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Doctor Dolittle

If you are a film buff, you've got to read Mark Harris' superb book PICTURES AT A REVOLUTION; Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. It's a fascinating look at five films of 1967. "The Graduate", "Bonnie and Clyde", "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner", 'In The Heat of the Night" and lastly this film.

20th Century Fox, on the brink of financial disaster, wagered all its chips on a famliy-friendly musical, DOCTOR DOLITTLE.

Well chronicled for its almost unbelievable string of missteps on the way to the screen, this monster was a legendary flop.

As 1968 neared, Vietnam dominated the news and films like "Cool Hand Luke", "Bonnie and Clyde" and "The Dirty Dozen" dominated the box office.

Fox was sure audiences were still hungry for the next "Sound of Music".

How do you make sure your musical will flop?

1. Cast Rex Harrison in the lead and make sure he drinks every day on set and hates his co-star Anthony Newley. Harrison refused to sing a note, called the songs by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley "unsingable garbage" and insisted on talking all the lyrics instead of singing them.

2. Spend a fortune on sets and costumes but make sure they look like they came from the 50's, so everything looks tired before it even gets filmed.

3. Cast an unknown that can't sing in the main female role, Samantha Eggar. She made only a couple more films before going back to TV. Poor Samantha, she's well dubbed by Marni Nixon but left with a goofy role and some very bad hats.

4. Make the story creak along at a snail's pace and ignore all the great Hugh Lofting's children's stories available.

5. Put Richard Fleisher in place as director, hot off of Fox's "Fantastic Voyage". Poor Fleisher would nearly bankrupt the studio again in 1971 with the massive-budget, last gasp war film "Tora! Tora! Tora" which I liked a lot, but it was tone deaf for anti-war audiences in the early seventies, excited about "M*A*S*H".

Richard Attenborough (Jurassic Park) is terrific as a circus owner in his brief 8 minutes on screen, breathing some life into this big old dinosaur, but that's about it.

WC Fields famously said to never work with animals or children. OOPS.

At 152 minutes long, its one long ride with the Doctor that gets a D. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

But read that book, its fascinating as a study of old guard vs change, arrogance v. vision and behind the scenes at studios during a trans-formative year in the film industry.

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