Sunday, October 14, 2012

The World of Doctor Dolittle

" This is the world of Doctor Dolittle...the wonderful world of Doctor Dolittle. Where crocodiles talk, and elephants sing and animals do most any old thing. Where polar bears wear top hats, and leopards with spots wear spats. "  

In 1967, 20th Century Fox released Richard Fleischer's epic musical "Doctor Dolittle" starring Rex Harrison as the inimitable animal doctor who travels the world to find the Giant Pink Sea Snail. Samantha Eggar, Anthony Newley and William Dix join our animal-talking doctor on his voyage of discovery, while the renowned music composer Leslie Brucisse weaved melodic melodies throughout the film. 

Although Doctor Dolittle grossed over $9 million dollars at the box-office, it was technically a financial fiasco since it cost over $18 million to produce ( yikes! )... most of this cost was spent in bad location decisions and care for the animals. One of the most costliest mistakes was in trying to send a crew of animals to England in the first place....quarantine procedures made this impossible and so they had to scout for animals in England instead. 

The "world" of Doctor Dolittle consisted mainly of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, an idyllic stone front English village and Sea-star Island, the resting place for the elusive giant sea snail. Unlike most Walt Disney films of the time that utilized stunning painted matte bakdrops by Peter Ellenshaw, Doctor Dollittle was actually filmed on lcoation. 

The village of Castle Combe, located in southwestern England was transformed into the town of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, complete with fisherman skiffs and the picturesque church tower. They took so long filming in Castle Combe that even the residents were relived when they left. They wanted all the villager's aerials to be taken down from their roofs ( for authenticity's sake )....what a bore being without TV!


Sea-star island on the other hand is quite a difficult island to drifts along with the prevailing currents. In reality though it was Saint Lucia, the tropical paradise located in the heart of the Caribbean. Most of the island scenes were filmed at Marigot Bay, where today you can still find the Pink Snail Champagne Bar at the Marigot Bay Hotel in honor of the film's location shooting. 

At the time, many of the residents of the tiny oasis weren't all that proud of the snail....they were sick due to a G.I epidemic caused by the freshwater snails and were so mad that they even threw rocks at the giant sea-snail prop. Poor snail! Good thing he had his shell on snug and tight. 

One of my favorite "locations" in Doctor Dolittle was not really a location at was The Flounder, the doctor's striped-sailed full-rigged wooden sailing ship. Decked out in flamboyant fashion not unlike his Puddleby home, it was complete with a kitchen, dining room, library, window garden and all his scientific equipment. 

When we watch Doctor Dolittle we are transported to a world of "fantasy, a world we long to see" realm of Victorian whimsy. Even though I can not talk to animals, it would be nice to join the Doctor in his world. 


  1. Nice to see a positive post about this lovely movie.

    1. It seems that when several critics respond negatively to a film, all others thereafter tend to follow suit, but that is an injustice in the case of Doctor Dolittle. It really is an entertaining film and holds up splendidly after multiple viewings.