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Snowball Express
Directed by Norman Tokar
Produced by Ron Miller
Tom Leetch
Written by Frankie O'Rear (book "Chateau Bon Vivant")
John O'Rear (book "Chateau Bon Vivant")
Don Tait
Jim Parker
Arnold Margolin
Starring Dean Jones
Nancy Olson
Harry Morgan
Keenan Wynn
Johnny Whitaker
Michael McGreevey
George Lindsey
Kathleen Cody
Mary Wickes
Music by Robert F. Brunner
Evelyn Kennedy
Franklyn Marks
Cinematography Frank V. Phillips
Editing by Robert Stafford
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures
Release date(s)  United States December 22, 1972
Brazil Brazil March 26, 1973
Australia Australia August 23, 1973
France France December 5, 1973
Italy Italy December 7, 1973
Japan Japan December 15, 1973
Finland Finland April 5, 1974
Sweden April 8, 1974
Hong Kong Hong Kong January 2, 1975
Mexico Mexico January 15, 1976
Running time 93 minutes
Country  United States
Language English

Snowball Express is a 1972 screwball comedy film made by Walt Disney Pictures about a man who leaves his desk job to run a hotel left to him by his uncle.

Plot summary

Johnny Baxter (Dean Jones) is at his corporate desk job when a probate attorney (David White) tells him that his recently deceased uncle, Jacob Barnesworth, has left him sole ownership of the lucrative Grand Imperial Hotel in the fictional town of Silver Hill, Colorado.

Baxter quits his job in a grand spectacle and moves his family to Colorado to take proprietorship of the hotel. The family finds it to be an immense but ramshackle building with no heat and a colorful old codger, Jesse McCord (Harry Morgan), living in the shed.

Baxter attempts to build the hotel up to its former glory and decides to turn the hill adjacent to the hotel into a ski lodge. Local banker Martin Ridgeway (Keenan Wynn) expresses great interest in Baxter's daring idea, but also offers to buy the lodge in order to convert it into a boys' school in honor of the deceased uncle.

Baxter searches for funding elsewhere and finds a friendly banker named Mr. Wainwright (George Kirkpatrick) who is interested in Baxter's venture. Wainwright agrees to meet with Baxter at a ski lodge, as Baxter claims to be an avid skier. Chaos ensues when Baxter hops on the ski lift with Wainwright and promptly glides uncontrollably down the mountain, taking out several skiers and plowing into a tree.

While he is recovering, Martin Ridgeway gives Baxter a check for $3,000, taking feigned pity on him. Baxter starts making a list of repairs for the lodge. Meanwhile, local bumpkin Wally Perkins (Michael McGreevey) works with Jesse to repair the hot water heater. The water heater explodes, tearing a hole in the kitchen wall. Ridgeway's check covers the repair, but leaves nothing for the ski lift Baxter had in mind. Jesse comes to the rescue by pulling an old donkey engine out of mothballs, tying a rope around it, and using it as a makeshift ski lift.

The restored hotel opens to little fanfare, receiving few customers for several days. When Wally dynamites a tree stump from the ground, the explosion sets off an avalanche, blocking a passing train carrying several hundred skiers. The Baxters quickly shuttle the skiers to their resort.

The Baxter family arrives in the sleepy town of Silver Hills, Colorado. L to R: Nancy Olson, Kathleen Cody, Johnny Whitaker, and Dean Jones.

All goes well until Wally commences ski training classes. Having never taught skiing before, Wally loses his balance and skis down a steep mountain, dangling over a ledge while clinging to a pine tree. Using the donkey engine and a rope to lower John Baxter down the mountain to rescue Wally, Jesse accidentally jostles a loose piece of lit firewood onto one of the ropes anchoring the engine in place. Baxter rescues Wally, who suffers a broken arm. The burning rope tears, setting the donkey engine free. It rapidly glides down the mountain, with Baxter in tow, still roped to the machine after having rescued Wally. The engine plows through the hotel. All of the guests check out, leaving the Baxters out of money once again.

John Baxter sheepishly goes back to Ridgeway, asking for an extension on his loan, which Ridgeway flatly refuses. Baxter notices a sign for the Silver Hills Snowmobile Race, with $5,000 prize. Though Baxter has never used a snowmobile, he assumes Wally can drive his slapdash snowmobile. Unfortunately, Wally's broken arm from his skiing accident precludes his involvement. Baxter decides to drive the snowmobile himself, with Jesse as his partner.

The day of the race, 75-year-old Jesse has second thoughts about partaking in the race aboard Wally's decrepit snowmobile (dubbed "The Mighty Mongrel"). Unfortunately, Baxter learns that Ridgeway has won for the past three years, and pushes the snowmobile to the limit, causing both skis to break off the Mongrel. Ridgeway wins first place, and Baxter ends up riding the snowmoble for hours as it will not shut off or stop.

Ridgeway threatens to begin the foreclosure process, but offers to buy the resort from Baxter for practically nothing, wanting to convert it into the Jacob Barnesworth School for Boys. Ridgeway's secretary Miss Wigginton (Mary Wickes) happens to be present during this exchange, and blows her stack in front of Ridgeway, telling everyone the truth about Ridgeway- he wants to buy the resort in order to log the timber located on the property. Jesse adds that the land the town was built on was granted by Jacob Farnsworth on the condition that a library be built. Baxter's son notes that he has not seen a library, asking why the land has not reverted to Baxter, including the land under Ridgeway's bank. His plans exposed and his bank threatened, Ridgeway gives Baxter the money necessary to repair the resort.

Foreign Titles

  • Finland - "Hupihotelli", "Lumipallo express"
  • French - "3 étoiles, 36 chandelles"
  • Hungary - Hógolyó futam
  • Italy - "Pistaaa... arriva il gatto delle nevi"
  • Portugal - "Hotel da Barafunda, O"
  • Sweden - Snöbollsexpressen
  • West Germany - "Erbschaft in Weiß"

External links

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