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Film / The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a 1947 American comedy-fantasy film directed by Norman Z. McLeod and starring Danny Kaye, inspired by James Thurber's short story about an inconsequential and put-upon man who escapes into daydreams of heroic adventure.

Unlike in the original story, the film's Mitty gets to live out a real heroic adventure when he gets tangled in a search for a treasure misplaced during World War II.

The story was also adapted to film in 2013, starring Ben Stiller.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: As was probably inevitable when trying to make a two-hour film out of a story a few pages long about a man going shopping.
  • Artistic License – Military: In one of the fantasy sequences, set on a British airbase, Mitty addresses a Royal Air Force officer as "Colonel"; there is no such rank in the RAF, where the equivalent rank is "Group Captain". Incidentally, the officer is wearing the rank insignia of an Air Vice-Marshall, equivalent to a Lieutenant-General in the Army, while Mitty, supposedly a Squadron-Leader, equivalent to an Army Captain, is dressed as a Group Captain.
    • Possibly justified in that as an American Walter might not be familiar with RAF ranks and his imagination assumes that they are the same as those in the USAF.
  • Camp Gay: "Anatole of Paris", the fashion designer in one of Mitty's daydreams.
  • Catchphrase: The onomatopoeic "ta-pocketa," which threads its way through many of Mitty's daydreams (e.g. as the sound of a machine in an operating theater).
  • Glad I Thought of It: Walter Mitty's boss repeatedly claims all of Mitty's ideas as something he'd already been planning.
  • Heart in the Wrong Place: Obliquely referenced in which one of Walter's magazine stories features a vampire that got staked early in the serial, but returns because the villagers pierced his left lung, not his heart.
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  • Indulgent Fantasy Segue: A not-insignificant part of the film is made up of these, with Mitty slipping into various Fantasy segues ranging from murders and high adventure to a musical number where he plays a Camp Gay fashion designer.
  • Lost Him in a Card Game: In the riverboat gambling fantasy, Gaylord Mitty's opponent tries to stake his fiancee, whom he knows Mitty is in love with, in a card game after losing the plantation deed he'd cheated the girl's father out of. Gaylord is unable to hold a lady to such a bargain, so the man proposes that he'll "go North" if he loses.
  • Mr. Imagination: Walter Mitty.
  • Mister Muffykins: Queenie, who sits in a high chair to eat, wears a bib, and barks whenever the main character moves.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Mitty as a grizzled sea captain has "only a broken arm" while piloting a ship through a terrible storm.
  • Southern Gentleman: Gaylord Mitty in the riverboat gambler sequence.