This week’s contribution to Sweet Freedom’s Overlooked Films is in honor of 87-year Doris Day releasing a new album, I have decided to choose one of my favorite films featuring her – Midnight Lace. I previously listed this film as one of my favorite films set in London.
One reason why I like this film (and her in it) is that it is a departure into the realm of drama for her. For many audiences the mere mention of the name Doris Day conjures up images of a bubbly perky miss singing along and romancing Rock Hudson. But here in Midnight, she attempts to break that typecast. The result — the “All American Girl” goes abroad.
Midnight Lace‘s plot is pretty formulaic, with shades of Hitchcock, Gaslight and several other derivatives, but that does not make it any less entertaining. Kit Preston (Day) is a newly married woman living in London with her husband Tony (Rex Harrison). One of the early scenes tells us that all is not going well for Kit – in the midst of the London fog, a frightening voice calls out to her … with threats of her demise. Distraught, she goes to Tony, who attempts to reassure her that she should dismiss this encounter and “just relax.”
As you can imagine more strange “happenings” occur with an increasing level of frequency and menace, which is matched with Kit’s increasing paranoia. Throw into this scenario the appearance of a handsome stranger (a pretty wooden John Gavin – probably the one element I could do without) and nosy Aunt Bea (Myrna Loy, another personal favorite) and you have all the elements of a story that courses through several twists and turns with an ultimate payoff that may surprise many. For others, it may be a bit predictable, but I still think that is a film that if you have not seen, it is worth giving it a try.
Director: David Miller
Screenplay: Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts, Janet Green (play)
Principle Cast: Doris Day (Kit Preston), Rex Harrison (Tony Preston), John Gavin (Brian Younger), Myrna Loy (Aunt Bea), Roddy McDowall (Malcolm), Herbert Marshall (Charles Manning).
Runtime: 109 minutes
Sources: Wikipedia, tcm.com
Patti Abbott says
Not a big Rex Harrison nor John Gavin fan but I loved Doris and so, this movie.
@Patti – yeah John Gavin (blech). It is funny about Doris Day – she was just a pleasant screen presence.
Jack Deth says
Hi, iluv and company:
‘Midnight Lace’ is kind of an enigma for me. Not quite Hitchcock backed up by attractive London locales. Rex Harrison is comfortable in his own (‘My Fair Lady’, ‘The Yellow Rolls Royce’, ‘Cleopatra, Dr. Doolittle) select niche. And this film ain’t it. George Sanders would have a much better Anthony Preston. While John Gavin seems like an odd third wheel.
Doris Day is wonderfully believable as a distraught woman and gets the most out her moments of suspense. Trying to push out of the envelope Hollywood created for her. While Myna Loy creates and sometimes avoids twists and turns.
Not a film that’s not knocked out of the park, but a solidly hit double to the outfield.
Not a homerun, I agree with Jack, but still a good suspense film. John Gavin belonged to the Tom Tryon school of acting, so he’s mostly a nonentity – even with his good looks. He made a better Ambassador to Mexico. (I think it was Mexico.)
This movie always reminds me of DIAL M FOR MURDER minust the scissor murder. 🙂
@Jack and @Yvette, I also think of a film like Sorry Wrong Number when I think of this film. Another similar film which a bit edgier was Wait Until Dark.
Lace is definitely a Hitchcockian film minus the Hitchcock.
And the ambivalence towards Mr. Gavin seems universal. No complaints here. He was equally stiff in Imitation of Life, one of my guiltier, more melodramatic pleasures.
I’ve never even heard of this one but I might rent it just for the atmospheric London scenery.
I was watching this film on television when I was a teenager. My grandmother walked in and said, “Oh, I saw that. The person who is doing those things is…” and proceeded to tell me the end of the movie before I could stop her.
She was a wonderful person so I didn’t kill her.
Welcome to iluvcinema, Steve!