charity dedicated to animal welfare.