The Absent-Minded Professor
Aug 9, 2017 | by Jessika Loucks
It’s a high flying good time in Walt Disney’s 1961 box office hit The Absent-Minded Professor. The first of Walt Disney’s live action films to have a sequel, and one of the top box office hits of the year, this film screams success!
The idea for this fun flick came from a very interesting encounter. Walt Disney attended the Brussels World’s Fair in the 1950’s where he observed Professor Alyea (a professor of chemistry at Princeton) doing demonstrations at the international science pavilion. Alyea had gained the nickname “Dr. Boom” from other fair attendees, which gave Walt an idea for a movie. Walt brought Alyea to California where he gave some demonstrations to Fred MacMurry, who would later recreate Alyea’s mannerisms for the film.
“Let’s see, flying rubber… Flubber!” – Prof. Ned Brainard
The film begins right in the middle of a chemistry class where explosives are seen. On the heels of this action is a fun “Medfield Fight Song” which was written by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman. Fun fact: this was their first song for a Disney feature.
We meet Professor Brainar (Fred MacMurry), who teaches chemistry at Medfield College. From early on you can see that he is scatter-brained and seems to focus only on his formulas.
During the excitement of his new experiment flubber (flying rubber), Brainard is knocked out by an explosion and misses his wedding, to his beautiful fiancé Betsy Carlisle (Nancy Olson) the school secretary, not for the first time – but the third!
Enter Shelby Ashton (Elliott Reid) another professor who continues to woo Betsy even though she is engaged to Brainard. Betsy is obviously upset about Brainard not showing up to their wedding and the next day, while he is trying to explain to her why he didn’t show up, we learn that the school is in financial trouble and Betsy wants nothing to do with him.
Determined to show Betsy his discovery and tell her about his plan to sell the flubber to save the school, he follows her to a school basketball game where we see the home team suffering to win. Brainard gets a wonderful idea to put flubber on the shoes of the team so that they will have the ability to jump unnaturally high to make baskets.
After a fun-filled, hilarious basketball game we meet Alonzo Hawk (Keenan Waynn) a rich, scheming businessman who is obsessed with being wealthy. Alonzo finds out about Brainard’s amazing flubber (and his plan to give it to the government to help the military and other government programs). This prompts Alonzo into a scheme to steal the flubber and sell it to the highest bidder. He decides he must have it at any cost!
Through hilarious antics including a flying Model T, unstoppable bouncing men and a fun flight over Washington DC, we are taken on a whimsical ride. Will Alonzo steal the flubber? Will Brainard be recognized for his amazing invention? Will Betsy and Brainard’s wishy-washy relationship finally end in matrimony?
“Well, you just keep the kinks out of the fire hose. That’s all I want from you. I’m the Chief!” –Fire Chief
In true Disney style, this film has a good supply of comedy: the basketball game and the dance are by far my favorite scenes! You will laugh hysterically at the fast motion and facial expressions of all the characters.
I also want to note that I really enjoyed seeing three generations of the Wynn family act in this film: Ed Wynn, his son Keenan Wynn and Keenan Wynn’s son, Ned Wynn. Ed Wynn is always a favorite for me – in my humble opinion he is one of the funniest Disney live action film stars of his time. Keenan Waynn is another favorite for me, though this is not my favorite of his roles (my favorite being Hesikea in The Great Race) it is nice to see him in such a different role as the villain.
“Oh, it’s just Neddy the Nut out flying his old Model T.” – Biff Hawk
I can honestly say I have nothing negative to say about this film, other than at times it can be a little slow moving. That being said, as children may become bored, I did not find this a problem as an adult.
So is this black-and-white Disney classic worth your time? I say yes! In my opinion, this film is definitely not a flub and gets two thumbs’ up from me. Settle into your comfortable couch, grab some popcorn and get ready to fly into a hilarious adventure with lots of twists and turns!