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Trivia / Doctor Dolittle

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The movie

  • Box Office Bomb: Budget: $17 million. Box-Office: $9 million. It was one of many costly bombs by 20th Century Fox in the late 1960s that nearly killed the studio.
  • Cut Song: "Where Are the Words?," sung by Anthony Newley, and "Something in Your Smile," sung by Rex Harrison. Both songs appeared on the soundtrack LP and CD, however, and the latter song may be heard under the film's opening titles.
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  • Dawson Casting: A rather weird case. The producers felt Rex Harrison was too old at 58 to play Dolittle, but hoped his name would help recreate the success of My Fair Lady.
  • Genre-Killer: Along with the same year's Camelot, the failure of this film killed the family musical.
  • Hostility on the Set: Rex Harrison didn't make himself any friends onset. He particularly had it in for Anthony Newley, as he was jealous of the younger actor's superior singing ability. Harrison demanded Newley's role be reduced and disrupted scenes featuring him. He even disparaged his costar as a "Jewish comic," a "Cockney Jew" or a "sewer rat." Samantha Eggar said of Harrison:
    Yes, he was unkind and vitriolic and very mean-spirited, but he was also very funny - until, of course, he turned on me, too.
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance: Apparently no one on the film production liked the song "Talk to the Animals," but that is the song that won the Oscar for Best Original Song and since has become the signature music of the whole media property.
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  • Never Work with Children or Animals: The film's budget ballooned massively from this, and it's seen as a major reason it became a Box Office Bomb. Whole books have been written about the horror stories of over 1200 animals refusing to obey directions, including ducks forgetting how to swim and needing to be rescued, a goat that ate a script, a parrot yelling "Cut!", a squirrel that refused to sit still until it was rendered drunk, a piglet that had to be replaced multiple times due to outgrowing its own role, and a giraffe that stepped on its own penis.
  • Non-Singing Voice: Samantha Eggar's singing was dubbed by Diana Lee.
  • Star-Derailing Role: Rex Harrison permanently damaged his career when the film became a colossal bomb, made possible in part by his acting as a drunken prima donna; he demanded endless script rewrites, completely impractical production changes, and ridiculous cast changes so he could guarantee that no one could show him up singing, and also hurled anti-Semitic insults at his Jewish co-stars. It didn’t help that Harrison, older than most leading men by the late '60s, outright refused to play supporting roles. A few years later, Sam Spiegel approached him to play Count Witte in Nicholas and Alexandra, a small but important character. Harrison took offense, angrily telling Spiegel "I don’t do bit parts!" The role went to Laurence Olivier, who famously had no such reservations.
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  • Troubled Production: As detailed by the book Pictures at a Revolution, it was a clusterfrak with a ballooning budget, uncooperative animals and stars (Rex Harrison was extremely difficult to work with during production, suffering various personal crises and constantly insulting and arguing with castmates, such as Anthony Newley for being Jewish, and crew members), location shoots where both the weather and the locals didn't help... producer Arthur Jacobs downright had a heart attack during production, and to compensate the hell he went through, came the only good thing out of the project, as Fox greenlit, under promise of not exceeding a $5 million budget, a discredited Pierre Boulle-penned sci-fi story that he had been seeking to adapt for years... called Planet of the Apes.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Christopher Plummer could have starred as the good doctor if Rex Harrison had dropped out. Other candidates were Alec Guinness, Jack Lemmon, Peter O'Toole and Peter Ustinov.
    • Harrison wanted his friend Maggie Smith for Emma Fairfax. Fox considered Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand and Hayley Mills.
    • Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby were considered for Matthew Mugg.
    • John Huston was considered as director, but producer Arthur P. Jacobs nixed the idea. Vincente Minnelli and William Wyler were also considered but Minnelli was felt to be too "old fashioned" and Wyler's reputation for expensively shooting far too many takes of a scene eliminated them from the running.
    • Bumpo originally appeared in the film and was to be played by Sammy Davis Jr.. Harrison vetoed this, refusing to work with a "song-and-dance-man" note  and suggested Sidney Poitier. The character was later dropped from the script and Willie Shakespeare was added.
    • In the original cut of the movie, Dr. Dolittle and Emma did eventually begin a relationship. He sang "Where Are the Words?", when he realised he was falling in love with her, but in a revised version, it's actually Matthew who falls for Emma and it is his recording of the song which is featured on the soundtrack album. Both versions were filmed and both actors recorded their respective versions, but the footage for both, as well as the vocal track by Rex Harrison have been lost to history. In both scenarios, "Something In Your Smile" is sung by Dolittle when he realizes he himself has fallen for Emma, however, although Harrison's vocal for the song survives, the footage does not.
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