Midnight Lace (1960)

Synopsis:

After marrying a British businessman (Rex Harrison, My Fair Lady), an American woman (Doris Day, Pillow Talk) moves to London, where she immediately starts receiving threatening phone calls. Scared for her life, the lady asks the police for help, but the authorities suspect that she is just a neurotic housewife seeking attention.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“Careful, Mrs. Preston. I wouldn’t want you to get hurt. Not yet.”

You can always count on producer Ross Hunter (Airport) to make a good-looking movie. Hunter believed that aesthetics are the most important elements of cinema. Who cares about having a great script when you have beautiful actors, fancy gowns, glossy camerawork and posh sets? He might have been onto something.

As I was watching Hunter’s daffy thriller Midnight Lace, I found myself completely immersed in the movie’s ridiculously super-slick world. The film is artificial to the nth degree, and derivative as heck, yet I enjoyed every moment of it. It just proves that Hunter was right all along: style-over-substance movies can be a lot of fun.

Midnight Lace is like a dumbed-down version of Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder (1954) (British actors John Williams and Anthony Dawson appear in both movies). If you think this comparison spoils the film for you, I want to assure you that this is an unspoilable movie. I’ll bet a Givenchy powder puff that anyone five years of age or older will be able to predict the final twist ten minutes into the movie.

Midnight Lace also anticipates the so-called “hagsploitation” craze of the 1960s. The only difference between this, and, let’s say, something like Robert Aldrich’s Hush… Hush Sweet Charlotte (1964), is that Doris Day was in her prime when she made the film, hardly the middle-aged heroine who is often found at the center of these types of films.

Speaking of Day, I have to praise her for producing and sustaining the proper amount of hysteria throughout the entire movie. According to some sources, Day was so immersed in her character that she passed out during one of her breakdown scenes. It is her last dramatic part, and it’s a pity that she spent the rest of her career in light comedies and musicals — I would have loved to see her take on more serious roles.

Debonair Rex Harrison is also effective as Day’s devoted husband. Myrna Loy (The Thin Man) steals a few scenes as Day’s ultra-chic aunt. Also, with John Gavin (Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho) as a construction foreman who befriends Day, Herbert Marshall (The Little Foxes) as Harrison’s business partner, Roddy McDowall (How Green Was My Valley) as Day’s maid’s irresponsible son and the inimitable Hermione Baddeley (The Unsinkable Molly Brown) as a brassy pub hostess.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

I tend to judge movies for what they want to do, not for what I want them to do. Sleekly directed by David Miller (Captain Newman, M.D.), Midnight Lace was made for the sole purpose of giving fans of damsel-in-distress thrillers a good time, and on those terms, the film is a success. Notwithstanding a flawed script, the movie works as a snazzy slice of silly entertainment. Color, 108 minutes, Not Rated.

This is my contribution to Doris Day Blogathon, hosted by Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

22 responses to “Midnight Lace (1960)

  1. I remember when Turner Classic Movies tried its own line of DVD releases that Midnight Lace was one of their few exclusive releases. TCM’s DVD had a magnificent transfer from a, at the time, newly discovered print that brought the film back from obscurity. I only saw part of the film myself, but it was indeed a good time.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I just finished rewatching this a few minutes ago and I love your assessment of it. The script definitely needed more work, but I mainly come to this movie for the aesthetics. The colors are just stunning, as are Doris’s and Myrna Loy’s clothes! (I also forgot how downright handsome John Gavin is here. So dreamy!)

    Thanks for contributing to my blogathon!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. One I’ve always wanted see, for the exact reason you mention: to see Doris in a thrilling, dramatic role. I guess you could say her work in ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ was dramatic, but I’m guessing this one’s a bit more…chilling? Maybe because she’s in the lead here, her acting skills in a serious role are more impactful? Definitely one I’ll continue to search out…sadly, my TCM Doris Day collection is NOT the one with ‘Midnight Lace’!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are absolutely right. Day is the last person you expect to see in a thriller, and that’s interesting in itself. I believe she made 4 thrillers (Storm Warning, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Julie and Midnight) and she was good quite good in all those movies.

      If you liked things like Dead Ringer, Strait-Jacket, The Night Walker and Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte (all released in 1964!), you will enjoy Midnight Lace.

      Liked by 1 person

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