Garner’s left holding the babies as Day goes to work…
He’s an obstetrician, she’s a housewife. The Boyers, a happy family until fate intervenes and she becomes a household name in a soap advert.
Thrill of It All, The Original Trailer, Victor Creed and photos © Universal-International
Before I launch into my post, yes that is wee Gretl Von Trapp (aka Kym Karath) from The Sound of Music (1965) as Doris Day’s screen daughter Maggie. Now that we’ve got that out the way, on with the post. I watched this film as I wanted to avoid watching yet another actor’s character inevitably winning Doris Day’s heart over lovely Gig Young,
This meant a rewatch of That Touch of Mink (1962) was out the question. Just in case Cary Grant got the gal, which he probably did. I’m still upset that Sinatra’s surly character Barney won her over Gig in Young at Heart (1954). I’m equally annoyed that Young also lost Doris to Clark Gable, in Teacher’s Pet (1958). But I stress, this upset is with the characters, not the actors.
Then after looking at Day’s vast list of leading men from back then I plonked for her with James Garner as her on-screen husband in The Thrill of It All (1962). Garner is an actor I’ve always enjoyed watching, even if I didn’t enjoy the actual film. Where The Notebook (2004) immediately springs to mind as one such film and see my
rant review HERE. I stress that only watched because Garner was in it.
This actor was always dashingly handsome and charismatic, be it on TV in The Rockford Files (1974-81) or in film in The Great Escape (1961). Or as one of his many Bret Maverick (1981-82) TV reincarnations. In a turtleneck, suit, scrubs or tuxedo, he’s the source of many a reel infatuation. Day, of course, I’ve loved in many of those Battle of the Sexes film comedies that inspired the likes of Moonlighting (1985-89) and Down With Love (2003).
The Thrill of It All begins with a middle-aged woman, Mrs Fraleigh (Arlene Francis) looking super excited, (what about we’re not sure). She is dancing and smiling at anyone and everyone. She then – after about what seemed like (at least) 5 minutes of screen time – visits her similarly aged (if not more) husband, Mr Fraleigh (Edward Andrews) at work. She proclaims that she’s pregnant. If it hadn’t been for this film’s opening credits featuring Day, I would have thought I was watching the wrong film. Also on a side note, Day didn’t (to my surprise) sing the opening credits.
Anyway. the Fraleighs are super happy and overwhelmed (they’ve been trying to conceive for 20 years). So they invite her obstetrician, Dr Gerry Boyer (James Garner) and his wife, Beverly (Doris Day) to dinner. Gerry calls Beverly at home. She’s bathing daughter
Gretl Maggie, so the message comes (after some time) via their young son, Andy (Brian Nash).
This as Maggie complains about the smell of the soap used to wash her hair, so Beverly uses a bar of Happy Soap. Her daughter is now more than happy to smell like her music teacher. (This soap brand is not mentioned as one of Gretl’s favourite things in that Julie Andrews musical as an in-joke).
The Boyers arrive at the Fraleighs for dinner. It’s all quiet at the dinner table, with Mr Fraleigh’s elderly and gruff sounding, father Tom (Reginald Owen) watching his soap sponsored TV show. He’s the man whose factory manufactures Happy Soap, with an advert for this soap showing in the commercial break.
This advert features a nubile young blonde thing in the bath extolling the joys of said soap 1960s style. All the male advertising executives present heartily approving of this
girl advert, and including happily married, Gerry. With Gerry craning his neck trying to see more than is suggested on-screen. As your partner may have done with Margot Robbie, in that similar scene from The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).
Beverly tells the dinner party chirpily about her amusing experience with Maggie and the soap, in her own bubbly and unique way. Her true story – honestly and affectionately told – stops the old codger in his tracks. Then and there, he invites Beverly to be his new Happy Girl and advertise the soap on TV. He adores her frank, honest approach. Beverly and Gerry turn this offer down, with her happy being a doctors wife and mother.
However the next day one of Tom’s minions. Mike Palmer (Elliott Reid) is dispatched to convince Beverly to take the job. This with a ridiculous pay offer of 80,000 dollars (which is a stupidly insane amount of money now) for weekly promotions. Beverly accepts this offer and this job leading to stardom and all that goes with it.
However with increasing demands on her time, Beverly and Gerry rarely spend time together, and she’s more of the breadwinner than him. She also has less time with their kids, Maggie and Andy. Gerry often has to care for them himself – when the housekeeper is off duty – and juggle his working life around hers.
Beverly’s sudden rise to fame putting her marriage at risk, with the repercussions from one huge fight leading to him leaving her. As Gerry’s not exactly thrilled by it all… and if you want to know what happens next, tune into this movie.
This is very much a Battle of the Sexes film, and it seems more of a throwback to those Doris Day 1950s films. In this film with her balancing a career and a family, Day easily showing those wonderful contrasting roles. As a warm, fun mum and loved up wife, and as a career-driven woman with a heart.
It was hard to believe this as a 1960s film, particularly as the Cold War drama The Manchurian Candidate (1962) came out the year before (with Day’s one-time screen partner Frank Sinatra). The Innocents (1961) was two years before, both these films a complete contrast to this one, despite their genre.
However, it does feel like very much a Doris Day movie, even if this was intended initially for Judy Holliday. Garner and Day have wonderful on-screen chemistry. This screen pairing was delightful to watch. It is hard not to notice this talented pair’s professional affection for each other. Garner and Day made a credible couple in all their scenes, with them both bringing out the best in each other.
In their romantic, dramatic or comic scenes or those scenes where they were at loggerheads, you always felt their strong on-screen rapport. This is in their natural performances showing love, frustration and exasperation as required by the script. Both sharing the limelight and bringing out their and their screen partner’s strengths, they shine and dazzle as a screen couple.
It was a refreshing change seeing Day in a non-singing role, and the plot to my relief didn’t make her singing talents part of this storyline or the credits. If for example she had sung a jingle for this soap advert, rather than spoke about it. This would have detracted from the essence of the story, which I see as one of a housewife’s love for her husband, family and happiness.
Day was believable in those scenes featuring her novice role in advertising, particularly in her first advert. Here her housewife’s natural nervousness was seen in her first performance in front of the camera. As she fluffed her lines and said the wrong words, this made her character honest, endearing and likeable. These attributes shown in Doris Day’s performance made her perfect for this part of a housewife in an acting role.
Garner proved a comic delight and complemented Day’s performance beautifully. His flair for comic timing, facial expressions (particularly during the Boyers fight scenes) and his supportive performance to the children and others in this cast, showing this man a talented and genuine actor. He’s one of Day’s many leading men that she speaks warmly of saying HERE;
I loved Jimmy. He was a wonderful actor and a joy to work with. We made two films together and just clicked from the minute we met. We remained friends over the years and spoke often on the phone…
and he of her, HERE.
And Doris was a joy to work with. Everything she did seemed effortless. She’s so sweet and so professional – she made everyone around her look good.
Karath and Nash are sweet and unbelievably cute (and not irritating like some on-screen children) in all their scenes. This was only the second of then four-year old’s Karath’s prestigious acting CV before The Sound of Music – the first in a Henry Fonda film, Spencer’s Mountain (1963). In an article in the Daily Mail, her screen daughter Karath says of Day;
She put me completely at ease and made me feel safe. It made it very easy to pretend that she was my mother.
The support is wonderfully comic and fun from the Fraleigh family cast giving a small but important part to proceedings. Their roles adding to the more amusing moments of the film particularly at the start and end of the movie. The timing of these appearances is a nice touch, with the Fraleighs storyline not detracting from that of the Boyer family.
There’s something in this film for everyone. There are on-screen romantic scenes with Garner and Day, some well set up comic scenes (one delivered by Garner is fantastic to watch, even if you feel you know the payoff) and a sly look at advertising techniques of the day.
The latter had scenes looking at the spoken television advert as seen behind the scenes with executives watching both Black and White and colour screens, a billboard attracting Gerry’s attention (with more comic results) to Beverly posing with a soap bar for promotional photographs. The script surrounding these aspects of the film were shown in a fun, yet I imagine true to life manner.
I have also taken look at this acting pair’s second movie together, Move Over Darling (1963). Here Garner has a problem with two wives after one comes back from the dead. I’m not going to tell if Garner’s character loses Day to someone else, or she loses him. But know that like, in The Thrill of It All, it’s as clear as Day, they have great chemistry.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦😦😦😦/10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: /10
This post was added to Love Letters to Old Hollywood’s 3rd Annual Doris Day blogathon. Other posts with this cast include Doris Day in Pillow Talk, With Six you Get Eggroll, My Golden Hollywood Greats, Teachers Pet and Young at Heart. Kym Karath stars in my The Sound of Music review and a post about the house that this film was filmed in. James Garner starred in The Notebook and his blogathon. His daughter Gigi is interviewed HERE. Brian Nash stars in Bewitched. Move over Darling is also reviewed starring Garner and Day.