Father Goose (film)

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Father Goose
Father Goose film poster.jpg
Directed by Ralph Nelson
Produced by Robert Arthur
Written by Peter Stone
Frank Tarloff
Based on A Place of Dragons
short story
by S. H. Barnett
Starring Cary Grant
Leslie Caron
Music by Cy Coleman
Cinematography Charles Lang
Edited by Ted J. Kent
Granox Productions
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • December 10, 1964 (1964-12-10)
Running time
118 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $12.5 million[1]

Father Goose is a 1964 American romantic comedy film set in World War II, starring Cary Grant, Leslie Caron and Trevor Howard.[2] The title derives from "Mother Goose", the codename assigned to Grant's character. The film won an Academy Award for its screenplay. It introduced the song "Pass Me By" by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh, later recorded by Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and others.

This was the penultimate film of Cary Grant's long career.


While the Royal Australian Navy evacuates Salamaua in February 1942[3] ahead of a Japanese invasion, Commander Frank Houghton (Trevor Howard) coerces old friend, American beachcomber Walter Eckland (Cary Grant), into becoming a coast-watcher for the Allies. Houghton escorts Eckland to deserted Matalava Island to watch for Japanese airplanes. To ensure Eckland stays put, Houghton steers his ship so that it "accidentally" knocks a hole in Ecklund's launch. Houghton rewards Eckland's sightings with directions to one of the whisky bottles hidden around the island, once they are confirmed.

Houghton finds a replacement watcher, but Eckland has to retrieve him from nearby Bundy Island. He unexpectedly finds Frenchwoman Catherine Freneau (Leslie Caron) and seven young schoolgirls under her care stranded there. She informs him that the man he came for was killed in an air raid. Eckland reluctantly takes them back to Matalava with him.

There is no way to evacuate them safely. At first, Houghton promises them a parachute drop with more supplies, but there is too much enemy activity in the area to accomplish it safely. The fastidious Freneau and the slovenly and uncouth Eckland's personalities clash; they call each other "Miss Goody Two Shoes" and "a rude, foul-mouthed, drunken, filthy beast". He adjusts to her and her girls, however, and cares for her through what they mistakenly believe is a deadly snakebite. Freneau learns that Eckland had been a history professor before he fled civilization to the South Pacific.

The couple fall in love and arrange to be married by a military chaplain over the radio. Strafing by a Japanese airplane interrupts the ceremony. Since they have been detected, Houghton sends an American submarine to pick them up, but an enemy patrol boat shows up first. While leaving Catherine and the schoolgirls with his motoryacht's dinghy to make their way to the submarine, Eckland takes his boat out to lure the Japanese vessel out beyond a reef so the submarine can torpedo it. The Japanese sink his boat, but Eckland survives, and the American submarine sinks the Japanese vessel.


(Codenames for each cast member are shown in parentheses)

The children:

  • Sharyl Locke as Jenny
  • Pip Sparke as Anne
  • Verina Greenlaw as Christine
  • Stephanie Berrington as Elizabeth Anderson
  • Jennifer Berrington as Harriet "Harry" MacGregor
  • Laurelle Felsette as Angelique
  • Nicole Felsette as Dominique


Father Goose was filmed on location in Jamaica. The Japanese patrol vessel at the end of the film was portrayed by a former U.S. Coast Guard wood hull 83-foot WPB patrol boat.


Father Goose grossed $12,500,000 at the domestic box office,[1] earning $6 million in US theatrical rentals,[4] making it the 7th highest grossing film of 1964.

Time Out Film Guide panned the film, complaining, "It's a shame that Grant ... should have logged this sentimental claptrap as his penultimate film" and "Grant frequently looks as if he really didn't want to be there, wading lost in a sludge of turgid drama and pallid comedy."[5] Film4 agreed, stating "the story all too slowly descends into sentimental sludge."[6]

In its contemporary review, Variety found more to like: "Cary Grant comes up with an about-face change of character.... [He] plays an unshaven bum addicted to tippling and tattered attire, a long way from the suave figure he usually projects but affording him opportunity for nutty characterization. Leslie Caron and Trevor Howard are valuable assists to plottage...."[7]

Bosley Crowther, The New York Times critic, considered it "a cheerfully fanciful fable" and "some harmless entertainment".[8] Of the title character, he wrote, "It is not a very deep character or a very real one, but it is fun."[8]

Awards and nominations[edit]

The film won the Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay, which was written directly for the screen by S. H. Barnett, Peter Stone, and Frank Tarloff, and was also nominated for Best Film Editing (Ted J. Kent) and Best Sound (Waldon O. Watson).[9] It received a nomination for the 1965 Golden Globe Best Motion Picture - Musical/Comedy award.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Box Office Information for Father Goose. The Numbers. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
  3. ^ Established by the mention of the surrender of Singapore
  4. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 6
  5. ^ "Father Goose (1964)". Time Out Film Guide. Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Father Goose". Film4. Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  7. ^ Daily Variety, December 31, 1963
  8. ^ a b Bosley Crowther (December 11, 1964). "The Screen: 'Father Goose'". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ "The 37th Academy Awards (1965) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-24. 

External links[edit]