A Seeming Century Since This Comedy
Cary Grant/Doris Day Together in That Touch Of Mink (1962)
Dated as in woefully so, That Touch Of Mink revolves around effort of a character played by a thirty-eight year old actress to preserve her virginity in face of onslaught by Cary Grant, a figure to whom any woman would be presumed to happily surrender, whatever her up-to-then vow of chastity. Did all this happen but fifty-two years ago? In view of changed culture, you'd think it was ante-bellum set, or Jane Austen derived. By time That Touch Of Mink showed up for network television in 1968, the revolution had been fought and won, Mink morality already buried in a past, and yet NBC enjoyed smash ratings the ongoing preserve of Doris Day films when they tube- premiered. Was her stuff already being watched for camp, quaint irony, or wistful nostalgia for standards thrown since aside? Day got a much-quoted jibe from Oscar Levant, who said he knew her "before she was a virgin." DD was too popular a name for anyone to mock seriously, but had to know by late 1960's that it was time to chuck in a towel on features and stick to TV, where purity, if relative, was still norm. In fact, her late feature effort, Where Were You When The Lights Went Out?, acknowledged the Day jokes by poster-posing her with a book called "The Reluctant Virgin." By then she was past forty, so honestly, how could such a gag work on any level? It would be her next-to-last for theatres.
That Touch Of Mink was lurching engine driven by co-producing Day and Grant (him billed first). Neither were known for extravagance, especially him, so shortcuts are taken re Bermuda-set location (neither went, second unit only), similarly shot NYC sights that go to Universal backlot when G/D enter the scene. Still, Mink is handsome in that scope/color 60's way, and is absolute glossary on high living as enjoyed by those who had money and leisure enough at the time, Grant a tycoon even class warriors could love. If charm is rewarded by cash, which of course it often is, then Grant has come by his naturally. I wonder why he wasn't loaded in every film he made (in fact, by the mid-50's, his characters pretty much were). A man so magnetic just has to have gathered up all of what material reward life can give. Doris Day varies her part but slightly, no longer a career "girl" here, but a habitué of unemployment lines, where she's preyed upon by sleazy gov't clerk John Astin (did state/federal offices complain over negative depiction?). Day has ethics further protected by braying roommate Audrey Meadows, who supplies a loud voice of conscience throughout, as does Gig Young, playing the Tony Randall part (they'd more-or-less alternate) as Grant's economist who'd rather be back among the noble poor. Gig has a psychiatrist, of course, which tags him right off as weak, food for latter-day thought is how desperately this actor needed such support in offscreen life, considering how his ended.
The shrink gets notion (mistaken) that Gig is gay, which convinces him the man is unbalanced --- imagine any flick pulling that routine today. The Pillow Talk cycle ran to misunderstandings that lasted a whole of run times, little sidebars that got explosive laughs because confusion was always based on some or other sexual outrage. The jokes still work because they get over quick and are spoof of values long since abandoned. When were unwed mothers last a basis for shock, then mirth? Grant is a wolf in millionaire's clothing who's presumed to keep a home for wayward girls handy as personal resource. Howl-arious, huh? They sure thought so in 1962. I can just hear gales at the Music Hall where most of
|Just Reach In and Be Fed at the Automat|
But there are compensations aplenty. What I remembered best from seeing That Touch Of Mink first on NBC was scenes set in an automat, a spot I requested we see when the family visited Gotham a couple years later. Yes, this was a magic place. You could stick your hand through a little slot and come out with chocolate pie. Could life get better? The setting for Mink, captured for real only in a NY establishing shot, was Horn and Hardart's Manhattan Automat, one of many such establishments swept off by fast food to come. Part of romance of retro is imagining we could still dine in such places. Closest there still is, at least where I live, is a K&W Cafeteria chain, but their dishes aren't viewed through mini-windows. What I don't recall, but wish I could: did Automat food taste good? It's easy to imagine comedy writers for radio and TV sitting middle-of-night at Horn and Hardart's and getting gag ideas set in such a place. There is something inherently funny about meals served through a wall with tiny portholes.
Topper to all this conspicuous consumption was cameos by bigger at the moment than movie stars Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Yogi Barra, who are seen not at bat, but doing brief comedy in the Yankee dugout with Grant and Day. This was a sort of spike that made husbands and boyfriends come willingly to a Doris Day romcom, more of strategy that put That Touch Of Mink among top trio of grossers for its year. The Day cycle of unbroke success wouldn't sustain long beyond this. A reunion with Rock Hudson, Send Me No Flowers, would miss magic of their first two pairings, bow to her maturity pushing DD toward marital farce from here on. She'd become as known for gauze and filters used to arrest age as increasingly labored comedy that fought on-come of changed times. Her image would take a coaster ride from irrelevance to rediscovery to for-keeps appreciation, the latter a consensus as Day and fans celebrates 90 years. That Touch Of Mink's negative floated years with a handful of Cary Grants, seldom in a good print until now with Olive's Blu-Ray, as clear and wide as we've seen this show in half a century.