Day’s status as top female star would soon end
A gradual metamorphosis in American films took place during the swinging sixties when anything wholesome and non-controversial became subject to ridicule and criticism. Popular music was being displaced by rock ‘n roll, the British Invasion, and the Motown phenomenon. The civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, fashion trends, as well as sexual and social attitudes, were changing. Amidst all this, Doris Day’s reign as the number one motion picture star in the world would soon be finished and she would stop making films the following year, 1968.
By 1966, Day’s films had fallen out of favor and she unfairly became the butt of many jokes because of her wholesome image. After Caprice opened to mixed reviews in 1967, film critic Judith Crist joined the Day-bashing bandwagon by disparaging her on nationwide television, saying that she looked like an aging drag queen in the picture. Even so, the movie debuted to throngs of Day’s fans who, in contrast to many critics, clearly enjoyed the film.
Caprice is a spy spoof that begins dramatically with an exciting ski chase down the slopes in Switzerland, which ends in the murder of an Interpol agent on the trail of narcotics smugglers. Day plays Patricia Fowler, the agent’s daughter, who is out to find the person who killed her father. She is hired by Femina Cosmetics to steal secret formulas from a rival company. Stuart Clancy (Ray Walston) is a cosmetician who claims to be creating new miracle drugs in the laboratory of Femina’s rival. His former employer, Sir Jason Fox (Edward Mulhare) is suspicious, however, and sends Christopher White (Richard Harris) to investigate. Soon Patricia discovers too much about Clancy’s activities, which endangers her life.
Day gives her usual polished performance, and watching her is a study in great movie acting. Her scenes on a private jet with Mulhare and at his home are particularly effective. Harris stated that he learned more about comedy from Day than he could have learned in years at the Royal Academy. What a compliment! She is very attractive in mod attire, designed by Ray Aghayan. As was the norm in Day films, the supporting cast is strong. Walston has a very funny scene in which he was in drag, disguised as a cleaning woman. Other supporting players include Lilia Skala and Michael J. Pollard, who was appropriately weird.
Although the script is convoluted and confusing, this picture is not as dismal as is often reported. With a few minor changes, it could have escaped the scathing criticism it received and its entertainment value could have ranked nearly as high as Day’s most successful movies.
Ralph McKnight, New York
“Caprice is certainly a film of its time. It was the era of James Bond drastically changing Hollywood’s output. They responded in kind and also took the broad comedy route, replacing international espionage with less important silly crimes, churning out hits and misses. Pairing two attractive actors in the glossy romantic leads was key and it worked with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in Charade, and Peter O’Toole and Hepburn again in How To Steal A Million. Caprice, with Doris Day and Richard Harris as insider trading spies, is a strange mix that does pay off. They’ve got that spark that just about saves this ridiculous effort from director Frank Tashlin.” – Cinemas Online
“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 chequered 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 (book)
“A spy thriller, Caprice is a slick, handsome production for 20th Century Fox presenting our heroine as her fans like 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.” – The Today Show
This is one of four films that Doris Day did not want to make but found it was a contractual commitment that her husband had signed her up for. She followed through on her obligations, even though she knew the script was banal.