Doris Day in her last movie delights audiences for the last time, pursued by “Family Affair” Brian Keith. A 1960s story of blended families with tertiary roles including first film appearances of “Class Clown” comedian George Carlin and Barbara Hershey, as well as M*A*S*H* supporting character actors Jamie Farr (Klinger) and William Christopher (Father Mulcahy), opening just 4 months after based-on-a-true story of widowed blended families, “Yours, Mine, and Ours.” Leave it to perennial favorite, Turner Classic Movies – TCM to screen it for us! If they could ever coax Miss Day out of her seclusion to make a public appearance at the fabulous annual Turner Class Film Festival in April like they did with Maureen O’Hara, I would love it!
Having been widowed quite young myself, I always like to view Hollywood movies from the classic golden years of cinema about widow romances. Early on in my first getting back out into dating again after the death of my husband, I particularly sought out romantic examples of widows finding love again and how they did it. Watching such movies and reading such romance novels always gave me great ideas as well as hope.
While this is Miss Day’s last appearance on the big screen, she looks fabulous and fresh at 44 years old. For many Hollywood actresses, that was an era where they were being moved into tertiary supporting roles where the heavy makeup often added more years to their face, instead Miss Day looks marvelous and alluring as she dresses up for her dinner party, her figure still fetchingly attractive in Glenn Connelly designed gowns.
Miss Day plays a widow with 3 boys and the business owner of a lumber company (McClure Lumbar City). On a side note, it’s lovely to see Hollywood portraying success business executive women with a family and romantic life. Hysterically funny Pat Carroll plays her sister, Maxine, who thank goodness is dedicated helping her out, “We gottah find you a man…. Already your kids have it better than you. At least they can go to bed with a teddy bear at night.” “I knew we’d get to the bedroom sooner or later,” retorts Miss Day. While all done is a very G-rated and wholesome manner, I must it was quite delightful and refreshing to have a Hollywood movie from the Family Friendly era of the 1960s depicting both a widow and a middle-aged woman at that being supported by her family to have an intimate life. “Maybe Mr. Right is out there, how do I compete with the 22 year olds?”
Carroll is a supportively meddlesome sister who keeps insisting on fixing Miss Day up with male dinner partner for her dinner parties. When “the fellah I lined up for you to be your dinner partner cancelled out,” Carroll persists and starts going through, yes this dates it, Miss Day’s Rolodex. When she finds a man who is not only attractive but himself also a widower, when Miss Day’s back is turned changing out of her khaki coverall into her short skirt, Carroll picks up the phone, acting as her secretary, and announces, “Mr. Iverson? Just a moment please, Mrs. McClure calling,” and hands her the phone. “Just ask the man to dinner.”
In the most charming interlude, as she asks him to join her dinner party that night, Keith glances at the small frozen tv dinner package on his counter, in the era of fine dining or fast food restaurants, and accepts. I love that Hollywood didn’t go what TV and current Hollywood would have done, making him into a gourmet chef in his own right. It is absolutely accurate that many modern single-again men are not great cooks. They can fend for themselves, and likely make at least an omelet. But many lack the domestic skill of menu planning food shopping and making themselves 3 real meals a day, 7 days a week for themselves.
In an uproariously funny scene of domestic bliss with a spin from the realities of life, not classic perfectly behaved families in coiffed ensembles and House Beautiful living rooms, as Miss Day gets home and is attempting to get ready for her dinner party, the younger 2 of her boys have destroyed the living room. Her massive English Sheepdog makes off with her wig, sign of the era. She’s cleansing her face with white cold cream, with a shower cap on her head, clad in a white housedress/bathrobe item, only to encounter her younger 2 boys dropped yellow paint into their evening bath. Tussling to keep them in their bath until they rinse all the yellow off, her housekeeper, Alice Ghostly, who my generation best knows from “Designing Women” and “Bewitched,” yells for her to come help her.
Now with yellow smeared across the front of her white outfit, she enters her front hall just as her sister is letting herself, her husband, and Brian Keith into the house. I would have likely burst into tears at that point, personally. Instead, she gasps a little, but then is all smiles and utters, “Oh hi Jake,” to Keith who smiles back. Himself a widower with a teenage daughter, he recognizes the realities of daily life and running a home. He finds her appearance endearing. Relationship motivated men want women who have some vulnerability to them, beautiful yes, just down-to-earth and in need of his protectiveness, at least a little bit. Carroll insists Day refrain from wearing a somewhat dull and lifeless beige gown she’d been planning wearing and instead opt for an eye catching red hostess gown. She looks fabulous in it.
All of her guests grill and pester Keith about marrying Day. He escapes the evening early, saying they should get together sometime, both of them knowing it will likely never happen. When she has to make a late night run to the grocery store, she runs into Keith. He makes excuses for having left early, and she’s gracious and adorable about it, flashing him her million dollar smile. He then asks her out for a cup of coffee right then and there.
They meet over at a drive up fast food stand, and who should be her soda jerk but George Carlin himself in a rare both young and clean-shaven appearance. He becomes a running schtick in their ensuring courtship. Outside of the pressure and scrutiny of well-meaning customers, family members, and friends, the romantic feelings blossom. Keith asks her for a date the next night, only to cancel under the excuse that it’s his daughter’s birthday.
Her evening now free, she goes to some hip dance club with sister and brother-in-law, only to see Keith dancing in the arms of an attractive young chick. “Why take the bus when you can fly?” She rebuffs all of Keith’s attempts to see her again until months later at her son’s high school graduation she sees Keith’s daughter, the hip chick she’d seen Keith dancing with. Realizing her mistake, she must now find someway to reapproach Keith and encourage his pursuit of her.
He’s very good with his relationship skills and actually asks her to talk over whatever happened to the two of them. She, displaying a marvelously feminine attribute of acceptance and admiration, which even modern men crave, when he offers her popcorn not caviar to go with the champagne he brought, she says, “I love it.” Too many modern single women critique what a man offers rather than admiring and accepting it with an air of trust and gratitude. Over time, you can reveal to him what you more particularly or additionally like. Let him know your preferences over time.
Yes, this means, dinner with the family! After an evening with Barbara Hershey joining them and overly clinging to Keith’s arm they have Keith over to an evening with her family, her teenage son prevents them from having the living room alone to themselves in his own way.
1970s sitcoms fan will also recognize the owner of our favorite greasy spoon diner from “Alice” in Vic Trayback, here a chicken coup driver, and Alice the housekeeper’s boyfriend, Sam, portrayed by Allan Melvin, here the Desk Sgt at the local police station.
They fall in love and want to get married. And then must start to attempt to blend their 2 families together, which, of course, is always the challenge. Falling in love is easy. Sharing life together is what offers us all challenges and plot twists.
The movie offers a fun romp and gives us an opportunity to bid a fond farewell to a much beloved Hollywood actress and Big Band singer. Miss Day and Keith display actually a number of wonderful positive relationship skills along the way, including squabbling and each learning to reapproach the other and apologizing. Successful relationships will be filled with differences, squabbles, and conflicts. Learning to reapproach, discover what was really going on, and apologizing is what gives us what we all crave, a lifetime of love.