100+ New Code Films – #10. “Rhubarb” from 1951; A Lovely Romance and a Cat

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Today is Saturday, so it’s time for this week’s first 100+ New Code Films article. This is the first week in February, so today’s article is the first new Code film review of the month. Every month in 2021, I will post around eight articles in this series, more or less, since I publish two per week. Every article of this kind is a review of an American Breen Era (1934-1954) movie which I watched for the first time during the week. I distinguish American Breen Era from just any film made during those twenty years because foreign films did not meet the same standards. Although many European films were issued Production Code Administration (PCA) Seals of Approval for distribution in the United States, they didn’t receive the same careful self-regulation from the PCA throughout production which made American films so wholesome.

Rhubarb (1951) - IMDb

Today’s topic is Rhubarb from 1951. My mother added this movie to our Amazon Prime watchlist. It must have come up as a recommendation based on other films we have watched. On Sunday, she asked me to select a movie to watch with breakfast. As soon as I saw this on the list, I knew what I wanted to watch. The premise of a story about a cat sounded adorable! Also, I remembered reading about Orangey, the cat who played the title character and later was famous for playing “Cat” in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Everyone agreed that this sounded like a good choice, so we purchased and watched the film.

Rhubarb (1951) - The Stalking Moon

Plot

An eccentric millionaire loves watching a mangey cat hoard golf balls. He admires the feral cat’s fighting spirit so much that he asks his PR man to catch the animal for him. Although the feisty cat is vicious toward humans, he is eventually captured. The millionaire manages to befriend him into a loving pet, and he enjoys the felines company for his remaining years. After his death, he leaves his millions to the cat, whom he calls the only devoted friend in his life! He gives the cat’s keeping to the PR man who first caught him, much to his daughter’s chagrin. The selfish young woman is disgusted that her father snubbed her for her selfishness, so she vows to get the money, either by contesting the will or destroying the cat. One of the assets the cat is inherited is a baseball team, and a losing one at that. The PR man is engaged to the daughter of the team’s manager, so she begs him to help the team succeed. Meanwhile, all the players feign injuries because they don’t like being teased about being owned by a cat. The clever PR man plays on this superstition to make them believe that the cat is lucky. As this boosts their confidence, it seems to prove true, since they begin winning every time the cat is at their games. However, the daughter is still plotting and scheming to get the money, any way necessary. Unfortunately, the PR man has discovered a new problem; his fiancée is allergic to cats, particularly his ward, so they have to keep postponing their wedding until they can solve the problem!

Rhubarb (1951 film) - Wikipedia

Cast

This movie stars Ray Milland, Jan Sterling, and Gene Lockhart. Supporting actors include William Frawley, Elsie Holmes, Taylor Holmes, Willard Waterman, and Henry Slate. Of course, one of the most important cast members is Rhubarb, who was played by fourteen different cats, including the later famous cat Orangey, who made his debut here.

Rupert Pupkin Speaks: 2012

Production Notes

This movie was directed by Arthur Lubin. It was produced by William Perlberg and George Seaton. The production company was Paramount Pictures. The screenplay was written by Dorothy Davenport (as Dorothy Reid) and Francis M. Cockrell. It was based on the popular 1946 novel by H. Allen Smith. Additional dialogue was contributed by David Stern. Orangey the Cat won a Patsy (animal in film) Award for playing Rhubarb.

Rhubarb (1951)

Code Compliance

This is a good Code film. It’s completely decent and wholesome, a perfect family film. It seems very much like a live action Disney film from the 1960s, what with the animal theme and the wholesome, whimsical story. It’s comparable to That Darn Cat!, which was made when Disney films were really the only movies which remained acceptable for all audiences. It’s nice to see movies from the early 1950s, when almost all films attained that level of decency. However, some movies would likely be enjoyed more by children than others, and this is one such film.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this movie! It’s lighthearted, funny, heartwarming, and thoroughly entertaining. It’s amusing and whimsical at times, but it is never goofy. It has worthwhile substance because of its unusual theme. How many movies feature cats as beneficiaries of millions? The only other movie of which I can think is The Aristocats (1970), which I understand was based on a real Parisian woman. The acting is excellent. The PR man, Eric Yeager, is played by Ray Milland, in one of his more sober roles; he performs only one drunk scene in this film. He is a very likeable character. Although Eric initially is annoyed at having to catch the feisty cat, he grows very fond of it. Even when he faces legal difficulties and frequently has to postpone his wedding because of his bride’s allergies, he sticks with his furry friend. Jan Sterling plays leading lady Polly Sickles; this is the first time I’ve ever seen this actress, and I was very impressed with her! She was delightful, sweet, and very funny in this role. William Frawley plays her father, who obviously must have had a very pretty wife! Gene Lockhart has a short-lived but very important role as Mr. Banner, the millionaire who befriends Rhubarb. Mr. Lockhart looks just as one would imagine an eccentric, wealthy old man would, convincingly aging as years pass. Elsie Holmes plays his spoiled, downright despicable daughter, Myra. She’s every animal lovers’ biggest nemesis since Cruella de Vil! Of course, Orangey and company give “purrfect” performances as the adorable Rhubarb!

For the Blog Party

This film review is my entry in The Lovely Blog Party, hosted by Cordy of Any Merry Little Thought. This blogathon is about all things lovely! The romance in this movie is certainly lovely. It shows the importance of making sacrifices for the person you love, but it also shows that you can’t neglect duty or commitment to satisfy your own desires. This is a really charming, endearing, lighthearted romance. It is so wholesome, in perfect Code style!

Rhubarb (1951) | Christina Wehner

This movie features 1950s style, baseball, and cats! It has something for everyone! What more could you want?

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2 thoughts on “100+ New Code Films – #10. “Rhubarb” from 1951; A Lovely Romance and a Cat

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