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The Magnificent Yankee (1950)

Biography of celebrated American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes.


John Sturges


Francis Biddle (book), Emmet Lavery (play) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Credited cast:
Louis Calhern ... Oliver Wendell Holmes
Ann Harding ... Fanny Bowditch Holmes
Eduard Franz ... Judge Louis Brandeis
Philip Ober ... Owen Wister / Narrator
Ian Wolfe ... Adams
Edith Evanson ... Annie Gough
Richard Anderson ... Reynolds, Secretary
Jimmy Lydon ... Clinton, Secretary (as James Lydon)
Herbert Anderson ... Baxter, Secretary (as Guy Anderson)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
John Phillip Law ... Minor Role (scenes deleted)


Biography of celebrated American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Biography | Drama







Release Date:

3 August 1951 (Australia) See more »

Also Known As:

Nobre Rebelde See more »


Box Office


$639,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The play, "The Magnificent Yankee," opened at the Royale Theater in New York on January 22, 1946, and ran for 159 performances, with Louis Calhern in the lead role. While other Hollywood actors were eligible to play Oliver Wendell Holmes, MGM decided to let Calhern reprise his Broadway role in the film, to thank him for his many years of service as a supporting player at their studio. See more »


When Oliver and Fanny run out of the library upon hearing the fire bells, a moving shadow of the camera and rigging is visible on the bookcase to the right. See more »


Oliver Wendell Holmes: [to Reynolds] It's a free country. Everybody's entitled to his opinion... even the President of the United States.
See more »


Featured in TCM Guest Programmer: U.S. Critics (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

Wendell And Fanny
18 February 2009 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Louis Calhern who was in demand right up to his death in 1956 on both stage and screen gets a chance to repeat his most famous stage role as Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Magnificent Yankee. He appeared on Broadway with this play by Emmett Lavery in 1946 for 159 performances with Dorothy Gish playing his wise and patient wife Fanny Dixwell Holmes.

For those who think that this play and movie is about the Great Dissenter on the Supreme Court Oliver Wendell Holmes, author of some of the best known and most quoted legal opinions ever rendered by the US Supreme Court you are wrong. It is instead about a love story between two elderly people, Wendell and Fanny, who embark on a new adventure when at the ripe old age of 60, Wendell gets a major new job in his chosen profession.

If Holmes had never been put on the Supreme Court by Theodore Roosevelt in 1902 his reputation would rest on being the author of The Common Law which is a history of and Holmes view of same. It's a classic in jurisprudence published in many languages. In 1902 Holmes was three years into the job of Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court when he got the call which insurance actuarists would have given him a decade tops on his new job.

Yet we first meet Mr. Justice Holmes and his lady right after that appointment, buying a new home for themselves in Washington, DC. They were one of the great love stories in history. Fanny Dixwell was the daughter of the man who ran Dixwell's Latin School in Boston which was THE place to be sending your young Yankee children for their education. They met as children and it was love at first sight. They had eyes for no others.

Taking Dorothy Gish's place for the screen version is Ann Harding. She and Calhern perfectly fit my conception of what the Holmeses must have been like in their private moments. Eduard Franz plays Holmes friend and colleague Louis D. Brandeis who was his partner in dissent on many occasion replacing Edgar Barrier who did the role on stage.

It's sad that while Calhern was given an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, Ann Harding was not similarly honored. The two roles are so entwined that I don't think you can honor one without the other. I made a similar comment on William Powell being nominated for Nick Charles in The Thin Man and Myrna Loy being snubbed for the same film.

The Holmeses had no children, they did in fact raise a niece who was out of the picture when they moved to the capital, but the legend about his law clerks from Harvard becoming surrogate sons is quite true. You can spot such players as Jimmy Lydon, Richard Anderson, and Herbert Anderson in brief roles as the many clerks Holmes had over the years.

Oliver Wendell Holmes was possibly our most distinguished man of the law and Louis Calhern brings him vividly alive with the wit and grace Holmes was known for in his life. Don't ever miss The Magnificent Yankee played by a magnificent actor about a magnificent man.

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