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July 21, 2007

Frank Tashlin: Day after Day

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The Glass Bottom Boat
Frank Tashlin - 1966
Warner Brothers Region 1 DVD

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Frank Tashlin - 1967
20th Century-Fox Region 1 DVD

It was fitting that the last film to be produced in Cinemascope was directed by Frank Tashlin, with cinematography by Leon Shamroy. The two worked together on The Girl Can't Help It prior to the two Doris Day spy films. Ideally, Fox and Warner Brothers will be inspired to give DVD releases to two much better examples of Tashlin's work, Bachelor Flat and The Alphabet Murders, respectively. What the two films have in common aside from the star and espionage premise, is how Tashlin was able to inject personal touches into films that were projects for hire.

In The Glass Bottom Boat, Dom DeLuise seems to be doing his best to impersonate Jerry Lewis as a bungling sound sytem installer. This is not only with the pratfalls, stepping on a cake and getting his foot stuck in a vase, but also with the verbal schtick of incomplete phrases. Like many of Tashlin's other films, there are references to other movies as when Doris Day more or less mimics Greta Garbo as Mata Hari. Day also sings a couple of stanzas from "Que Sera, Sera", her signature song that was in The Man who knew too Much. Better are some of the asides as when Rod Taylor's goofy sidekick, Dick Martin in caught in bed with General Edward Andrews and comments about the two shopping for furniture in the morning. Where Tashlin's hand is most apparent is in Rod Taylor's kitchen of the future, especially with the mechanical vacuum cleaner that pops out like an eager puppy to clean any messes on the kitchen floor. The Glass Bottom Boat, while not unawatchable, is not particularly funny either.

Judging from the fact that Tashlin had a co-writing credit on Caprice, he seems to have had more freedom with his second Doris Day vehicle. Visually, this is the stronger of the two films based on some of the more unusual camera angles Tashlin and Shamroy employ. Setting aside the inconsistent comedy, Caprice suggests that had he wanted to, or had been given the opportunity, Tashlin could have done well shooting relatively straight action thrillers, or at least something along the lines of one of the Matt Helm films with Dean Martin. In this story about industrial espionage between cosmetic companies, Day and Richard Harris walk into a studio where a commercial is being shot by Shamroy making a cameo appearance. One might assume that Harris is speaking for Tashlin with the line, "If you've seen one studio, you've seen them all", a line that might refer to Tashlin's own career in the Sixties. The setting, with the various bathing beauties on behalf of adverstising easily recalls Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?.

The two ski scenes are genuinely thrilling to watch, each featuring monochrome figures, one pursuing the other. The more serious tone of Caprice is unusual for a Tashlin film, although as a part of Day's filmography is not so out of place with The Man who knew too Much or Midnight Lace. One of the best gags of Caprice involves Day following a model to a movie theater where the film playing is Caprice. And although Day was game enough to do the physical comedy Tashlin is known for, and gives an interesting double reading from Hamlet, the best verbal and visual joke of Caprice, one winces anytime Day, looking every bit her forty-two years, is refered to as "young woman".

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Posted by peter at July 21, 2007 12:22 PM


Peter, it's too bad the Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis box #2 hasn't been picked up yet by Netflix. I'm dying to see Artists & Models and Hollywood or Bust. I'll wait a bit longer before plunking down the twenty-two bucks for it at Amazon.

Posted by: girish at July 24, 2007 08:04 AM