Anthony is a very eccentric man, who teaches a Bible/boxing class and has 12 pet alligators. He is a family man at heart and cares deeply for his children, especially Cordy. He was angry at Aunt Mary's suggestion to send her to school, because he didn't want his family to be separated. He gives in though but he still doesn't like the feeling of an "empty nest".
Anthony was very upset when his 12 pet alligators nearly froze to death, but was then delighted to see them running around the house, much to everyone else's horror.
Anthony is also extremely patriotic and wants to join the war efforts. In the end he finally gets commissioned into the Marines like he always wanted.
Role in the film
Anthony is first introduced when he comes into the kitchen after one of his 12 pet alligators, George. He is angry that his family isn't there and sings about how they really should (What's Wrong With That?). Cordy comes in while he's singing and he shows his injury to her, who thinks its a shaving cut. She says its not a bad one and says she has to get ready for a date. He tells his butler, John Lawless, to tell Tony and Liv to get the first aid kit. He answers the door for Cordy's date and Tony and Liv bring him the first aid kit. When Tony says Cordy can find a better date than the one she's got, Anthony says she could, but not right now. When her date gets knocked out by Tony and Liv, she blames him for boys not liking her by always starting fights.
Anthony is having one of his Bible/boxing classes when Aunt Mary arrives. He comes in to see his wife, Cordelia, and Aunt Mary, in her normal crabby self. Aunt Mary came because she doesn't think Cordy is being brought up like a proper lady and wants her to be sent off to school. He is against it and think he's taking good care of her. She overhears the conversation and says she would love to go to school. He doesn't understand why she would want to leave. She says that she isn't like the other girls and wants to become more feminine. He gives in but he isn't happy about it. Cordelia says its better this way but he begs to differ. He says that Cordy needs to discover herself. He decides to unload some steam in his gym.
At the gym Anthony notices Cordy punching a punching bag. She apologizes for wanting to leave but he says its okay and that its about time she left home. She says she is afraid, which he says she has nothing to be afraid of. They hug and she says that he is the greatest father ever.
When John finds his alligator conservatory, Anthony tells him that he got them with a pack of Seminole Indians in Florida. He then perfectly made the alligators' mating call which riles them up. He then asks who John is and John properly introduces himself as the new butler. He has some small talk with him about boxing where he reveals he was a champion in Ireland. Anthony suggests him apply for citizenship. He says he will but he will always remain Irish in his heart. (I'll Always Be Irish)
When Cordy is at school, she gets a letter from Anthony saying that he's been teaching his Bible Class Military procedures.
A little while later Anthony goes to Washington, in hopes of joining the war but fails to get enlisted. He later has a party at his home where he invites members of the Marine corps. He reveals that the Marines want to work his own Philadelphia Corps to prepare for the war. He then expresses his interest to join the war to his guests (I Believe in This Country). When a Marine says its good to have a wealthy and elderly man on their side, he takes his Marine guests to box with them. He defeats the Marine in a match showing he stills has the power and ambition. He makes a deal with the Marine that they will teach his Philadelphia Corps if he doesn't tell anyone of his humiliating defeat.
Sometime later Anthony and Cordelia come home from a military parade to see that someone has left the door open in the alligator conservatory, freezing them in their pools. He immediately calls John to help him thaw them out. He persistently tries to do so, but he just admits that they're dead. He then gets a phone call that Cordy is missing from school. She happily arrives home, and says she arrived with her new fiancée, Angie Duke. Anthony is incredibly furious at the idea of her getting married. She hopes that he will come to like Angie but he still isn't pleased. He expresses his dissatisfaction to Cordelia, but she just says that she's an adult now and she and she is allowed to make decisions on her own. The next morning, he is awoken by the maid who was screaming that alligators had infested the house. He's delighted to see that they're were alive and well. He then apologizes for acting so rude to Cordy and says that he would like to meet Angie. she is happy to hear this and hugs him.
In the start of Act 2, Anthony has invited Angie over to dinner and is telling him about how he wants America to get into the war. He seems frustrated with Angie, because he can't seem to find common ground with him. When Angie finds one of the alligators in the dining room, he is startled but Anthony doesn't seem to mind. Cordy and Angie go to the parlor where he reveals he is scared to death of Anthony. She tells him to be unorthodox with him and he'll do fine. When Anthony enters the room, Angie tells him that he doesn't see the point of boxing. Anthony is displeased with that and asks John to get his boxing gloves. Angie decides to be his opponent for the match and they fight. Anthony beats Angie and then asks him if he was upset at the loss. Angie says if he really was upset he would have defeated Anthony. Angie then shows him some Jujitsu moves on Anthony. He is impressed by Angie's Jujitsu and wants him to teach it to him. Anthony then gives his blessing to Cordy and Angie, and wants to meet Angie's family. Cordy moves to New York to get to know them
Anthony later visits Cordy in New York, where he asks how she is doing. He then meets Angie's mother, Mrs. Duke. He says that he is sorry for not excepting her previous invitations in that he's been busy with the war effort. She seems disinterested with his talk about war but invites him to stay anyway. He can't as he has a train to catch. Cordy decides to go with him to the station to spend some more time with him. When she and Angie leave the room, Mrs. Duke asks Anthony whether or not he likes the idea of the marriage. He says he's okay with it, but she senses he's dissatisfied, too. He just says it takes getting used to. In the car ride over to the station, Cordy says she would like to come later because she is feeling tired. She is feeling like a stranger to Angie's family and wants to spend time with her own. Anthony doesn't like this and just wants her to be happy (What's Wrong with That? (Reprise))
Later at an extravagant party held by the Biddles in honor of Cordy and Angie's engagement, Anthony shows Mrs. Duke some members of his Bible lesson class, who she seems slightly repulsed by. He then sings an Italian aria to entertain the guests. Mrs. Duke thinks that he looks like a fool singing like that, which angers Cordy. After Aunt Mary arrives, Anthony greets her in the living room. Mrs. Duke then complains to him why the Dukes haven't received their wedding invitations. He says that he and John sent them and sends John to look for them. When Cordy calls off the wedding due to the two families bickering, Anthony say that she has the right to do so if he wants to. When Angie leaves in frustration, Anthony tells John to follow him. When Mrs. Duke asks Anthony what he intends to do about the invitations, he get's confused and she asks him to talk some sense into cordy. He then gets angry that everyone was blaming him for the missing invitations and the called off engagement. When Cordelia says it was his fault he denies it, but then suddenly gets pulled out by his Bible class students to drink a toast to him.
Anthony wakes up bright and hardy, but Cordelia refuses to talk to him. He gets frustrated at her and says he has nothing to confess. He says he was accepting of Cordy and Angie's wedding, its just that he was being himself. He says that he been himself too much and played into every source of trouble he could. He denies it, then Cordelia asks him weather or not he's done anything to support the marriage. He still says he didn't do anything wrong but she says that he knows what he did wrong in his heart, or he wouldn't be angry. Cordy perkily greets them, who initially seems to be fine about the marriage being called off, but then runs off to the gym crying. Anthony follows after her to try to comfort her, but she says there's nothing to talk about. She admits that Angie was a childish Mama's boy and didn't know how to truly live life. He says that he'll learn and that maybe, they will learn together. He then admits that he always liked Angie, but he just didn't want Cordy to leave. He then says he supports her 100% but it's her own life so she has to make the decisions. She hugs him when Mrs. Duke comes in looking for Angie. She says that he hasn't been in his hotel room and wonders where he's been. Anthony calls John, who says that he is in jail. Anthony says that he'll sort out the problem in no time.
At the jail Anthony asks the ladies to wait while he talks to Angie privately. Angie is suffering from a massive hangover and doesn't want to leave his cell. He wanted to leave for China the nigh before but now doesn't know where to go. Anthony coyly tells him that he better do everything he is expected to do which makes him stand uo to Anthony and say that no one will make his decisions for him. Anthony says the door is open now and he's free to do whatever he wants. He asks Cordy to elope with him, but refuses because he thinks Anthony talked him into it. He picks her up and they head to Detroit together, just like Anthony wanted.
Anthony returns home to a very empty, lonely house. Cordelia suggests that know that they are free, they could go traveling. He immediately wants to go to Detroit to see Cordy and Angie. She tells him to let them go and assures him that he'll see everyone soon enough (It Won't Be Long 'til Christmas). Just then the Marines enter the house and inform him that he's been awarded a provisional captaincy in the Marines, and he is to report to Parris island. He is ecstatic and immediately gets to work refining marine policies. His Bible students then arrive to congratulate him.
- Anthony is based on the real Anthony Biddle who lived from 1874 to 1948
- Anthony had typhoid fever as a child. When he overcame it, he learned to live life to the fullest.
- Fred MacMurray is known to play fathers who has bonding relationships with their sons, (The Shaggy Dog, TV's My Three Sons) but in this movie, his strongest relationship is with his daughter, Cordy.