Doris Day became one of Hollywood’s biggest film stars of the early 1960’s due to the success of several lightheaded comedies, including three co-starring Rock Hudson–Pillow Talk in 1959, for which she received the only Best Actress Academy Award nomination of her career, Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1964)–However, in 1960, she took a break from romantic comedies, co-starring with Rex Harrison (My Fair Lady) in the thriller, Midnight Lace, produced by Ross Hunter (Portrait in Black) Thrillers weren’t foreign territory for Day. She had previously starred in the Alfred Hitchcock classic The Man Who Knew Too Much and the lesser known Julie, both released in 1956.
Day plays Kit Preston, an American heiress, newly married to London based financier Anthony (Harrison). Kit is still get used to life in the London when she starts receiving death threats–a strange voice yelling at her on the street and a series of threatening and obscene phone calls. No one else hears or sees anything. Tony dismisses the incidents as a joke which helps calm her. But, when an elevator accident nearly kills her, Kit’s fears grow. When she expresses concerns to her family and the Scotland Yard, they question her mental stability. Even her beloved Aunt Bea (Myrna Loy, The Best Years of Our Lives) begins to have suspicions.
Is she making all this up? Meanwhile, Anthony has his own troubles at work. Someone’s been embezzling from the company, but who? This has Anthony working long hours, forcing him to cancel planned dinners and vacations with Kit. All of this makes Inspector Byrnes (John Williams), believe this is simply Kit’s way of trying to get her husband’s attention. By the mid- fifties, the longstanding Production Code was beginning to lose its grip on the industry. In one scene, police force Kit to listen to recordings of the obscene calls in hopes that she’ll recognize the voice. This must have been shocking development for many viewers in 1960.
That ugliness stands in stark contrast to the Technicolor palette of Midnight Lace. As with most Ross Hunter films, pastels, soft blues and pinks are in abundance. On the surface, everything is bright and cheery. Doris Day is outfitted beautifully throughout, ensuring a beautiful image, no matter the moment.
Any Doris Day film makes for an acceptable watch, but Midnight Lace has her in a hysteria that borders on camp. Though she was apparently drawing on personal experiences for her dramatic scenes, the results are too over-the-top to be taken seriously. Rex Harrison lays the charm on thick, which fits with the campiness off the film. Veteran actress Myrna Loy, who seems amused by it all, is perfect for her role.
Despite being predictable, and campy I would still highly recommend Midnight Lace to fans of Doris Day. It’s a chance to see the star outside of her well established comfort zone. It may not be Shakespeare, but it could be a lot worse.
Presented in the 2.0:1 or 1.85 :1 aspect ratio, Kino Lorber’s 1080p transfer does present with some issues, but it still represents and upgrade from the DVD. There are a couple of digitization hiccups. The colors are also not quite as bright as you would likely expect. None of this effects the overall viewing experience.
The DTS-HD Master stereo audio provides clean, clear and concise dialogue throughout. Frank Skinner’s effective score sounds particularly impressive.
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available.
- Audio Commentary with Film Historian Kat Ellinger.
Midnight Lace (1960)
Movie title: Midnight Lace
Director(s): David Miller
Actor(s): Doris Day, Rex Harrison, John Gavin , Myrna Loy , Roddy McDowall , Natasha Parry
Genre: Mystery, Thriller