Doctor Dolittle (film)

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Doctor Dolittle is a 1967 musical film directed by Richard Fleischer, based on the series of children's books by Hugh Lofting, which tells the story of a doctor, Doctor Dolittle, who learns from his pet parrot Polynesia to talk to animals. The film stars Rex Harrison, Samantha Eggar, Anthony Newley and Richard Attenborough. It was photographed in 70 mm Todd-AO by Robert Surtees.

The film had a notoriously protracted production with numerous setbacks along the way such as complications from poorly chosen shooting locations and the numerous technical difficulties inherent with the large number of animals required for the story. Rex Harrison was temporarily replaced by Christopher Plummer, only to be replaced himself again by Harrison. The film exceeded its original budget of $6 million by three times, and only recouped $9 million upon release in 1967. The film received generally negative critical reviews, but was nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award and won awards for Best Song and Best Effects. A number of critics found the film's musical score by Leslie Bricusse "too sophisticated for the kiddies" [1].

The failure of the film is credited with hastening the demise of the roadshow theatrical release in favour of the more general release which continues to this day. The resulting poor sales of the film's related merchandise also significantly discouraged enthusiasm for similar forms of marketing until George Lucas took advantage of the attitude to gain those rights and profited spectacularly in that respect among others with his film, Star Wars, in 1977.

A comedy film of a similar title, Dr. Dolittle, also based on the character, was later released in 1998.


Plot synopsis

In 1848, in the town of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, England, the Irishman Matthew Mugg (Anthony Newley) takes his young friend Tommy Stubbins (William Dix) to visit eccentric Dr. John Dolittle (Rex Harrison), so that he can see to an injured duck Tommy has found. Dolittle, a former doctor, lives with a house full of animals - pigs, sheep, goats, ducks, horses, cows, a chimpanzee named Chee-Chee, a dog named Jip, and a talking parrot named Polynesia (voiced by Ginny Tyler) among them.

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