The Second Annual Doris Day Blogathon…

Midnight Lace

source: Universal Pictures

Doris Day.

Happy Birthday, first of all. Secondly, give yourself a pat on the back.

She really outdid herself this time.

The Doris Day that we like to remember is the girl next door. She’s everyone’s best friend, she’s one who married her child high school sweetheart and bakes cookies for her children’s school bake sale.

Perhaps that facade gets masks the true hidden talent in Day‘s acting arsenal.

In the thriller Midnight Lace, the ‘Hitchcock Day™‘ (something, I dubbed her after watching The Man Who Knew Too Much ) was out in full force.

The film follows newly-wed Kit Preston and her struggles to adjust to life in England. Not only does she have to deal with the melancholic weather and a different culture, she’s also being phone stalked by a man who’s threatening to kill her.

Her husband Anthony ‘Tony’ Preston, played by Rex Harrison, insists that it’s just a practical joke and tries to calm her down with an extended honeymoon to Venice.

Midnight Lace 1960 2

source: Universal Studios

The next day Kit prepares for this trip by buying a variety of clothing. During her shopping spree, she nearly gets hit by a falling girder from a nearby construction site. This is where we get introduced to Brain Younger, played by John Gavin.

He quickly takes an interest in Mrs. Preston, acting as a guardian angel of sorts, whenever she gets in trouble.

The phone calls continue, getting more and more hostile as the days roll on. It gets so bad that Tony takes the initiative and gets Scotland Yard involved. Immediately they bombard Mrs. Preston with a litany questions. Ranging from, ‘do you have any enemies?’ to ‘are you happy in your marriage?’

Naturally Tony takes offense and that leads the head detective, played by John Willams, to question him, insinuating that he may behind this entire ‘stunt.’

As if things can’t get any worse for Kit, Tony cancels their trip to Venice, claiming that work has got him extraordinarily busy.

midnigh lace 1960 3

source: Universal Studios

Luckily, a few days later Kit’s vivacious Aunt Bea, played by Myrna Loy, shows up for an extended stay at her flat.

Things progressively get stranger as the weeks go on. It starts with Kit getting stuck in an elevator and having a panic attack. What she believes is her stalker is actually Brian apologizing for his construction site cutting off the electricity. Next, she gets pushed in front of a moving bus in front of a crowd of strangers The final straw is when the people around start to doubt her, calling her delusional and paranoid.

Tony and Bea take her to a physician where he clears her of all potential ailments.

Seeing as though there’s nothing wrong, Tony decides to re-schedule their trip to Venice, at the insistence of Aunt Bea.

A couple of days pass without calls and the Preston’s deduce that they must’ve stopped. It isn’t until late one night when Tony’s due at a business meeting across town that the calls continue. This time, Tony actually hears the threats. He quickly tells Kit that he’ll cancel his meeting and they’ll devise a plan on how to catch the stranger.

Tony plans to walk out of the building, in plain sight, sneak back in and catch the killer in the middle of his act.

He does just that and this is where the film gets even crazier.

Midnight Lace 1960 4

source: Universal Studios

They wrestle for a while until the “stranger” gets shot with his own weapon. I put “stranger” in quotations because he isn’t a stranger at all but the naval husband of Kit’s supposed best friend and next door neighbor Peggy Thompson, played by Natasha Perry.

This is important because she’s being used as a witness in Tony’s plot to kill Kit while making it look like an accident. You see, Tony recently found that one of his employees’ embezzled one million pounds away from his company. The only way to get that money is to, apparently, kill his wife.

Her husband Roy Ash, played by Anthony Dawson, has been stalking Tony’s movements ever since he returned home from the war. He believed that they were having an affair, and that’s why he’s been so secretive.

Stuck at crossroads, Kit sprints towards her bedroom where she screams out for help. Once again, Brian is there to save the day, conveniently walking out of the pub just in time to help Kit cascade down the scaling safely.

Moments later the police arrive, arresting Tony, Peggy and getting medical help for the wounded ‘intruder’ lying on the ground so desperately needs.

The final shot of the film has Brian and Aunt Bea walking off in the distance comforting Kit with words of encouragement.

Conclusion

midnight-lace-the-end

source: Universal Studios

As I stated earlier, Day‘s dramatic acting skills are very underrated.

During the entire film, I was in shock at how well she carried the heavier, fear-inducing scenes.

I suppose that’s a testament to the director, David Miller.

His use of shadows and darkness to create a frantic mood truly terrified me. As for the acting performances, Rex Harrison was positively unsettling. I always suspected he was up to something, It didn’t surprise me when he revealed himself to be the ‘bad guy’ at the end.

I AM surprised that Doris didn’t receive a nomination for her role as Kit. I thought she did a phenomenal job, acting alongside Myrna Loy certainly isn’t an easy task, but she pulled it off flawlessly.

Speaking of Myrna Loy, I absolutely adored in this movie. Her delivery was quick, witty and at time heartbreak (when we reach the film’s climax, anyway.)

As the film ended, I couldn’t help but think that Day‘s character would bounce back that ordeal.

In my mind, she’d fly back to the States with Aunt Bea for a period of time while they clean out her old apartment, keeping in touch with Brian through a letter correspondence. After a couple of weeks in the US, she’ll return to England where she and Brian will move in together, eventually marrying months later.

One can only hope, right? Please tell me I’m not the only one who believes this?

 

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Till Death Us Do Part Blogathon…

unfaithfully yours

source: Twentieth Century-Fox

More people should know about Preston Sturges.

He’s the director of many wonderful comedies like Sullivan’s Travel’s, The Lady Eve and The Palm Beach Story, and his 1948 effort Unfaithfully Yours is no different. Starring Rex Harrison, Linda Darnell, Rudy Vallée and Barbara Lawrence, the movie tells the story of British conductor Alfred de Carter (played by Rex Harrison) and his wife Daphne (played by the gorgeous Linda Darnell.) The de Carter’s are your typical, upper middle-class couple. He loves her unconditionally, and she loves the attention he gives her (in a good way.)

Here’s the twist, he wants nothing more than to kill her.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. This fine, loving, caring husband wishes to kill his wife in the most gruesome way possible.

How did he reach this breaking point you may ask?

Well, his wife cheated.

Isn’t murder justifiable when your spouse cheats on you? Preston Sturges seems to think so, but, not exactly in the way that you think.

Unfaithfully-Yours-DI

source: Twentieth Century-Fox

You see, instead of making Unfaithfully Yours into a thriller/drama in the vain of Dial M for Murder, Sturges decides to take this material and make into a dark comedy.

Genius!

It works perfectly, even though movie goers at the time didn’t think so (we’ll discuss this later.)

The film starts off with Mrs. de Carter waiting at an airport with a group of family members/ friends, eagerly anticipating the return of her husband from his native country of England. Alfred steps off the plane, sees his wife, rushes out as quickly as possible and immediately gives her one the biggest embraces I’ve seen on camera.

After that big hubbub at the airport, the group checks into a rather luxurious hotel a few miles away. While freshening up after his cross Atlantic trip from England, Alfred’s brother- in- law August Henschler (played by Rudy Vallée) admits that he misunderstood what he meant when Alfred told him to “watch his wife” while he was out of town.

Oh, dear.

August mistakenly hires a detective named “Sweeney” (played by Edgar Kennedy) that was tasked with following Mrs. de Carter for the duration of her husband’s trip to England. Henschler takes it one step further when he shows his brother-in-law Sweeny’s report about his wife.

Unfaithfully Yours

source: Twentieth Century-Fox

Irate at him for doing such a thing, Alfred quickly tears up the report then storms out the door to start rehearsals for his orchestra.

Upon returning from the rehearsal, he gets a visit from the hotel’s resident detective (apparently they have those) who gives him another copy of the ripped up report. Determined to get rid of it once and for all, Alfred pulls out a match, lights it on fire, and promptly throws it into the garbage can. This, consequently, ends up setting the drapes a blaze.

It is here where we get out first slapstick moment of the movie. Mr. de Carter sprints to the nearest fire hose and attempts to put out the fire to no success. A second fellow runs to another hose and tries to put it out, but, he just ends up spraying Mr. de Carter. The whole thing is a mess, it really is an absurd scene in the best way possible.

Anyway.

Alfred’s firefighting makes him late to his dinner with his wife.

Rex Harrison and Linda Darnell

source: Twentieth Century-Fox

At the restaurant, just before meeting up with his wife, Alfred runs into Daphne’s sister Barbara (played by Barbara Lawrence) and her husband August, who’s sitting a few feet away from his reserved table.

She makes an off the cuff remark about Daphne and his secretary Anthony Windborn (played by Kurt Kreuger) looking “too cute” sitting alone together at his table.

He brushes off her comment and joins the pair at the table. But, all the while he’s enjoying their company, he can’t help but think that his wife actually did step out on him. Wanting to quench this urge, he seeks out the detective agency that ‘stalked’ his wife. He finds the office and runs into the man who originally gave the report to his brother-in-law: Sweeney.

Sweeney wants to tell him the things that were on the report, but, he insinuates that the acts on it were too lewd. He explains that one night, Daphne was seen leaving another man’s room after about 38 minutes, only wearing negligee. At first, Alfred was terribly hurt. Then, an avalanche of rage washes over his face.

He bolts back to the hotel, where he discovers that the number of the room his wife walked out of was that of his secretary, Tony.

Unfaithfully Yours table scene

source: Twentieth Century-Fox

He catches up with his wife who’s getting ready to head out for her husband’s performance later that night. Alfred finds her in the middle of putting on her dress and proceeds to give her the cold shoulder.

Daphne, obviously upset about the way her husband is treating her, runs off in resentment to the concert hall.

Arriving at the hall about 30 minutes later, Alfred shows up and takes his conductor’s stand. During his performance, Alfred imagines three scenarios in which he can handle this situation.

The first is a rather gruesome scene. He imagines slashing his wife’s throat and somehow blaming it on her ‘lover’ Tony. The whole plan is rather complex and very precise, it truly is very impressive. The second scenario is him apologizing her and her lover, proclaiming that, “youth needs youth” while simultaneously writing a check out in Daphne’s name for $100,000. In the third and final scenario, Alfred challenges his wife and Tony to a game of wits by forcing them to participate in a game of Russian roulette.

After the third-daydream ends, which happens to coincide with his last song, Alfred rushes out of the concert hall and takes a cab back to their apartment where he attempts to set up the scenario from his first daydream.

In classic Sturges style, everything fails hilariously.

Rex Harrsion in Unfaithfully Yours

source:  Twentieth Century-Fox

Every detail Alfred planned beforehand in his head, doesn’t come to fruition.

He’s a bumbling fool and I’m dying of laughter.

He makes a mess of his apartment and realizes that he should quit while he’s ahead when he cuts himself trying to make a straight blade razor a little bit sharper. His wife Daphne walks in and surveys the mess her husband has made. Insisting that he has a cold, she convinces Alfred to stop whatever he’s doing and get some rest.

Alfred discerns from his wife’s reaction that she truly does love him. He gives up on his giant temper tantrum and, finally, asks his wife why she was in Tony’s room. Daphne explains that she suspected Barbara of having an affair with Tony. So, she went to into his room to see if she was there – she was not.

So, there she is, in another man’s room in a negligee with a detective trailing her every move. She sees the private eye and swiftly sneaks into an empty room. By the time she gets to this point in her story, Alfred starts to connect the dots: Sweeney was the man who was following her, and that the entire situation was just a big misunderstanding.

The movie ends with Alfred taking his wife in his arms, begging for forgiveness, and quoting a line from a poem that states, “a thousand poets dreamed for a thousand years, then you were born, my love.”

Conclusion

Many movie fans (including myself) may have enjoyed this movie, but at the time of its release, audience members unanimously rejected the film’s ‘dark’ tone. I could understand this sentiment. There are some fairly dark moments in the film, yes, but it is a dark comedy, and I don’t think many people understood that in 1948. I suppose that’s one of the many reasons it didn’t do too well at the box office.

As for my opinion, I believe it’s a fantastic movie.

The acting performances, the directing- all of it! Yes, the subject matter was a little heavy, but the way Preston Sturges directs makes it little less, ‘shocking.’ Rex Harrison and Linda Darnell worked very well together and that contributed to how well acted this movie is. All in all, Unfaithfully Yours is the perfect movie for this blogathon. It’s funny, well scripted, and most importantly, fits the subject matter perfectly.

 

If would like to see the other entries in this blogathon, click: here