Monday, November 8, 2021

Doris Day Finds the Thrill of It All

In the early 1960s, Doris Day was romantic comedy royalty. Her films with leading men Rock Hudson, James Garner, and Rod Taylor delighted audiences and scored big at the box office. One of her finest was The Thrill of It All (1963), a sparkling effort that pokes fun at advertising while addressing such ’60s issues as a wife’s right to work.

Doris plays Beverly Boyer, the spouse of obstetrician Dr. Gerald Boyer (James Garner) and mother to their two young children. At a dinner party, she meets Tom Fraleigh, the head of the Happy Soap Company, and comments that the soap "saved her life" that day. She explains that her young daughter put up a fuss about getting her haired washed with the usual tar shampoo. So, Beverly switched Happy Soap instead--which her daughter said "smelled like her piano teacher." Old Mr. Fraleigh is charmed by the story and asks Beverly to do a commercial.

Doris as Beverly Boyer.
After a rocky start, viewers and buyers respond to Beverly's television commercials and she is hired as the Happy Soap spokesperson for $80,000 a year. However, Gerald has trouble adjusting to the family's new life and to his wife's fame. She receives VIP treatment at restaurants and fans seek her autograph. His breaking point comes when he discovers--at a very bad time--that the Happy people have installed a swimming pool in his backyard without notifying him!

Doris Day and James Garner on the set.
In retrospect, the casting of James Garner as Gerald is crucial to the enduring popularity of The Thrill of It All. Viewing the film through a contemporary lens, Gerald comes off as a selfish, chauvinistic spouse who is upset that he is no longer the family's primary breadwinner. He also complains that Beverly's job keeps her away from the children too much, although he is frequently on call due to his job. Gerald could easily be an unlikable character--but that's not the case because he's played by James Garner. The actor uses his natural charm and appeal to make the audience give Gerald the benefit of the doubt. Plus, James Garner and Doris Day make such a convincing couple that we never doubt that Gerald loves Beverly.

Yet, The Thrill of It All is more than just a domestic comedy, as screenwriters Carl Reiner and Larry Gelbart also take aim at television and advertising. Their sharpest jabs are aimed at the anthology show sponsored by Happy Soap, which recycles the same plot in a different setting each week. When one of the executives notes the redundancy, another quips that TV viewers will never notice. The next scene shows Beverly's kids watching the show and describing what the characters will do next--because they realize it was the same plot every week!

Carl Reimer originally envisioned The Thrill of It All as a vehicle for Judy Holliday, but health problems prevented her from taking the lead role. Judy would have been fine, but The Thrill of It All is an ideal vehicle for Doris Day. She and James Garner reteamed again in 1963 to make Move Over, Darling, a remake of My Favorite Wife (1940).

Despite having a conventional conclusion, I rank The Thrill of It All as Doris Day's second best 1960s comedy, behind the marvelous Lover Come Back and ahead of That Touch of Mink.


  1. One of the best gags in The Thrill Of It All comes up during the opening titles.
    One of the credit cards reads thusly:

    Jewelry By

    Cameos By

    The 'cameos', of course, are the 'brief appearance' type: Carl Reiner is the featured actor in the dramatic scenes on Happy Theatre.

    (Was "Carl Reimer" caused by the Curse of QWERTYUIOP?)

  2. Genuine laughs and heart in The Thrill of It All. Good point about Garner being probably the only fellow who could carry it off.

    It's been a long time since I last saw the movie, but doesn't Gerald sing You're a Sweetheart in the shower? I love to hear Alice Faye songs.

  3. I love Doris Day! I had posters of her hanging in my room because I admired her so much.

  4. James Garner is pure genius in this role. He makes Gerald likeable - sympathetic, even. Plus, like you said, he and Doris Day have marvellous chemistry.

  5. My Favorite James Garner Movie! I love him.