Monday, November 11, 2013

That Touch of Mink (1962)

Director: Delbert Mann                                   Writers: Stanley Shapiro & Nate Monaster
Film Score: George Dunning                          Cinematography: Russell Metty
Starring: Doris Day, Cary Grant, Audrey Meadows and Gig Young

There are romantic comedies and then there are sex comedies, and while I love a good romcom, something about the sex comedy seems awfully tedious. That Touch of Mink is definitely in the later camp. It’s a one-note film that tries to milk as much humor as it can out of whether or not Doris Day will give it up for Cary Grant before they’re married. While there are some funny scenes and some inspired moments, there’s no way to maintain that kind of comedy for over an hour and a half. The film begins, in typical romcom fashion, with everywoman Day on her way to a job interview and the wealthy Grant splashing her with his Rolls Royce on the way to his office. Naturally she’s upset, and goes into the automat where her roommate, Audrey Meadows, works. When Gig Young, Grant’s assistant, hears of her plight he’s delighted to take her to his office so that Grant can finally get what he deserves.

Of course it doesn’t work out that way. The minute Day sets eyes on Grant she falls for him and he wastes no time getting her out of her dress . . . so it can be cleaned by the valet. Grant brings her in on a business meeting and she manages to help them make the deal he’s been working on, and so he asks her out for dinner, which she gladly accepts. He takes her to a Yankees game, where she manages to get Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Yogi Barra kicked out of the game. Delighted at her small town ways, Grant wants to see more of her, literally, and invites her on a trip to Bermuda. There she imagines everyone knows she’s sleeping with Grant, even though she manages to avoid it by breaking out in a rash. Grant, sitting by the pool, meets a number of newly married men who are nervous and avoiding their wedding night, the opposite problem for Grant. After she recovers in New York they try again, but this time she gets drunk and falls off the balcony.

Like the best of romcoms, it is the sidekicks who generate the most laughs. Audrey Meadows, who had worked exclusively in television to this point, is tremendous as the wisecracking roommate who warns Day off of Grant at first. Apparently Grant, who was a big fan of The Honeymooners, was able to get her the part and one wishes she had been able to do a lot more film work. Gig Young is the tortured soul who feels responsible for leading Day right into Grant’s clutches. One of his funniest bits is whenever he goes back to the automat. Meadows, agreeing that he is responsible, comes up with a number of ways to show her displeasure from slapping him with a hand that shoots out of the machine to throwing salad in his face. They are extremely well filmed gags that are some of the funniest moments in the film. In addition there are some nice cameo appearances by Dick Sergeant, John Fiedler, and John Astin, whom Day goes out with to get Grant jealous at the end.

Doris Day, of course, had been in a bunch of these films in the late fifties and early sixties, with the likes of Rock Hudson and James Garner. The teaming with Cary Grant was a natural after he had done An Affair to Remember with Deborah Kerr and Indiscreet with Ingrid Bergman, and he would go on to film Charade with Audrey Hepburn shortly after. This would be one of Grant’s last films, as he felt he didn’t need the money and wanted to go out remembered as a leading man rather than a grandfatherly Spencer Tracy type. That Touch of Mink follows a predictable formula, with the kind of early sixties sensibilities that would soon be dropped wholesale after the death of President Kennedy. It reflects an earlier, innocent time in our history and for that it’s an interesting period piece. If you like this sort of thing, it does hold interest. If not, it could be a long one hundred minutes.

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