The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The original Secret Life of Walter Mitty was a short story written by James Thurber 1939. The story is about a mild-mannered man who drives into Waterbury, Connecticut, with his wife for their regular weekly shopping and his wife’s visit to the beauty parlor.

During this time he has five heroic daydream episodes.

  1. The first is as a pilot of a U.S. Navy flying boat in a storm
  2. Then he is a magnificent surgeon performing a one-of-a-kind surgery
  3. Next, he is a deadly assassin testifying in a courtroom
  4. He then imagines himself as a Royal Air Force pilot volunteering for a daring, secret suicide mission to bomb an ammunition dump.
  5. As the story ends, Mitty imagines himself facing a firing squad, “inscrutable to the last.”

Each of the fantasies was inspired by some detail of his mundane surroundings.

The 1947 Movie Adaptation

Official Trailer | The Secret Life of Walter – 1947

PG | 1h 50min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy | 1 September 1947
Director: Norman Z. McLeod
Writers: Ken Englund, Everett Freeman
Stars: Danny Kaye, Virginia Mayo, Boris Karloff

In New York, the clumsy Walter Mitty works for a publisher of pulp fiction at the Pierce Publishing house owned by Bruce Pierce. He lives with his overbearing mother and daydreams into a world of fantasy many times along the day.

Neither his fiancée Gertrude Griswold and her mother nor his best friend Tubby Wadsworth respects him. They seem to enjoy playing jokes and making fun of him.

When Walter is commuting to work, he stumbles into the gorgeous Rosalind van Hoorn who uses him to escape from her pursuer. This chance meeting gets Walter involved with a dangerous ring of spies that are seeking a black book with notes about a hidden treasure.

The 2013 Movie Adaptation

Official Trailer | The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – 2013

PG | 1h 54min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy | 25 December 2013
Director: Ben Stiller
Writers: Steve Conrad, Steve Conrad
Stars: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Jon Daly

For the past sixteen years, Walter Mitty has been the manager of the negative assets for Life magazine. To escape his tedious life, Walter often daydreams about another life in a world of travel and adventure.

Walter has a crush on the recently hired Cheryl Melhoff but he is too shy to ask her out so he tries to contact her via online dating.

The magazine is preparing to release its last printed edition and the loathsome manager of transition Ted Hendricks is preparing an inevitable downsizing over the next few days.

Walter has been the liaison between the magazine and the mysterious independent photographer Sean O’Connell who has sent to him a package of negatives and a wallet as a gift for his work.

Sean also suggests to the senior management the use of negative 25 for the cover of the last edition. However, Walter cannot find the negative that is missing. Walter has no means to contact Sean and finds a clue that he might be in Greenland.

He decides to travel to Greenland to track Sean down in the beginning of an unbelievable adventure.

The Evolution of Walter Mitty

As you can see the original story is only a 15-minute read. The entire story takes place in one afternoon in the life of Walter Mitty.

In 1947 much more content was needed to fill a two-hour feature movie. This first version was closer to the original but still altered the basic storyline quite a bit. Taking away his wife and giving him a mother, girlfriend, and best friend.

The timeline is pushed out to days instead of one afternoon. In the end, Walter captures the spies, stands up to his oppressive mother, girlfriend, best friend, and marries the beautiful Rosalind van Hoorn.

The newest version of Walter Mitty is the greatest departure from the original story. In this version, he is a daydreamer that now works for Time Magazine. He is thrust into a real-life adventure as he goes on a search for the missing negative #25. In the end, he has traveled across multiple countries, finds the missing negative, that he had all along, and gets the girl.

I give the short story two thumbs up. A movie can never hold a candle to your own imagination. The 1947 movie I give one thumb up. It dragged in parts and the story was lacking. Now I did like the 2013 movie much better. It was a better story line so I give it two thumbs up.

The Dread Pirate Dave

David is the Editor in Chief of Postcards From the Edge. I was born on a cold November morning on the showy plains of Colorado. Like my father, before me, I am an American Nomad.

View stories

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *