Posted by: Tom Owen | August 18, 2009

Life With Father (1935) – Clarence Day, SPS 1892

Life with Father
(from Wikipedia)

Life with Father is the title of a humorous autobiographical book of stories compiled in 1935 by Clarence Day, Jr., which was adapted into a 1939 Broadway play by Lindsay and Crouse, which was, in turn, made into a 1947 movie and a television series.

Biographical Notes
Clarence Shepard Day, Jr. (November 18, 1874–December 28, 1935) was an American author. Born in New York City, he graduated from St. Paul’s School and Yale University in 1896. The following year, he joined the New York Stock Exchange, and became a partner in his father’s Wall Street brokerage firm. Day enlisted in the Navy in 1898, but developed crippling arthritis and spent the remainder of his life as a semi-invalid.

Day was a vocal proponent of giving women the right to vote, and contributed satirical cartoons for U.S. suffrage publications in the 1910s.

Day achieved lasting fame in literary circles for his comment, “The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead.”

Day died in New York City shortly after finishing Life with Father, without ever getting to experience its success on Broadway or in Hollywood.

Summary
Clarence Day wrote humorously about his family and life. The stories of his father, Clarence “Clare” Day, Senior, were first printed in the New Yorker magazine. They portray a rambunctious, overburdened Wall Street broker who demands that everything from his family should be just so. The more he rails against his staff, his cook, his wife, his horse, salesmen, holidays, his children and the inability of the world to live up to his impossible standards, the more comical and lovable he becomes to his own family who love him despite it all.

First published in 1936, shortly after his death, Day’s book is a picture of New York upper middle class family life in the 1890s. The stories are filled with affectionate irony. Day’s understated, matter-of-fact style underlines the comedy in everyday situations.

Broadway Adaptation
The play ran until June 15, 1947, and finished its run at the Alvin Theatre on July 12, 1947, closing after 3,224 performances. It starred Howard Lindsay, his wife Dorothy Stickney, and Teresa Wright.

1947 Film
The movie was adapted by Donald Ogden Stewart from the play by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, which was based on the book by Clarence Day, Jr.. It was directed by Michael Curtiz.

In keeping with the autobiography, all the children in the family (all boys) are redheads. It stars William Powell, Irene Dunne, Elizabeth Taylor, Edmund Gwenn, ZaSu Pitts, Jimmy Lydon and Martin Milner. A teenaged Elizabeth Taylor plays a beautiful house guest with whom Clarence’s son becomes infatuated.

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