Thursday, December 31, 2020

The 12 Days of Doris Day: Conclusion

Doris Day is still to this day one of the most iconic actresses of all time. It's hard to believe there was ever a time where she was exclusively known as a singer, and her starring potential wasn't considered. She started out with a couple of supporting roles, which quickly showcased her acting talent, and she was immediately promoted to leading lady. Her career continued strong for the next couple of decades, appearing in all manner of musicals, romantic-comedies, dramas, and the odd western. She worked with famous directors, and countless handsome Hollywood stars.

Her career eventually ran its course, with her films not making as much, her middle age drawing near (though she still looked great for her age!), and a general desire to have a break and wind down. After a few year stint on a self-titled TV show (that she was apparently roped into by her cheeky husband), she retired from the screen and focused her attention on other causes, including various animal charities, for which she became well-regarded. She continued for decades more, eventually passing away last year at the grand old age of 97.

While her films have always been loved by the majority, there have always been snide assholes trying to be cool by dissing her, making cracks about how she was 'Hollywood's oldest virgin'. To which I say Bullshit! Firstly, she totally gets down in some of her movies, and in half of them she's married with multiple kids, so she's clearly getting some action! But more importantly, why the heck does it matter? Why should a romantic lead be obligated to have sex to be worthy of attention? Whether she does or doesn't is fine, but it's the story and characters that are important. What kind of utter knobhead watches a movie and goes "Well it was good and all, but I never saw the lead riding a bloke, so that's an automatic 3 out of 10 for me.".

Overall, Doris Day will always be a beloved icon of cinema and music, whose films are favourites for so many people, from seasoned film buffs to casual moviegoers. If only all film stars could be so colourful...

Merry Christmas for Another Year

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone reading. I hope you have a lovely time. My Xmas is going well, despite the hot weather. I enjoyed some Beverly Hillbillies,while waiting for everyone to arrive (taking the better part of the day). I was eagerly (and somewhat impatiently) waiting for the remainder of my presents to arrive, plus a chance to give mine. One I wasn't able to give, due to one sibling being in another state, but what they don't know won't hurt them, so I can always keep it away for next year! There were plenty of snacks to enjoy, not to mention chocolates, which is a mixed blessing on a 40 degree day, but oh well. At least new air conditioning alleviates things somewhat, and it cooled down nicely by the night.

2020 has certainly been a busy year for this blog, to the point where I've managed to surpass 200 reviews! Hooray! I'd pour myself out a drink of fancy alcohol, if I ever drank the stuff. Hopefully next year has just as many fun treats to enjoy, and I already have plenty planned, from a look at a classic British comedy series, to more horror icons, plenty more foreign treats, as well as lots of juicy Italian horror. I'm looking forward to it all, and hoping you enjoy...

The 12 Days of Doris Day: Caprice (1967)

Patricia Foster is a secret agent, not for a government, but for a cosmetic company. Working for the friendly but underhand Sir Jason, she stages a defection in order to steal secrets from the opposition, but soon finds herself in a whole mess of trouble. She begrudgingly throws her lot in with fellow agent Christopher White, whose allegiance is unclear, and together they uncover a conspiracy to dominate the market...

Caprice is a real mixed bag. It's not terrible, and I suppose it's a passable enough way to spend an afternoon, but it never really wowed me. The film wasn't what I was expecting at all. I thought it would be a legit spy-comedy, maybe something along the lines of North by Northwest or Charade, but instead it ends up being a comedy about cosmetics. This isn't a dealbreaker, though it takes a bit of used to getting to the plot, and it's all a bit hard to take this cloak and dagger stuff seriously for such paltry stakes.

This is when Caprice begins to get confusing. The plot is a mess of constantly shifting allegiances, heroes who turn out to be villains, villains who turn out to be heroes, and more. There are plans within machinations within schemes, and who wanted what really began to lose me at many points. The climax is the height of this. What characters are and aren't aware of is a muddle, and it's all a mess of 'I know, you know, we all know, except we don't know'. But for all its confusion, the movie does genuinely keep you on your toes.

As the film goes on, the plot gets more serious, and I wasn't sure what to make of it. The goofy plot of stealing hair spray didn't seem to gel with the legit espionage related murder at the beginning, and I worried that when this plot was reintroduced (if it ever was), it might feel at odds with the rest of the movie. Thankfully this didn't end up being the case. It's not seamless, but Caprice manages to mix tones quite well, culminating in a decently satisfying final act. Although the fairly small cast meant I guessed who the villain was half an hour before the end. Still a good reveal though!

Once you get past the plot, and taking this ridiculous stuff seriously, this is a fun look at the espionage that goes on in the cosmetics industry, showing the lengths companies will go to for what basically amounts to a fancy bottle of hair lotion (speaking of, how the heck do you wash out a lotion that's impervious to water?).

The romance here is typical. Guy and girl, strong dislike, apparent deception, death defying adventure, and falling in love. There are a few amusing moments, like the shower bouquet scenes.

The film's most bizarre scene is when the characters actually go to the theatres and watch Caprice! The very movie they're in! If that's the case I don't know why anyone's surprised at all the twists and turns later!

Doris Day is decent here, if not in top form. She does fit well in the role, but the character herself is a bit all over the place. Richard Harris is a bit strange at first, but I got used to him in the role, and he does reasonably well. Edward Mulhare gets a nice role and plenty to do. Ray Walston is also weird, sometimes in an effective way, and certainly never dull. Jack Kruschen is more comic relief then an actual villain, and is amusing. And lastly, Asian-American actress Irene Tsu gets a nice but short role. Naturally since she's Irene Tsu, the movie wouldn't be complete without her taking her kit off and strutting around in a bikini.

Day's part in Caprice came about due to her husband carelessly signing her up for several new projects without telling her, much to her frustration. The directors have discussed how they rewrote the script here and there to please her. In many cases an actor insisting on script rewrites can be the sign of a diva, but here you feel for her, and if I got shanghaied into a movie I'd probably try and cater it to my interests too. And who knows what problems the script may have had. It might've been better than what we got, or may have been worse! In any case, Day had been working in the movie business for 20 years, so knew a thing or two about good stories.

Overall, the best compliment I can give Caprice is that by the end, it did feel along the same vein of Charade, albeit not Hitchhockian at all. It's a tolerable watch, and fans might enjoy...

The 12 Days of Doris Day: With Six You Get Eggroll (1968)

With Six You Get Eggroll is notable for being Doris Day's last ever film role. It wasn't her last acting gig, as she still had her own television series, running a respectable five seasons, but in terms of her film career, this was the end. So how does the movie stand up? Is it worthy of being such a milestone picture?

Abby McClure is a widow and mother of three, managing her construction business. She insists to her friends that she is perfectly happy on her own, but they set her up on a date with old friend Jake Iverson, also a widower. The two have a slightly frosty reunion at first, but soon fall in love. But now they have to work to get the kids on board...

This is a fairly decent movie to begin with. The title is a weird one, but once you understand it, it's fairly amusing and unique. The plot is your typical Cheaper by the Dozen style story, and contains all the expected awkwardness, but thankfully it never feels too much, to start with. There's a fun sense of humour, with a surprising amount of sex jokes! We're not talking 80s sex comedy humour though. More witty and sophisticated (not that I'm trashing those films, don't worry!...much).

The characters are alright. Abby is a likeable lead, and is an industrious protagonist. Jake doesn't get as much focus in the first act, but is an ok dude. Although he really puts his foot in it on occasion, especially as the movie goes on. The romance is fairly predictable stuff, but I did like how atypically frosty it was at first. It felt a little uncommon compared to how characters in these movies are usually instantly smitten. Granted, it's not too long before they're doe-eyed teens again.

The kids meanwhile are little devils! As the movie goes on they improve. The teenagers fare a little better, but can still be annoyingly bratty and temperamental, each insisting on hating their new parent. The remainder of the characters are reasonably amusing, with the adorable hound and the wiescracking coffee boy being the best.

Where Eggroll begins to disappoint is in the last act. The inevitable thawing of relationships feels a little rushed, and only happens in the last 20 minutes, but at least it happens, and it's nice to see. But then the movie gets really awkward and has Abby and Jake go at each-other's throats like CRAZY! It's really unpleasant for the final few minutes, especially since the kids have finally stopped being terrors. The climax to this film features so much shouting and sniping! It all comes together ultimately to a happy ending, but damn it's a short one!

The actors are all good. Doris is a fine lead, older and worldly, with a charm and humour. She does attempt to dance with the 'in' crowd partway though, which could look dated to some, but at least it shows that she's still a swinging and happenin' chick! Brian Keith does well too. It was nice seeing an age-appropriate romance, and not having the lead come across like a cougar (not that Doris could ever look as old as that!).

Barbara Hershey does an ok job, and it was nice seeing her in a different role (I'd only ever seen her in Boxcar Bertha). Pat Carroll and Alice Ghostley get fine supporting roles, and there's also a young George Carlin too! He's got a pretty decent part, though doesn't appear as much as aficionados of his later work might wish.

The most surprising additions to the cast are Jamie Farr and William Christopher! Remember, this is still 1968. MASH hadn't begun yet, not even the film! And here are two alumni not only in the same movie, but together! If that's not serendipity I don't know what is! Unfortunately their roles are pretty bad, as they play bizarre hippies who dominate the final act.

The movie has a bit of an artistic note to it, which works at times. I liked the colourful scene transitions, though the cartoony intro, drawn in the style of a child, looked a bit too amateurish for me. The movie also has some weird fantasy flourishes too, like the whole wedding scene.

With Six You Get Eggroll isn't bad, but it has a lot of qualities I didn't like. It doesn't feel like a grand finale for Doris's filmography (nor was it meant to), but it does at least encapsulate everything about her movies,so in that sense it is a decently fitting last movie...

The 12 Days of Doris Day: April in Paris (1952)

Ethel is a chorus girl who's finally hit the big time, after receiving an invitation to perform at a government exhibition in France. Unfortunately for her it all turns out to be a big mistake, caused by one S. Winthrop Putnam, Assistant Secretary to the Assistant to the Undersecretary of State. He goes to break the bad news to her, and no sooner than he has, he receives word that this change of plans is a great idea, and sending one of America's 'common folk' will be perfect for foreign relations. After a few thrown vases and pointed insults, the two sail off to Paris, where love awaits, among other more unpleasant things...

April in Paris is a sweet rom-com, with a lot to like. It starts off strikingly enough, and sets up its plot in an interesting way, with characters you look forward to seeing develop. Despite the early conflict, the romance goes so swimmingly that the plot seems to resolve itself 70 minutes in. But don't worry, some amusing shenanigans keep the action going, in an enjoyable manner.

The film gives a really good (read: really frustrating) depiction of politics, and what a load of bullshit it is. It's a world where everyone is forced to act like such stuffed shirts, they adore nepotism, fun is prohibited, and foreign food is abhorred.

The characters are all fun in their own unique ways. Philippe Fouquet is like a Greek chorus, setting the film's events into motion, and playing a big role throughout. He is typically horny, as all Frenchmen are, and is a fun guy. Sam is the main protagonist, and is a nervous nelly, having worked his ass off to little reward in the political world, but afraid to make any fuss in-case he get fired. Ethel meanwhile is a fun-loving loose cannon, who's pretty much your average girl-Something that entrances Sam but pisses off all his higher-ups.

Now, let's come to the matter of length. Is April in Paris too long? At first, no, I felt it moved at a nice cracking pace. But as I mused on how nice it was seeing the romance develop, I did muse on how it was happening fairly early. This was only like their 4th scene together...Then I realised it was a full hour into the film!! So no, the pacing isn't bad in the traditional sense, but it's not perfect.

I liked how sweet the two leads are on each-other, especially after their frosty beginning. But then the movie goes just a wee bit overboard. They get so lovey dovey it's a bit sickening, and unbelievable. Are we really expected to believe that these two are so in love that they're already determined to see the ship's captain, to have them married?!  But I did appreciate that instead of spending the whole movie in a will they-won't that status, the lead here actually marries his love interest, only halfway though. The remainder of the conflict is based on the couple trying and failing to have sex (naturally the movie can't let a *gasp* unmarried couple fuck), and Sam not manning up and telling his family (namely his fiancee).

Despite the title, not much is made of the film being centred around Paris, until the last 20 minutes
spectacularly awful fashion, and   dogs   Aside from a few lavish sets, the majority of the Paris action (or indeed the entirety of the film) feels very setbound, just set in boring old buildings. It's not bad enough to be a dealbreaker, but by the end I did wish there was more  Parisian glamour

The actors all do good jobs, namely the main trio. Day is charming, down-to-eath, and gets to be both romantic and grumpy. She flutters her eyelashes in an adorably sarcastic way! Ray Bolger is an amusing lead. He kinda reminded me of Red Skelton, but less full-on. As a protagonist, he's a bit against type in that he's not a handsome supermodel, but just a regular weedy looking guy. Claude Dauphin meanwhile is a good comedy Frenchman, who's just goofy enough to earn laughs, while being just suave enough that you can almost see why women would throw themselves at him.

The songs here are mixed, but overall I'm a fan. Every musical number is vastly different from the last  even the ones I didn't like as much I still appreciated here thanks to little touches here and there. Some examples of the creativity are a a windy autumn song performed to dogs, and a fantastic three-way dance number with Sam and two presidents, with seamless choreography.

The dialogue here is frequently hilarious, witty, and barmy.
"Didn't you receive my telegram?" "Yes I did, but Western Union wouldn't send my answer."
"I'm in love with the man I married. And he's not even my husband." "Even in Paris that is an unusual situation"
"Philippe, how do I convince this poached egg that I love him?"

April in Paris is a great time! A little long, and saccharine in places, but also wickedly funny, and has some great song-and-dance moments, so it's overall well worth a watch!...

The 12 Days of Doris Day: Do Not Disturb (1965)

American couple Janet and Mike Harper have just moved to England, and while she is more than comfortable living out in the country, he feels the opposite. This creates some tension, especially when Janet begins to suspect her husband may be having an affair. A few misunderstandings later, and the Harpers have enough awkward situations that could lead to disaster...

Do Not Disturb is an entertaining domestic comedy. Predictable, but always fun. The film also focuses on the culture shock between the U.S. and England, which I found infinitely more amusing than the couple's various spats. These moments are funny, clever, and the writers were either English, or did their research, because Do Not Disturb focuses on the everyday little things that Americans are too stupid to know, like how many pence is in a shillings, and all that. So kudos for putting the work in!

Halfway through the movie takes a continental detour however. While I am glad, since my original assumption about the movie (based on the animated credits and cast list) was that it'd be just that, I'd gotten used to the British setting, and was a little disappointed when what seemed like a brief French detour lasted for literally the rest of the film. This gives the impression that the movie either went through a few radical rewrites on the drawing board, or was a couple of scripts combined. I really feel this was a mistake. I liked all the British stuff, and to see it all gone, including the adorable cabal of animals, was a real disappointment!

The whole ending is a mess. Once again we have an hour and forty minute film that has a rushed ending, which is a concept I still have trouble understanding! There's lots of awkwardness, lots of screaming and running about, and just all round pandemonium. By the time it's all over, the movie barely has two seconds left to wrap everything up before the credits roll. The final reunion consists entirely of "Janet!" and "Mike", then it just ends!

Something I did appreciate was how they reconcile whenever it happens. The movie takes the time to show both parties acknowledging whatever wrong they've done, and apologising equally. It felt very sincere. And whenever misunderstandings occur, it's always the party that made the error finding out  for themselves, rather than poor Doris having to explain the compromising situation, to pick an example. Because of this, none of the inevitable misunderstandings are that cringey (although I probably coulda done without the one in the last 5 minutes!).

Antique dealer Paul adds a welcome antagonism to the film.  It's a hoot to finally see a character like this who's actively scheming! Not just a routine love triangle, and not an innocent misunderstanding, but some nefarious Frenchman actually thinking "I'm gonna bang that man's wife, oui oui!"

At 103 minutes Do Not Disturb probably could've been trimmed, but it doesn't feel too long for the most part, occasional scenes notwithstanding. The worst offender is the 4 minute opening credits! One weird section was the high society swing's club, where they play Baby Elephant Shuffle, then switch to a slow Strauss waltz, before abruptly cutting back to the swinging 60s beats, and surprisingly not breaking their backs from the whiplash.

As well as having a good sense of humour, there's also plenty of funny dialogue here
"She's in Paris with that sex maniac!"-"Please Michael, Paul Bellari is a gentleman, urbane and sophisticated."-"You think that's a drawback to being a sex maniac?"

The acting is fun all round, with Day and Rod Taylor being good leads (although I am always resentful he affects an American accent in his movies! Traitor...). Sergio Fantoni is amusing, playing the role just slimy enough to work, but not so much that he becomes unlikeable. Hermione Baddeley is an old dear, playing a perfect grand dame. Maura McGiveney is sultry and scheming, while Leon Askin is over-the-top in his role, in a good or bad way depending on the viewer.

Do Not Disturb is a nice treat. Not the greatest rom-com out there, but certainly not bad, and a good portrait of its era...

The 12 Days of Doris Day: Move Over, Darling (1963)

Nick Arden is a newly remarried widower, finally ready to settle down again after the tragic disappearance of his old wife Ellen five years ago. Trouble ensues however when Ellen shows up, very much alive, and horrified by his new relationship. With the help of her mother-in-law, she tries to win Nick back, while he tries to keep both women happy while not being arrested for bigamy...

Move Over, Darling is hardly new territory, being yet another comedic update on the Enoch Arden story. It entertains though, and is never boring.

This is a lot more one-sided than these stories usually are. Oftentimes both parties are sympathetic, and which husband/wife the poor sap ends up with is completely up to the fates. But here we know how everything is gonna wrap up. How it gets there though is where things will hopefully get interesting, and sure enough they do.

Ellen is a good protagonist, with a well-crafted dilemma. She never comes across as bitchy, which is a must for a story like this. It's also funny seeing the culture shock, like how this woman from the 50s suddenly has to contend with answering machines, and things like that. These are highlights of the film, though it doesn't give them a huge focus. Perhaps that's good, it means they're not pushing the joke on too thick.

Nicky meanwhile has his moments here and there, both positive and negative. He's never completely unreasonable, but is also flawed enough. Overall he is a good egg, and he and Ellen share good chemistry together.

Grace is a funny old bird. Despite being Nicky's mother, she is Ellen's confidante for the movie. She's mainly comic relief, but gets an active role in the climax.

The presence of the children singlehandedly gives the movie a sense of drama and pathos that really grounds it, and makes the overall plot and characters have more stakes.

One issue the movie does have thanks to the one-sided narrative is that we never really get to see much of Bianca. Although Ellen does at least have the decency to outright say she doesn't blame her for the whole debacle (she blames Nicky). The other 'rival' of the piece is the other man who Ellen was stranded on the island with, which leads to some amusing jealousy from Nicky, though what felt like a last-minute cop-out to smooth things over.

The dialogue here is great, and the characters would frequently say exactly what I was thinking! That's the mark of a great script right there (well, or a predictable one if done poorly, but you know that ain't the case here). There's also a bizarrely meta moment where Ellen actually mentions the original movie!

The problems with Move Over, Darling are few and far between, but the big one is the length. at 103 minutes it's not egregiously long, but still longer than it really has any right to be. You could trim off 20 minutes and it wouldn't be missed. To put it into perspective, the hotel honeymoon takes half the film, and Bianca doesn't find out Ellen is alive until well over an hour in. And after this point she disappears entirely until the final 10 minutes.

Swinging back to the positives though, you may remember the previous Day-Garner vehicle The Thrill of It All pissing me off enough to drop the C-bomb. Naturally this left me a touch apprehensive going into Move Over, Darling, though I kept an open mind, and I was quickly proven right. For anyone who watched Thrill and found it as unpleasant as I did, never fear, this is not a repeat.

The cast do fine jobs here. Day and Garner are great leads, sharing good chemistry and sparring well. Thelma Ritter is in a delightfully fun supporting role, where she gets to be her usual sarcastic self. Polly Bergen is enjoyably frosty. The remainder of the cast has many familiar faces, such as Chuck Connors, John Astin, Don Knotts, Fred Clark, and TV alumni Edgar Buchanan also has a small but distinctive role as the disapproving judge.

Move Over, Darling is a real gem. Nothing classic, but a more than decent way of spending an afternoon...