The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker

The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker is a 1959 DeLuxe Color film starring Clifton Webb and Dorothy McGuire directed by Henry Levin in CinemaScope. The film is based on the 1953 Broadway play of the same, which ran for 221 performances. Burgess Meredith starred as Horace Pennypacker and Martha Scott as 'Ma' Pennypacker.

The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker
Directed byHenry Levin
Produced byCharles Brackett
Written byWalter Reisch
Based onThe Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker
1953 play
by Liam O'Brien
StarringClifton Webb
Dorothy McGuire
Charles Coburn
Jill St. John
Ron Ely
Music byLeigh Harline
CinematographyMilton R. Krasner
Edited byWilliam Mace
Distributed by20th Century-Fox
Release date
Running time
87 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.3 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)[2]

At the turn of the century, businessman Horace Pennypacker, Jr. has two families: one wife and eight children in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and nine children (by a deceased wife) in Philadelphia. During the course of events, his ruse is undone and he struggles to find a way to maintain the status quo.

Plot summary

In turn-of-the-century Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, young Wilbur Fielding, the son of the Rev. Dr. Fielding, learns that he has been appointed vicar of a small Rhode Island parish. Wilbur's new position means that he can finally propose to his sweetheart, Kate Pennypacker, but as he must leave for his new post in one week, Kate impulsively suggests that they marry immediately rather than endure an extended engagement as required by convention. Kate's father, Pa Horace Pennypacker, the proprietor of the Pennypacker sausage factory, divides his business life between his factories in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, spending alternate months in each city, and because he is currently residing in Philadelphia, he is summoned home to Harrisburg for the wedding. As soon as Pa receives his wife, Emily's telegram regarding Kate's engagement, he jumps into his automobile and motors to Harrisburg, narrowly missing the Philadelphia sheriff who has come to issue him a summons for promoting a book about Darwinism that prominently depicts the police chief as a monkey.

Back in Harrisburg, Pa's blustery father, Grampa protests the impropriety of Kate's hasty marriage. Unknown to Grampa, Emily and the eight Pennypacker children, Pa has a second family of nine children who reside in Philadelphia. When Horace III, Pa's eldest Philadelphia son, learns of the summons, he hurries unsuspecting to Harrisburg to warn his father. Horace beats Pa to Harrisburg, and when he appears on the Pennypacker doorstep and introduces himself he inadvertently exposes Pa’s unknown life in Philadelphia. Soon after, Pa arrives home and is struck dumb at the sight of Horace. As Emily questions Horace about his secret life, Wilbur and his father arrive to discuss the wedding. This follows with Grampa announcing that his son is a bigamist. As Grampa leaves the house, the sheriff stops him and serves him with the summons that is meant for Pa. After Grampa strikes the sheriff with his cane, the sheriff arrests him and takes him to jail. As Kate sobs, heartbroken, Emily resolves that her daughter will be happily married. After Horace returns to Philadelphia, Pa defends his behavior to Rev. Dr. Fielding and argues that morality is simply a matter of geography and that he is doing mankind a great service by propagating the species. Regardless, Kate declares that she cannot marry Wilbur because it would ruin his reputation.

Meanwhile, in response to their father’s actions, the younger children run away from home. As Emily removes her wedding ring, Pa searches for his brood and is arrested and jailed by the sheriff. Upon returning to his church, the Rev. Dr. Fielding finds the Pennypacker children asleep in the pews. Locked in a cell with Grampa, Pa is visited by his eldest son Henry who informs him that Emily has gone to Philadelphia to meet his other wife. At Pa's Philadelphia home, Emily learns that the other Mrs. Pennypacker died eight years earlier. Pa is released from jail after apologizing to the sheriff and comes home to a chilly reception.

Emily returns to Harrisburg and declares that their marriage is over. While Pa steadfastly defends his actions and is unable to see that he did anything wrong, the children point out that if it wasn’t wrong then why did he conceal his other family from them? This statement causes Pa to realize he broke his own rule. Coming to her husband's defense, Emily tells the children that their stepfamily is motherless and then reassures Kate that there will be no public scandal as the other Mrs. Pennypacker died years ago. Chastened, Pa apologizes to his children and relinquishes their education to Emily. Jane, Pa’s spinster sister then decides to move to Philadelphia to care for her motherless nieces and nephews. As Pa packs his suitcases to leave, the children beg him to stay, and with Emily's permission, he unpacks.

Soon after, Kate and Wilbur are married and Emily is so moved by the wedding that she asks the Rev. Dr. Fielding to renew her and Pa's vows. As the minister conducts the ceremony, Emily tells Pa to repeat the phrase "forsaking all others."



Walter Reisch who worked on the script later recalled, "On the stage it was funny, but on the screen it didn't come off at all. Neither Clifton nor Brackett, the producer, nor Henry Levin, the director, really believed that Clifton would have a family in Philadelphia and another whole family in Harrisburg."[3]


The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker was adapted into two Indian films: Grahasti (1963, Hindi) and Motor Sundaram Pillai (1966, Tamil).[4]

See also


  1. Solomon, Aubrey (1989). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 252. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1.
  2. "1959: Probable Domestic Take". Variety. January 6, 1960. p. 34.
  3. McGilligan, Patrick (1991). Backstory 2: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1940s and 1950s. University of California Press. p. 243.
  4. Guy, Randor (July 10, 2009). "Motor Sundaram Pillai 1966". The Hindu. Retrieved March 3, 2018.
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