On Our Merry Way
|On Our Merry Way|
1948 Theatrical Poster
On Our Merry Way (1948) is an American comedy film, produced by Benedict Bogeaus and Burgess Meredith, and released by United Artists. At the time of its release, King Vidor and Leslie Fenton were credited with its direction, although the DVD lists John Huston and George Stevens, who assisted with one of the segments, as well. The screenplay by Laurence Stallings and Lou Breslow, based on an original story by Arch Oboler, is similar in style to that of Tales of Manhattan (1942), another anthology film made up of several vignettes linked by a single theme. The picture stars Paulette Goddard, Burgess Meredith, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Dorothy Lamour, Victor Moore and Fred MacMurray, and marks the first joint movie appearance of Stewart and Fonda, who play a pair of musicians in their section of the film.
Oliver Pease (Burgess Meredith) has deceived his bride Martha (Paulette Goddard) into believing he's an inquiring reporter for the Los Angeles Daily Banner when, in fact, he is employed there as a classified ads clerk. When Martha suggests Oliver ask people on the street, "What influence has a baby had on your life?," he submits the question to the real reporter, who dismisses it outright. Oliver approaches the editor and introduces himself as a representative of the publisher, who he claims wants to improve the feature by having Oliver roam the city and ask the question suggested by his wife.
Jazz musicians Slim and Lank (James Stewart and Henry Fonda) mistake the word "baby" for "babe" and reminisce about a female trumpeter they met when their tour bus broke down in a rundown California seaside resort, where they tried to fix a talent contest so the mayor's son would win.
Hollywood film star Gloria Manners (Dorothy Lamour) recalls the time she was hired to work with precocious child star Peggy Thorndyke (Eileen Janssen), who unintentionally triggered her big break in the movies, transforming her from a drab Iowa secretary into a Polynesian goddess.
In a story similar to the O. Henry short story The Ransom of Red Chief, successful stage magician Al (Fred MacMurray) relates how he and his buddy Floyd (William Demarest) once were con artists who stumbled upon young runaway and practical joker Edgar Hobbs in the woods. Upon learning he lived with his wealthy banker uncle, they conspired to return the boy and claim a reward, only to discover his uncle did not want him back. All ended well when Al married Edgar's sister and made the two siblings part of his magic act.
At the end of the day, Oliver returns to the newspaper only to discover he's been fired from his real job for being AWOL. When he tells his wife what has happened, she surprises him by telling him she has known all along about his job and does not mind in the least. The paper's editor, impressed by the notes Oliver made while talking to his various subjects, arrives to tell him he likes his column and plans to print it, and asks how he thought of the question in the first place. Martha confesses it came to her because she's going to have a baby.
The film's original title A Miracle Can Happen was inspired by a segment that was deleted from the film prior to its first showing. In it, Charles Laughton portrayed a minister who is asked by a young boy to pay a visit to his dying father (Henry Hull). In an effort to boost the man's spirits, the minister offers an overly dramatic rendition of the Biblical story of David and Saul that sparks the man's full recovery. Only then does the minister learn the boy who had asked for his help actually had died years earlier. Producer Benedict Bogeaus thought the story was too serious for the otherwise comic film and replaced it with the Gloria Manners (Lamour) episode. According to co-producer/star Burgess Meredith, he showed the footage to David O. Selznick, who offered $500,000 for it with the idea he would release it as a short, but Bogeaus refused and the sequence was destroyed. Nonetheless prints of the film under its original title and with the Charles Laughton sequence intact are extant in European sources.
Although the Laughton episode had been deleted, the film opened as A Miracle Can Happen in New York City, Philadelphia, and Detroit in February 1948. Reviews were dismal—the New York Daily News described it as "a million dollar cast in a ten-cent film" -- and it was pulled from release. Public polls revealed most people thought the movie had a religious theme, so after nine minutes were trimmed from the running time, it re-opened in June as On Our Merry Way, accompanied by an advertising campaign that emphasized it was a comedy.
The song "Baby Made a Change in Me" was written by Skitch Henderson and Donald Kahn.
- Burgess Meredith ..... Oliver Pease
- Paulette Goddard ..... Martha Pease
- James Stewart ..... Slim
- Henry Fonda ..... Lank
- Dorothy Lamour ..... Gloria Manners
- Victor Moore ..... Ashton Carrington
- Fred MacMurray ..... Al
- William Demarest ..... Floyd
- Harry James ..... himself
- David Whorf ..... Edgar Hobbs
- Hugh Herbert ..... Eli Hobbs
- Eduardo Ciannelli ..... Maxim
- Charles D. Brown ..... Mr. Sadd
- Dorothy Ford ..... Lola Maxim
- Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer ..... Leopold 'Zoot' Wirtz
- Eilene Janssen ..... Peggy Thorndyke
Principal production credits
- Producers ..... Burgess Meredith, Benedict Bogeaus
- Original Music ..... Heinz Roemheld
- Cinematography ..... Gordon Avil, Joseph F. Biroc, Edward Cronjager, John F. Seitz
- Art Direction ..... Ernst Fegté
In his review in the New York Times, Bosley Crowther said, "Apparently all the actors had themselves a wonderful time clowning around . . . this is one of those multi-episode pictures in which a dozen or so familiar names are turned loose in comedy sketches and permitted to let themselves go — a simple temptation which few actors would do anything drastic to resist. In this particular instance, the pleasure of the actors seems to be a great deal more satisfying than that which the audience can expect." 
The Variety critic stated, "The cast couldn't have been better. The story's execution falters because a scene here and there is inclined to strive too much for its whimsical effect. But Meredith responds capitally to the mood of the character he plays, being given more of a chance to do so than any of the other stars."