The Million Dollar Duck

The Million Dollar Duck

In the 60s, actor Dean Jones found himself the preferred leading man in a long string of Disney live-action films, paired alongside everything from grape-picking monkeys to lovable Volkswagens to a humongous Great Dane who thought he was a dachshund. This time around, Jones took second billing to a mallard with remarkable abilities in the 1971 comedy, The Million Dollar Duck.

In his seventh film for Disney, Jones played a financially strapped scientist named Albert Dooley, who spends his days working on intelligence experiments with animals. Away from the lab, he is a devoted family man, husband of perpetually cheerful Katie (Sandy Duncan, in her film debut) and son Jimmy, who yearns for a pet.

But money is tight for the Dooley family, at least until one fateful day at work, when one of the animals, a cute little duck, manages to accidentally get irradiated. Ordered to dispose of the contaminated animal, Albert instead takes him home, figuring that a radiation-filled fowl would be a perfectly acceptable pet for his son. The family soon discovers, however, that this is no ordinary duck, for the eggs that it lays contain a yolk made of solid gold. Furthermore, it would seem that these eggs are produced whenever the duck hears a dog bark.

Suddenly, things are looking up for the financially struggling family, who start trying to cash in on these golden gifts from their web-footed friend. But keeping things a secret may be a little harder than they anticipate, thanks to a nosy neighbor, Finley Hooper (played by Disney regular Joe Flynn). Hooper works for the US Treasury department and is more than a little curious about the Dooley family’s newfound prosperity.

Filled with plenty of patented Disney slapstick and a moral message or two, The Million Dollar Duck was both silly and endearing, enough so to win a handful of Golden Globe nominations, even if the critics weren’t as kind. As it turns out, they just don’t like duck movies.

Sadly, Dean Jones passed away in 2015, but he lives on through the beloved Disney classics in which he appeared, films such as The Love Bug, The Ugly Dachshund, That Darn Cat! and, of course, The Million Dollar Duck. Though the films may not have garnered him any Oscars, they remain beloved by the millions of former kids who grew up watching them in theaters, on television, and even in school on occasion. In that regard, The Million Dollar Duck and Dean Jones are certainly worthy of a tip of the Retroland hat.

Do you remember watching The Million Dollar Duck as a kid and wishing that you had a pet with similar talents? We’d love to hear all of your memories of this endearing Disney classic in our comments section below.

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