Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bad Movie Theatre: I Should Have Heeded the Title of This Doris Day Film

I had been warned. Last May, fellow classic movie blogger Java Bean Rush reviewed Do Not Disturb and called it "difficult to watch." Apparently, I was looking for a challenge because I watched this 1965 clunker last night. The real reason, of course, is Doris Day--whose 1961 comedy Lover Come Back ranks among my favorite films.

With Rock Hudson in Lover Come Back.
Looking back over Doris's films of that decade, the sudden drop in quality is astonishing. In the first half of the 1960s, she made the aforementioned classic, That Touch of Mink, The Thrill of It All, Move Over Darling, and Send Me No Flowers. All five films are entertaining comedies that pair Doris with charming leading men (e.g., Cary Grant, James Garner, and Rock Hudson) capable of generating their own laughs. 

That's a stark contrast to the rest of the 1960s, in which Doris followed Do Not Disturb with The Glass Bottom Boat (which has some decent laughs) and then subpar pictures like The Ballad of Josie, CapriceWhere Were You When the Lights Went Out?, and With Six You Get Eggroll. By the end of the decade, she had retired from the movies and moved on to television. (Several books blame Doris's then-husband and manager Martin Melcher for committing her to these less-than-stellar pictures.)

Janet (Doris Day) and Mike (Rod Taylor) get lost (note the unimpressive rear screen).

Janet with the handsome antiques
dealer (Sergio Fantoni)
But let's get back to Do Not Disturb, which stars Doris and Rod Taylor as Janet and Mike Harper, Americans who have moved to Great Britain so he can work for a wool clothing company. The Harpers are a dysfunctional couple: he wants to live in an apartment close to work, so she buys a house in the English countryside without his consent. He spends more time with his younger, attractive secretary than with his wife. She suspects him of having an affair with his secretary; he suspects her of having an affair with a French antiques dealer. There's a lot of mistrust in this marriage--but, after several lame misunderstandings, it all ends happily.

Janet mistakes a fox for a dog.
Along the way, Doris's character saves a fox from hunters, plays soccer in the Parisian streets with children, gets drunk on wine, and is mistaken for her husband's mistress at a "business convention." The only time she appears to be having fun is when she's frolicking in Paris--without her husband. And that is the fatal flaw with Do Not Disturb: this couple rarely seems happy together...when they are together. They're just not a likable pair and that's saying a lot when one of them is played by Doris Day.

The lack of production values boggles the mind. Poor rear-screen shots combine with stagy sets to create the Harpers' country estate and the streets of Paris. Even the instantly forgettable title song, warbled by Doris, sounds off-key.

My advice to you is not to make the same mistake I did. When a movie's title is Do Not Disturb, heed the advice and don't bother with it!


  1. The biggest flaw is that it is meant to be set in England and then Paris, but it was all obciously shot on the hollywood backlot! It looks totally fake and shoddy from start to finish - such a contrast to Doris's witty earlier ones like The Thrill of It All. Her Midnight Lace is also meant to be set in London, but apart from a few location shots and a London bus it is all faked in the studio too but that didnt matter so much as its mostly set indoors.

    1. Yes, the low productions values are atrocious and, as you pointed out, more noticeable because of the outdoors scenes.

  2. Wow - I'll take your advice and pass on that one! I have really enjoyed some of the early Day films - just watched MY DREAM IS YOURS this week and found it really charming, but I didn't care for PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES much at all, and DO NOT DISTURB sounds even worse. Poor Doris. She could be so entertaining with the right material.

  3. Rick,
    You're such a brave guy and I do admire your dedication to entertaining us. ha ha

    I'm just not that big of a Doris Day fan and other than Please Don't Eat the Daisies (I enjoyed it only because of Niven) Lover Come Back (because of Randall) The Man Who Knew Too Much (thanks to Stewart and Hitch) Hmmm! I guess I've enjoyed just a handful of her films due to her co-stars. So sorry, Doris! Would saying I enjoyed a few of her films despite her appearance in them be a horrible thing to say?

    Interesting bit of trivia on Melcher being behind her choice of these roles.

    Regardless of how I feel about Day as an actress I think she was a wonderful, kind person who did so many great things as a humanitarian and her love, support of her dear friend Rock is very touching and endearing.

    Thanks for giving us another interesting review, Rick!

    See ya later.

  4. Hi Rick: I, too, am a big Doris Day fan and can never find any fault with her performances. However, it's true that in the mid to late 60s the quality of film she was forced to make (because of that louse of a husband of hers) really tanked. It's probably safe to say that, after 1960, if Rock Hudson and Tony Randall or James Garner aren't around, bypass the Doris Day film.

  5. Thanks for the warning, but too late, I watched it a month ago on our netflix streaming account.

  6. Its in now in TCM, and I bypassed it before I read this review. Why? Because of the opening credits and song ("warbled" is being kind!). I've never heard a Doris Day song I didn't like- until now. Such a shame. Switched over to Andy Griffith DVDs :)

  7. It's really not much in the way of a story, but Doris looks great, her hairstyle is very pretty, as is her wardrobe. I do like the sets also. I can really tell that the exterior of her house is an interior "exterior," although it looks very pretty and perfect. The thing I always felt about this movie is that it seems like three or four sitcom episodes strung together and edited for theatrical release. The first 20 minutes are like the pilot, where there is a lot of exposition and we know they just moved to England, she finds a house, etc. Then there is the episode where she goes off to France for lunch with the decorator. Then there is the party with all the mistaken identities at the end. There are a few other plots in there but I can't recall them offhand. This movie really is the point where her movie career started to slide (with "The Glass Bottom Boat" returning her to top form, in my opinion, but then declining again from there). I actually think "With Six You Get Eggroll" is pretty good, and has a lot of realism to it. What mars it is the sitcom ending, where they are all out on the road (in pajamas and nightgowns, if memory serves), with the chicken truck that has just crashed and feathers flying everywhere. However, up until the final 15 minutes it was a fairly adult movie (in the sense of not being silly, and with realistic dialogue - and the scenes with her and Brian Keith seem real and natural).