"This alleged 'comedy' was the worst film I ever made."
- Doris Day
This was obviously a rush job. The producers did take the time to assemble a very good cast and to affect an interesting opening sequence with able narration by Robert Morse. The premise of the film, New York's 1965 power failure that threw the entire City into darkness, began with promise. The absolute shock and confusion of the blackout was well depicted via excellent recreations of New York landmarks, traffic jams, confused commuters and the impromptu "festivities" which erupted. I went through a similar power failure in the '70s in The Big Apple and this sequence accurately captured the atmosphere of these historic events.
Doris Day plays Broadway star, Margaret Garrison who is appearing in a hit show called "The Constant Virgin". Her husband, Peter, is a successful architect, who feels neglected by his wife, finds solace in the arms of other women. There isn't very much to this film, really. After being interviewed by an attractive journalist, Roberta Lane, Margaret decides to allow her husband to discuss their marriage with the writer while she goes off to the theatre. When the City is blacked out, Maggie returns home, to find her husband in a compromising position with Roberta and takes off for their upstate cottage in Bridgeport.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Manhattan, Waldo Zane, a young investment banker, has absconded with his firm's cash investments. In the confusion of the blackout, he hails a taxi and ends up in Connecticut. Tired and needing shelter, he breaks into the home of the Garrisons and carelessly takes a sleeping potion. An upset and angry Margaret arrives and takes some of the same potion and innocently falls asleep in the same bed with Zane! This scenario is very contrived, but there are some funny elements to it, mainly because Miss Day and Mr. Morse are true professionals even with this weak material. The scene is laboured, however, and finally, you just want both of them to never wake up.
Of course they do awaken in the morning with the burning question, "did we or did we not do anything?" This question is heightened with the arrival of Peter who shows up to apologise but becomes furious when he finds his wife in bed with another man! This distrust is exacerbated by Latislau, Margaret's producer who is trying to get her to extend her contract with the play. He proceeds to play the triangled personage with innuendoes and sexual fuel, which pits Maggie against Peter. After a comic car chase, Maggie is reconciled with Peter and nine months later, like thousands of other victims of the blackout; Margaret Garrison is rushed to the delivery room.
This was not much of a part for Doris Day. It is reported that this is one of the films Martin Melcher rushed her into to pay off mounting personal debts. It certainly did nothing positive to rekindle interest in Day's crumbling film career. It was still an honour to appear with her, however, Patrick O'Neal and Robert Morse, both proven actors of distinction, were, in reality, in support of the star. Terry Thomas, his famous spaced teeth and all, was appropriately sleazy as the peeping tom producer, Lola Albright was attractive as Roberta and there were amusing cameos by some very famous funny men like Steve Allen, Jim Backus, Ben Blue, Pat Paulsen and Robert Emhardt. Even columnist, Earl Wilson made an appearance as himself.
This film gave Doris Day the opportunity to work with another set of fabled character actors. The title tune was breezy and New York, as usual is the best background for any film about big city life. Director, Hy Averback, did the best with what was given to him and the production by Everett Freeman and Martin Melcher was fine. This was Miss Day's last film for MGM. Too bad they couldn't have come up with a winner for her. But, we'll give that credit to Melcher.
Ralph McKnight, New York, July 2000
“Averback’s comedy direction lifts things a bit out of a well-plowed
rut, making for an amusing,
while never hilarious, film.” - Variety
“Not, on the face of it, a very original set-up; but as played by
Miss Day, Patrick O’Neal
and Robert Morse, it’s very funny.” - Observer (London)
"Doris Day's penultimate picture is notable only for the fact that she spent much of its production in traction, having pinched a nerve in her back, and for an excruciating in-joke that had her character starring in a play called "The Constant Virgin". Based on Claude Magnier's stage-play Monsieur Masure, it's a contrived affair from start to finish, relying on blackouts, sleeping pills, embezzled funds and sexual jealousy to bring Doris and architect husband Patrick O'Neal to an inevitable happy ending. Hy Averback directs with little imagination, while only Terry-Thomas, as Day's Machiavellian agent, seems willing to play it for laughs."