Directed by Henry Koster
Professor Leaf is an absent-minded college professor who has a hatred of the science department because they get the funding for ever-threatening (at least in his mind) experimentation at the expense of the English department. His son secretly writes to Miss Brigitte Bardot every night, while the Professor tries to draw out talent in the arts from his eight-year-old. To his horror, his son is found to be a math genius, and has to protect the boy from the scientific community he hates. He is soon talked into using the boy’s talent to handicap horses for the Leaf Foundation. When Miss Bardot writes Erasmus back and invites him to visit her in France, he goes on strike until he can meet his crush. They get back home just in time for one last horse race, betting all the money in the account. Unfortunately, his partner is an unscrupulous scoundrel who intends to run with the winnings. Acting on a hunch, the Professor meets up with the partner and IRS to ensure the money stays put.
Professor Leaf faces the greatest internal challenges in this story. They live frugally by necessity, and he is reminded of how much his family sacrifices when his daughter cries because she wants a dress for the prom, and how his wife has to get increasingly creative in cooking spaghetti. They live on a houseboat amid quirky neighbors, including Ed Wynn who narrates the story for us.
The Professor is passionate about English and poetry, and can’t conceive of his son not sharing this passion. But when Erasmus shows no talent or interest in anything that is a part of his dad, it’s something the Professor has to reconcile within his heart. By the time they have traveled to France to visit Miss Bardot, the Professor has come to terms with the differences between him and Erasmus, appreciating his son for who he is.
This is a wonderful family film that is entertaining, espouses wholesome values, and is highly entertaining. From the novel “Erasmus With Freckles” by John Haase, screenplay by Nunnally Johnson (uncredited) and Hal Kanter. Nominated for Best Edited Feature Film.