Film and Plot Synopsis
Shortly before Christmas, world famous radio personality and narcissist Sheridan Whiteside has an accident outside the home of a wealthy fan who lives in Ohio. Whiteside is forced to recuperate in the fan’s home, much to the chagrin of her husband. Whiteside turns the lives of everyone in the house upside down with his constant demands and demanding work schedule. When Whiteside’s assistant threatens to quit so that she can marry a local newspaperman, Whiteside concocts a plan to break up the engagement. However, Whiteside soon learns that there are more important things than himself as he receives a small lesson in humility.
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‘The Man Who Came To Dinner’ Movie Summary
Unfortunately, Whiteside is not appreciative of the Stanleys’ generosity and soon takes over the entire household for his own personal purposes. He monopolizes the time of the Stanleys’ maid, Daisy (Billie Burke) and begins having various items shipped to the Stanley household, including animals such as penguins. Whiteside also involves himself into the personal lives of the Stanley children, Richard and June (Russell Arms and Elisabeth Fraser). Whiteside encourages Richard to run off to follow his dream away from home and suggests that June should run off to get married to her boyfriend. Both against Mr. Stanley’s wishes. Whiteside also has several strange conversations with Mr. Stanley’s recluse sister, Harriet (Ruth Vivian), who somehow seems strangely familiar.
Whiteside’s assistant, the lovelorn Maggie Cutler (Bette Davis), also begins to frequent the Stanley house and attempts to limit the disruption that Whiteside brings into the residence. Not long after arriving, Maggie meets a local newspaperman Bert Jefferson (Richard Travis) who is attempting to write a story on Whiteside being in his small town. Bert and Maggie take an interest in each other and quickly fall in love. Bert shares a play he has written with Maggie, and Maggie gives a copy to Whiteside in the hopes that he will use his influence to help get the play produced.
Eventually, Maggie informs Whiteside that she plans to end her employment so that she can marry Bert, although he has not proposed yet. Whiteside is aware of how important Maggie is to his career and creates a plot to sabotage her relationship with Bert so that she will continue to work for him. Whiteside contacts his actress acquaintance Lorraine Sheldon (Ann Sheridan) and informs her of the brilliance of Bert’s play. He convinces Lorraine that she needs to use her womanly ways to convince Bert to cast her in the play. Whiteside does not inform Lorraine that Bert and Maggie are involved with each other. After meeting Bert, Lorraine convinces the newspaperman to spend time with her to polish up the play. Maggie recognizes what Whiteside is doing and is overcome with sadness due to her employer’s selfish plot and the realization of how difficult it will become to compete for Bert’s attention with an actress such as Lorraine. Rather than continuing to work for the devious Whiteside, Maggie quits.
Whiteside realizes that his plan has backfired and changes course. He concocts a plan to get Lorraine out of the way to restore the relationship between Bert and Maggie. He calls his friend Banjo (Jimmy Durante), a Hollywood comedian. He summons Banjo to Ohio to help him remove Lorraine from the love triangle. Banjo and Whiteside are able to lock Lorraine into an Egyptian sarcophagus that has been given to Whiteside. Banjo arranges to ship the sarcophagus off to Nova Scotia.
After saving Maggie’s relationship with Bert, Whiteside faces a new obstacle when Mr. Stanley attempts to have him evicted within 15 minutes on Christmas Day. However, Whiteside successfully blackmails Mr. Stanley into dropping the warrant when he threatens to reveal that Mr. Stanley’s sister Harriet is actually an infamous axe murderess. Whiteside ultimately reveals that he is not as injured as he pretended, having faked some of his injury to prevent Maggie from leaving. Whiteside gets up to leave the home, but he has another accident on the icy steps of the Stanley walkway. As the credits begin to appear, Whiteside is being carried back into the Stanley homestead to recover once again.