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The Great Rupert

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The Great Rupert (1950), aka. A Christmas Wish, starring Jimmy Durante, Queenie Smith, Terry Moore, Tom Drake
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The Great Rupert (1950), aka. A Christmas Wish, starring Jimmy Durante, Queenie Smith, Terry Moore, Tom Drake, by George Pal

Synopsis of The Great Rupert

The Great Rupert – A down-on-their-luck vaudeville family can’t afford to pay rent on a run-down ground floor apartment at Christmas. An unexpected guardian angel in the form of a squirrel comes into their lives, showering them with money. Will the windfall continue? And, will their daughter fall in love with the landlord’s son? Will Jimmy Durante entertain?

Review of The Great Rupert

Rupert the dancing squirrel

The Great Rupert is a wonderful movie on many levels. Producer George Pal created many great movies (The Time Machine, War of the Worlds).  The Great Rupert joins that group. It’s less known, and a family film than a fantasy.  But it has a bit of a fantasy element.  The Great Rupert is bookended by the trained squirrel Rupert and his handler Joe Mahoney (Jimmy Conlin). At the beginning, Rupert (who dances while wearing a kilt) is too small for the circus. At the end, he becomes a huge circus sensation. In the middle, however, is where the story happens.

Cast of characters in The Great Rupert

The Great Rupert (1950), aka. A Christmas Wish, starring Jimmy Durante, Queenie Smith, Terry Moore, Tom Drake
  • Louie Amendola (Jimmy DuranteTwo Girls and a Sailor, Billy Rose’s Jumbo) – the head of the Amendola family, an acrobat who loves to entertain – and spend money like it’s going out of style. Until he’s confronted about it by his wife:
  • Mrs. Amendola (Queenie SmithShowboat 1936, The Snake Pit) – the loving mother, who prays to God in a moment of true need.  “Rosilinda needs a new pair of shoes.” Rupert is the answer to her prayer every week at the same time. She’s the voice of reason balancing out her husband, pushing him to invest the money — since they don’t know when it will end
  • Rosalinda Amendola (Terry MooreMighty Joe Young, Peyton Place) – the lovely young daughter who falls in love with the landlord’s talented yet penniless son, but pursued by a handsome young talent agent)
  • Pete Dingle (Tom DrakeMeet Me in St. Louis, Two Girls and a Sailor) – the landlord’s handsome young son, a talented composer who lacks initiative – until he needs money to vie for Rosalinda
  • Frank Dingle (Frank OrthBoston Blackie, His Girl Friday) – the tight-fisted landlord, who’s long-ago investment finally pays a weekly dividend of $1,500 per week. Not a bad man, but a middle-class working man who’s tight with a dollar.  Because he’s not had many.
  • Mrs. Dingle (Sara HadenShop Around the Corner, She-Wolf of London) – the balance in her household, the voice of reason – that her husband doesn’t heed
  • Phil Davis (Chick ChandlerSeven Doors to Death, Lost Continent) – the agent who refuses to promote Rupert the Great, likes Pete’s song, and pursues Rosalinda
  • The Great Rupert (Rupert) – a combination of live action and excellent stop-motion animation.  Rupert is trained to be a circus performer who is set to live in the wild.  But instead lives in the attic of the Amendola’s apartment.  Every week he kicks the new $1,500 from his cubbyhole into Mrs. Amendola’s praying lap.

Soundtrack for The Great Rupert

Editorial review of The Great Rupert courtesy of

A heartwarming holiday classic about a family who is down on their luck at Christmas time. Shortly before Christmas, they move into an apartment where Rupert the squirrel lives in the attic rafters and acts as the family’s guardian angel not only saving Christmas, but changing their lives forever. Enlivened with an unforgettable love story between Terry Moore (Mighty Joe Young) and Tom Drake (Meet Me in St. Louis). Rupert the Squirrel (created using George Pal’s Academy Award winning animation) will charm young and old alike. Jimmy Durante shines when he sings well-loved Christmas carols in the evocative voice that made him one of America’s recording legends. Digitally restored and in color for the first time and includes a special audio commentary by star Terry Moore.

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