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The classic family comedy Mrs Doubtfire turns 25 years old today, something I couldn’t quite believe until I saw that its release date was indeed 24 November, 1993.
That means somehow a quarter of a century has passed since the late Robin Williams donned a wig, frock and some pearl earrings to complete the look of the charming Scottish nanny Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire.
A film that is the definition of standing the test of time, the endearing story of a struggling father looking to reconnect with his children still never fails to make adults and children alike laugh and cry.
If you are unfamiliar with the tale of Mrs Doubtfire, although I am unsure how anyone could be since it is a classic, Williams plays recently divorced voice actor Daniel who dresses up as a female housekeeper so he can interact with his kids.
Through the experience Daniel, his children and former wife Miranda learn a lot of valuable lessons about love and the importance of family which changes all of their lives.
Despite the film being 25 years old, Mrs Doubtfire‘s messages are still relevant today with audiences finding it as heartwarming and heartbreaking as ever.
You can watch the original trailer for the movie here:
While Mrs Doubtfire is fantastic for many, many reasons, the real secret to its success lies with Williams who breathed life into the Scottish nanny.
Let’s be honest, Williams dressing up in drag and committing to a larger than life character was always going to be hilarious, but I would argue the comedian is at his absolute funniest, both in and out of the Mrs Doubtfire costume.
And that really is saying something considering the uniquely talented actor appeared in Good Morning, Vietnam, Jumanji and voiced the genie in Disney’s popular animation Aladdin.
Oh, and don’t forget all of Williams’ incredible stand-up work too!
You can check out his most memorable movie performances in the video below:
Although the charmingly quirky film Flubber introduced me to Williams when I was a child, I vividly remember my parents sitting me and my sister down to watch Mrs Doubtfire one afternoon.
Despite them setting high expectations telling us how much they loved the film, it really didn’t take me long to become completely enamoured with Williams’ cross-dressing housekeeper.
As a kid I giggled at the slapstick humour, especially enjoying the moment when Williams slams his face into a cake and when he burns his fake breasts on the hob, subsequently attempting to put out the flames with saucepan lids.
Honestly, I will never forget the line ‘my first day as a woman and I am already having hot flashes’!
Rewatching the film numerous times as I grew older, there was always something new to enjoy as Williams’ nuanced performance continued to be rewarding.
I was pretty shocked then to learn that Mrs Doubtfire received average or negative reviews upon its release, although critics admittedly learnt to appreciate it as the years passed.
Still, how could you not love the film as soon as Williams started dancing hilariously with a hoover and broom?!?
One of the things Williams is most famous for is his wonderful talent at doing different voices, something he must certainly put to use in Mrs Doubtfire.
Not only does the actor alter his voice and accent while dressed as the nanny, but there are also a couple of dedicated scenes which exist to let his talent shine through… and crack us up!
And of course his character Daniel is a voice actor too meaning the filmmakers certainly knew what they were doing by focusing on this talent of Williams.
Although the scene which sees Williams testing out different looks for Mrs Doubtfire is simply superb, including a pretty spot-on impersonation of Barbra Streisand, it doesn’t even come close to the actor doing impressions of a series of bad housekeepers.
In one of the best moments of the film, Williams’ character Daniel calls up Miranda pretending to be several strange nannies so she will have to hire Mrs Doubtfire who is left being the only option.
The whole scene is designed to let Williams run wild with his voice work and imagination and oh boy, he does!
Introducing us to a band member from Severe Tyre Damage, Ilsa Himmelman, who ‘doesn’t work with males because I used to be one’, and finally a character who only says ‘I am job’, Williams creativity is just fabulous leaving us with tears of laughter in our eyes.
As I mentioned previously, Mrs Doubtfire also features a lot of slapstick humour, something else Williams is a master of.
Many of these moments are in fact improvised but while watching the film you wouldn’t have been able to tell since Williams is such a natural at ad-libbing.
With director Chris Columbus telling the actor explicitly not to hold back, that is exactly what Williams did leading to great unexpected moments including when Mrs Doubtfire’s ‘face mask’ repeatedly drops into Mrs Sellner’s tea.
The heat from the camera lights was melting the frosting but rather than allowing it to get in the way of filming, Williams expertly used it to his advantage!
Here is the scene in all its glory:
Williams really made the Mrs Doubtfire role his own bringing emotion as well as humour and fun to the performance.
In an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle back in 1993, Williams knew the role would be an important one for him saying:
Playing an elderly woman in drag gave me a lot of freedom from having to be the funny guy every minute.
I got the chance to do some acting in a movie that had two things I think are important in life, farce and soul.
He really did hit the nail on the head there as the beauty of Mrs Doubtfire is that it is equally hilarious and emotional.
While Williams describes the film as having ‘farce and soul’, this is also a description that can be applied to Daniel and Mrs Doubtfire thanks to the actor giving it his all.
Yes, Williams is at his funniest in this movie but it is also one of his most greatest performances as he brings a melancholic and moving element to the role too.
During a long career Williams showcased his amazing acting ability numerous times but as Daniel Hillard and his alter-ego Mrs Doubtfire, he captured the hearts of several generations which makes the performance his most memorable.
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Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.