A gradual metamorphosis in American film...
A gradual metamorphosis in American films took place during the 1960s, as anything wholesome and non-controversial was subject to ridicule and criticism. Popular music was being subjugated by rock 'n roll, the British Invasion and the Motown phenomenon. The civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, fashion trends and general social attitudes were changing. Amidst all this, Doris Day was the Number One motion picture star in the world, but her reign would soon be jeopardised.
Day's films by 1966 had fallen out of fashion and she unfairly became the butt of many jokes based on her 'virginity' and wholesome image. Film critic, Judith Crist joined the Day-bashing bandwagon in 1967 and had a field day disparaging Doris Day in "Caprice" (saying she looked like an ageing drag-queen in the picture) on the Today Show, after it opened to mixed reviews in New York.
"Caprice" debuted to throngs of loyal, adoring Day fans and, in contrast to some of the reviews, the audiences clearly enjoyed the film. It was by no means a perfect movie and a wiser director than Frank Tashlin, would have edited out some of the 'cuteness' which was the main element of Day's persona that was under attack. Without those components, "Caprice" would have been a smart and well-received spy spoof.
Chosen to co-star with Miss Day was one of Ireland's most distinguished actors, Richard Harris. He, like Rod Taylor, James Garner and Stephen Boyd elevated their film careers by sharing the screen with the world's most popular actress. Garner has commented that "to appear with Doris Day could make your career". Harris was the latest foreign actor to grace the screen with her. She had previously acted with David Niven (England), Louis Jourdan (France), Rex Harrison (England) and Rod Taylor (Australia).
"Caprice" begins dramatically with an exciting ski chase down the slopes in Switzerland, ending in the murder of an Interpol agent on the trail of narcotics smugglers. Doris Day plays Patricia Fowler, the agent's daughter who is out to find the person who killed her father.
The script is convoluted and confusing on first viewing. Fowler is working as an agent for Femina Cosmetics and hired to steal secret formulas from a rival firm, May Fortune. Ray Walston plays, Stuart Clancy, a copycat cosmetician who worked unsuccessfully for Femina, but is now being touted as a genius with May Fortune. Sir Jason Fox (Edward Mulhare), his former employer, knows that Clancy could not be creating new 'miracle drugs' (for instance, a water repellent hair spray) and wants to find out who is actually behind him. This is Patricia's assignment. A double agent, Christopher White (Harris) is employed by both Sir Jason and Matthew Cutter (Jack Kruschen), owner of May Fortune, but in reality is a Federal Agent! Somewhere in all of this, drugs are being smuggled via some 'harmless' face powder, and Patricia Fowler becomes 'the girl who found out too much'. There is much, much more!
Confused? I was on first and second viewing. Finally, after the film came out on video, I had the luxury of stopping the tape, rewinding, listening again and finally figuring out this confusion. Doris Day gives a highly spirited, professional performance and is very attractive in mod attire, created by Ray Aghayan. Richard Harris stated that he learned more about comedy from Doris than he could have learned in four years at the Royal Academy. What a compliment! They worked well together and both handled the slapstick with aplomb. Their most exciting predicament was a cliff-hanger in which Christopher, in a helicopter, rescues Patricia while she is being chased down the same slopes on which her father was murdered, by a skier with a site rifle! Pure Pearl White.
Watching Miss Day is a study in great movie acting. Her scene on the private jet with Edward Mulhare and the one where she visited his home were particularly effective. Ray Walston must have loved his scenes with her, especially the one where he was in drag, disguised as a cleaning woman and when he gave her his maniacal cosmetics demonstration. Very funny.
As usual, the supporting cast was strong. Lilia Skala as Mme. Piasco, the real 'cosmetics genius' was interesting in her scene with Miss Day and Michael J. Pollard was appropriately weird in the movie theatre scene where he tried to molest Patricia. The theatre incidentally was showing Doris Day and Richard Harris in "Caprice", a nice Tashlin touch. Other familiar faces included Larry D. Mann, Fritz Feld, and Muriel Landers (the fat girl in "Pillow Talk"). Shot in colour and CinemaScope, this picture is not as dismal as is often reported. With a few minor cuts, it can rank, entertainment-wise, nearly as high as Day's most successful movies.
I firmly believe that if "Caprice" had been re-edited and partially rewritten, it would have been a much better film and maybe could have escaped the scathing criticism it has received over the years. I rather enjoyed it, anyway. Watching Doris Day is always a pleasure and I think she gave a polished, professional performance. As a student of film acting, one must take particular scenes and judge THEM on their individual merit, especially with a picture like this. Day was wonderful in most of her scenes.
Ralph McKnight, New York, June 2000.
"Caprice" Press Reviews
This is one of four films that Doris did not enjoy making. It was simply a commitment her husband had made for her. She followed through on her obligations even though she knew in her heart that the script was banal and not worth her extraordinary talents.
Doris Day and director Frank Tashlin were a winning combo last year in Metro’s “The Glass Bottom Boat” Together again in 20th Fox ‘s “Caprice,” an Aaron Rosenberg-Martin Melcher production, they are just as well matched, although quite a bit more ambitious the second time around. Their first film was strictly for fun and laughs; this one is rather more involved, mixing romantic spy adventure with the lesser comedy elements. But Miss Day, unfiltered for change, in Leon Shamroy’s first-rate DeLuxe color CinemaScope photography, is still a daffy screen personality, even with the melodrama thrown in for added box-office drawing power. And Tashlin can’t pass up a chance for slapstick such as Miss Day hanging from the terrace rafters trying to cut an Oriental girl’s hair. Aiding Miss Day in the Jay Jason and Frank Tashlin screenplay about cosmetic spying and international narcotics traffic are England’s Richard Harris, Ray Waltson, Lilia Skala, Jack Krushen and Edward Mulhare. The production values are good and there is the title song by Larry Marks and Devol for Miss Day’s singing fan clubs. Based on the leading lady’s popularity, the slick production and the summer release campaign, “Caprice” should be a solid general market hit. - Boxoffice Magazine
“Caprice is a grotesque exaggeration of her mid-sixties image. She lowers the newspaper she is reading to reveal a platinum-haired mannequin with enormous dark glasses where her eyes should be. She is a walking advertisement for vinyl in her black and white checkered coat, gold dress and hat.. Day’s wax-like makeup completes the image of an artifact exhumed for public display… The actress has never had a role that required so much physical exertion. She falls out of a balcony of a movie theater, dangles from precipices, slides down mountain-sides and is repeatedly shot at during an excitingly filmed ski chase.” - George Morris, "Doris Day"
“A spy thriller, Caprice is a slick, handsome production for 20th Century Fox presenting our heroine as her worshippers love her: looking as young as springtime..All this adds up to a romantic comedy thriller that will delight the popular star’s fans.” - New York Daily News
“Oh well, to paraphrase the old saying, another Day, another Doris. Only trouble is, it’s the same Day and the same Doris.” - New York Morning Telegraph
“In Caprice Doris Day is a kind of James Bond. She is a spy, it seems, for the cosmetic industry, with smuggled cosmetics turning out to be dope…Miss Day is not as young as she used to be for this sort of caper but she does have the energy and I guess energy is about the one distinction of Caprice.” - Today Show