Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Walter Mitty Is for the Birds

Danny heads for a run-in with his fowl friends, who were supposed to have a larger role in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

In Danny Kaye’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), pigeons are featured throughout the movie, but they’re simply a plot-moving gimmick, giving the screenwriters a device to keep Mitty distracted when he’s supposed to be doing other things at work and to provide a kickstart to Danny’s wacky physical antics.

But in early drafts of the screenplay, the pigeons had a more prominent role and purpose. The birds were supposed to symbolize the freedom and adventure that Mitty secretly longed for.

In an early version of the screenplay, Walter arrives in his office and slides up his window, where several pigeons are waiting on the ledge. He greets them by name and begins feeding them cookies: “Why, Elmer, where have you been? I haven’t seen you for ages. I suppose you took a trip down south, eh? Boy, I bet you saw some sights!”

As he hands out the last cookie from his bag, Mitty leans on the window sill and continues, dreamily, “Yucatan… Trinidad… winging over the blue Caribbean… talking to the parrots in Guatemala… flying down the Rio in the moonlight… up the mysterious Amazon to the towering snow-capped Andes—gee, I bet you had to watch out for those giant eagles! Why they’ve even been known to carry off a man...”

The role of that one particular pigeon—Elmer—is built up to the point where, during the “Anatole of Paris” dream, Mitty imagines his future mother-in-law wearing a ridiculous birdcage-shaped hat, with Elmer inside.

1 comment:

  1. I like that scene where Walter is feeding the pigeons.
    He's sweet. I like how he talks to them like they are
    his friends and how they depend on him for birdfeed.