Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


Natasha Parry and Doris Day
MIDNIGHT LACE (1960). Director: David Miller.

Wealthy Kit Preston (Doris Day) lives in a beautiful London townhouse with her husband, businessman Anthony Preston (Rex Harrison). She hears creepy voices in the pea-soup fog threatening to kill her, and gets obscene phone calls that Inspector Byrnes (John Williams) thinks may be imaginary. Is Kit overly anxious for her busy husband's attention, or is somebody actually out to get her? If so, there are numerous suspects: Malcolm (Roddy McDowall), the maid's son, who is shiftless and threatening; Brian (John Gavin), who supervises the construction site next to the townhouse and may be overly solicitous; a weird stranger who follows Kit about (Anthony Dawson); and Tony's business associates, Charles (Herbert Marshall) and Daniel (Richard Ney). Doris Day gives one of her best performances in Midnight Lace, convincingly getting across her character's terror and nervousness throughout the movie. Okay, there are times Day rather rabidly masticates the scenery a bit -- especially when she has a meltdown on a staircase -- but her hysteria fits the character, who is so wimpy and helpless at times that you want to slap some sense into her. The other performers are all excellent as well, including Natasha Parry as Kit's friend, Peggy, and Myrna Loy, who adds some class as Kit's Aunt Bea. John Gavin, incredibly handsome in this picture, uses a British accent and is better than usual. Russell Metty's cinematography is first-rate and Frank Skinner's score certainly adds immeasurably to the tension of certain sequences. When Kit asks for bus directions to a London neighborhood, leading to her near-death, you have to wonder why such a fabulously wealthy woman would bother taking a bus in the first place! Williams and Dawson both appeared in Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder. David Miller directed Joan Crawford in an even better woman-in-jeopardy film, Sudden Fear.

Verdict: Smooth, solid, well-acted suspense film. ***.


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill - I like this one too, a lot! You are so right about Doris being a bit over-the-top, but for her, it works - her terror is genuine; I think she was an instinctive Method actor. I am also reminded of the overwrought road rage driving scene in Julie with Louis Jourdan, and her scene of abject hysteria in which Jimmy Stewart tranquilizes her before telling her their son has been kidnapped in Man Who Know Too Much. Doris Day's greatest nervous breakdown scenes, but the Midnight Lace staircase scene takes the cake!

William said...

You're right! But your point is well taken -- her "over-acting" is justified because she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Let's just say Doris' character in this is no Ripley of the Alien movies, LOL!