Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked (or Forgotten) Film: THAT TOUCH OF MINK (1962) starring Cary Grant, Doris Day and Gig Young

THAT TOUCH OF MINK (1962) is a film directed by Delbert Mann, starring Cary Grant, Doris Day, Gig Young and Audrey Meadows. I consider it one of Day's 'perpetual virgin' entries and as such, should be viewed through that prism.

That this movie was made a little over fifty years ago (yegads that reads like ancient history) is obvious from the fashions, the Pan American Airways planes, the Greyhound bus logo and most of all, the Horn and Hardart Automat restaurant where the wise-cracking Audrey Meadows (Doris Day's room-mate) works. Ah, the 'rock-solid' symbols of the good old days.

But more telling than any of the fondly remembered product placements (though Greyhound, at least, is still with us) are the social attitudes, the sexist drivel which is at the heart of this movie. There's a lot of nonsense spoken by Doris Day and Audrey Meadows, not to mention, Cary Grant and assorted others.

But as I watched this last night, occasionally cringing, I found myself laughing out loud (and being embarrassed the neighbors might hear) at some key scenes I'd forgotten about. (Yes, I saw this in theaters and loved it then. What did I know?)

Most of these laugh-out-loud scenes are Gig Young's doing since he steals the picture from under everyone's noses (and doesn't Grant realize it). If there's any real reason to see this ancient bit of male/female will-she-won't-she, it's Gig Young, an underrated actor with one of the sweetest smiles ever recorded by a camera. Though his personal life was tortured in a way that led to eventual tragedy, his on-screen persona was generally damned endearing.

His Oscar win however, was for a 'straight' dramatic role, the sleazy dance marathon emcee in THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY? Young was adept at drama, but it's his comedy performances that I remember most with fondness.

In THAT TOUCH OF MINK, Young plays a perpetually hapless guy (his specialty) named Roger, an ex-academic who has, according to him, succumbed to the lure of an exorbitant salary ($50,000 - chickenfeed today, but back then seen as Big Bucks) and continued bonuses offered him by investment tycoon Philip Shayne (Cary Grant), which Roger is unable to turn down.

In his job as company right hand man to the suave Shayne, Roger is continuously maligning the life he is unable to walk away from as Shayne threatens to raise his salary. These bits are amusing and often seem ad-libbed.

Cary Grant plays the aforementioned suave millionaire (back when millions was important money) in an unusually deadpan way which makes him seem miles away while filming. It's a bit hard to understand why he is so taken with Doris Day's character, Cathy Timberlake.

It's all probably meant to be a kind of 'opposites attract' type thing, but there is not one iota of sexual energy being discharged by anyone in this film, not even by the sleazy, slimy, reptilian and repulsive unemployment insurance clerk Everett Beasley who has the unacceptable hots for Cathy (Doris Day). Beasley is played by John Astin, a very odd looking actor with, nevertheless, hidden suave, who later went on to prove it by starring as Gomez Addams in The Addams Family television series.

In truth, Grant and Astin (so diametrically opposite in looks and manner) occupy two sides of the same coin. Grant's character is rich beyond avarice, handsome, suave and looks good taking a shower or running out into the street wrapped in nothing but a towel.

He is after Cathy Timberlake in the same way and for the same reason as Beasley, but Grant does it with finesse, splendid good looks and a mink coat. Beasley does it with protruding hungry eyes and by trying to withhold Cathy's unemployment check unless she goes out with him. He simply cannot hide (as Grant can) the lascivious thoughts running rampant through his psyche when he looks at Doris.

Neither of these men are interested in marriage.

It's that either/or thing so beloved of movies of that era.

Anyway, on to Doris Day. I was never really crazy about the Rock Hudson/Doris Day pairings  beloved by many movie mavens. I preferred her with David Niven in PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES among other films, and even here, in this ancient chestnut opposite Cary Grant.

Day had a sweetly spunky (and very blond) screen persona which she played to the hilt and could often be endearing and quirky (she was also a talented singer though she is not called upon to do so here).

But you know, she really was a bit too old to keep playing the perpetual virgin as long as she did. In  THAT TOUCH OF MINK she is, again, protecting her virginity, this time from Cary Grant's rather tired playboy persona. Doris is, however, fabulous at physical comedy and has a couple of really hilarious scenes with Grant even if it's hard to believe he has designs on her person at all. (Although she does look mighty good in a sleek black evening gown.)

Cathy Timberlake (Doris Day) is an unemployed clerk from Upper Sandusky, Ohio, who first meets debonair millionaire Philip Shayne (Cary Grant) when his limo has a drive-by encounter with her clothing on a rainy day in New York. That innocent enough beginning soon leads to romantic complications, several unconsummated trips to Bermuda plus this that and the other including a wild taxi drive chase to Asbury Park, New Jersey (of all places).

It's all an excuse for several very funny sight gags (one concerning Gig Young's attempted visit to Cathy's Manhattan apartment) and some fun dialogue between Grant and Young. Not to mention Young's dialogue with his psychiatrist who mistakenly gets that impression that...But wait, you have to see these scenes to believe them.

Audrey Meadows, as Cathy's room-mate Connie, has the sort of cynical, wise-cracking lines that are clearly meant to be funny (and maybe once upon a time, they were) but in hindsight, are anything but. She plays a nagging mother hen leery of men in general but at heart, we know, anxious to fashion her own happily ever after. The only problem is that she's not really likable.

An aside: THAT TOUCH OF MINK always made me wonder why a woman needed a mink coat while traveling in Bermuda. I mean, isn't it hot there? But why digress, the mink is obviously meant as a symbol of decadence - The Purchase Price. I mean, if not marriage, then mink was the next best thing.

Dumb and simplistic. Yeah, but that's the way things worked back in the day. Though I still say that Doris Day and Audrey Meadows were both a bit long in the tooth to be worrying about this sort of thing even then.

The movie is worth watching mainly for Gig Young (I might even watch it yet again) and I did love the sight of that Pan American plane headed to Bermuda. I guess I never did understand how companies like Pan America and Horn and Hardart lost their way. They seemed such a permanent part of life back then.

THAT TOUCH OF MINK trailer can be viewed here.

Don't forget to head on over to Todd Mason's blog, Sweet Freedom, to see what other Overlooked (or Forgotten) Films and/or Other Audio/Visuals, other bloggers are talking about today. We make for an eclectic bunch.


  1. We do make an eclectic bunch, and sometimes I even get the links to work correctly even when they abut the stills. Thanks for this...there is room for clear-eyed reassessments of fluff like this, particularly when you (as you do) take in their craft and wit along with the (even poisonous at times) goofiness and wrongheadedness...

    Astin made a career of improving weak projects and solidly contributing to good ones (such as ST. ELSEWHERE, which he had the good fortune to play France Nuyen's character's husband).

  2. I never saw this movie and your review made me want to see it asap, Yvette!

    I loved the reference to St. Elsewhere in the comment above -- that was one of my favorite TV shows as it reminded me of my time working on a ward in St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan a long time ago!

  3. Great review Yvette, really took me back to the 80 when I used to watch all of these movies in the early 80s dubbed into Italian! I loved all these sex comedies from the 1960s, especially those written by Stanley Shapiro. I think the best is probably the secod of the Hudson / Day films, LOVER COME BACK with the great Tony Randall and lots of satirical barbs at the advertising industry.

  4. Enjoyed your review, Yvette, interlaced as it always is with a dash of humour. I'd see this film more for Doris Day than Cary Grant though, I admit, I'm not familiar with Gig Young.

  5. Astin was such an odd duck, Todd. What a memorable face. Once seen, never forgotten. I loved him as Gomez. But truth to tell, I don't remember him in St. Elsewhere.

    I don't mind talking about fluff. As you can tell. Ha.

  6. Pat, I know I watched St. Elsewhere, but darn if I can remember any of it except for the odd snip or two.

    You can watch this for 2.99 over at Amazon rentals. That's where I watched it. Otherwise you have to wait for the DVD to arrive from Netflix. :)

    Gig Young is so wonderful in this. It's worth the 2.99.

  7. I saw all these movies in the theater, Sergio, and enjoyed them all mostly for the secondary casting which was always topnotch.

    I love Tony Randall too.

  8. Prashant, you must make yourself familiar with Gig Young. :) He is simply one of the best character actors ever to grace the screen. His timing, his endearing face, his 'everything' is always worth watching. Such a sad life, but at least we have his movies.

  9. You really hit this one out of the ballpark, Yvette -- another smashing review! Right up there with the best of them, and witty, as ever.

    I appreciate the critique on the sexism in the film -- of course!

    But this makes me want to see it again so I can laugh and just wallow in one of those oldies but goodies.

    I like Cary Grant in these movies; he was so charming, even though a roue, but since he was so debonair, he's excused.

    I loved St. Elsewhere, never missed an episode.

    And I love Tony Randall and there's a personal connection, too. He grew up in the section of the Bronx where my mother grew up, too, went to the same high school. And later he lived in my grandmother's apartment building.

  10. Thanks for the kind words, Kathy. I'm glad you enjoyed the review. :) It was fun to write.

    The attitudes in this film are like something from ancient history, but it's still worth seeing. You can never have too much laughter.

    Everyone in New York seems to be connected (six degrees of separation in action?) in some way or another. Did you ever meet Tony Randall? I love the man. I never missed an episode of The Odd Couple. Of course I also love Jack Klugman. :)

  11. Unfortunately, I never met Tony Randall, but my grandmother and mother knew him.

    A lot of actors, directors and other artists lived in the same section of the Bronx and went to the high school my mother attended.

    She also knew the director Jules Dassen, who married Melina Mercouri and others, too.

  12. I wanted to get this movie out of the library, but -- drat, they only had a four-movie set with Cary Grant!

    So, life could be worse than watching four of Cary Grant's movies, the suave, debonair charmer; I'll watch them.

  13. This is one from my childhood, when each Saturday, instead of cartoons, we watched AMC. Parts of it are oh so silly, but I still adore it. And Cary, you know he's my man. You're right, though, about the chemistry. It's funny because I'm so critical of much of what I watch today, but I rarely am of these classics. I guess there's something in me that wants to protect them (or me) from criticism. I'm aware of what's there, but I hate thinking about it too much. :)

  14. Kathy, it sounds like you come from a very entertaining neighborhood. :)

    A lot of NY neighborhoods were like that, I suppose. At least back in the day.

    Calvin Klein went to my high school, though I believe he graduated the year before I came in as a Freshman.

    The great fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez also went to my school. We graduated in the same class.

    Years ago I used to work near 57th and fifth and I have a theory that if you stand there long enough, you will eventually see everyone who's anyone.

  15. Oh you are so right, Picky. It's hard to tinker with memories. :)

  16. I just rewatched this movie years after seeing it. I enjoyed it and laughed at times, even though the sexism got to me a bit -- I mean, putting Doris Day in the back of a car like cargo in a truck.
    But, I digress.
    This was fun. I thought Gig Young and Audrey Meadows were scene stealers -- yes, I liked her.
    And, in the shower or dressed in a suit, Cary Grant is irresistable, always suave, always charming.
    I now have a four-dvd set of Cary Grant movies, and I'll probably see this all. After all, it's a holiday week where one can do whatever one wants.


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