Insomniac Theatre: “Midnight Lace”

15 Jul

So this will be a little bit different from my usual Insomniac Theatre fare.  I was scrolling through the entries of TCM one night and came across this, and something in the back of my brain pinged.  I vaguely recalled watching a movie years and years ago, when I was a little kid and we had just gotten the expanded cable package with AMC — back before AMC had commercials; that long ago — and I think I may have actually watched this with my mother.

I seem to remember Doris Day being scared out of her wits, and there’s a phone call, and it seems like a British Rear Window, but with Doris Day playing the Jimmy Stewart role without the wheelchair, and also, she’s the one who’s going to be murdered.  Or something.  Eagle-eyed viewers of this blog will have already noted that Rear Window is on my list.

Anyway.  If it turns out that I have actually seen this movie already, it was so long ago that this will seem like new.  It’s not cheating.  Also, Return of the Jedi hasn’t come in the mail yet.  Also-also, I’m not watching Shawshank for a while, so, suck it.


So I’m writing this entry in a Word doc first, because I’m sorry WordPress, I have two blogs on you, but sometimes, your post screen sucks the big one.  And I’m clicking to Google Images to find the poster for this movie, when my Yahoo! home page has a link to a video about a PYTHON SNEAKING INTO AN INFANT’S CRIB.


And even though I’m fucking petrified of snakes, my curiosity is aroused.  I had actually seen a highlight video a couple of years ago, where a cobra snuck into a house.  That was in China.  So when I saw the thing about the python and the crib, my first thought was, “This was in China, right?  Or India?  Or some other country where pythons run rampant and could indeed end up in a child’s crib accidentally?”


“Well, maybe it was their pet?  Because some parents are stupid enough to think, ‘hey, snakes like kids, right?'”




You know what I’m going to do tonight before I crawl into bed?  If you answered “check my bedroom for fucking SNAKES,” you would be correct.

Jesus God, I — I —

*deep breath*  Okay, let’s start our harmless little Doris Day movie.  Maybe that will make the abject terror of SNAKES IN A CRIB seem less real.

Oh, this one also has a Robert Osborne Introduction.  Apparently, this role was Doris Day’s most dramatic and intense performance, causing her to have a breakdown, in fact.  Oh, in all of the screaming about random pythons, I forgot to include the synopsis from the imdb.:

“In London, a newlywed American woman’s sanity comes into question when she claims to be the victim of a stalker.”

So let’s begin.  Oh look, a Bobbie!  We see a constable walking past the American consulate.  And here comes Doris Day, in a white fur coat, walking out of the American Consulate.  A gentleman offers her an escort, but she declines, as her home is only across the park (Grosvenor Square).  But apparently, London fog isn’t just a trenchcoat.  It is so thick (HOW THICK WAS IT) that Doris Day can barely see in front of her face.  She hears a noise — hahaha it’s a mysterious ticking noise!! — but it turns out to be a blind man, not a pipe bomb.

And then there’s Creepy Stalker Voice, who jumps right into threatening to kill her.  For no readily apparent reason.  I can only assume that there will be a reason?  I mean, it doesn’t have anything to do with her wearing fur, does it?  That would be lame.

Doris Day runs into her apartment and calls for Nora but finds her husband, Rex Harrison, instead.  Rex calms her down by telling her that when the fog is really thick, a bunch of practical jokers inhabit the parks, just waiting to torment the old ladies.  Well — I guess I should be glad that they’re not wankers?

It’s too bad — I honestly think that Rex Harrison is now only known for his role of Henry Higgins.  He was truly a versatile actor.  Well — My Fair Lady and Doctor Doolittle, I guess.  Although I can’t think of anyone who goes to Doctor Doolittle first.

Oooh!  Title reference: Doris Day goes shopping and then stops by Rex Harrison’s business to take him out to lunch, and shows off a little negligee she bought that is apparently made out of midnight lace.  Then, as all businessmen husbands do, he tells her he can’t go to lunch with her, so she takes her boxes and returns home.  But there’s construction going on outside of her apartment building and she’s nearly flattened by a steel girder!  Anyway, she makes it, and then runs into her neighbor on the stairs.  Doris makes small talk with “Peg,” whose husband is docked on a ship in Singapore. 

This conversation is very awkward.  Peg keeps trying to go downstairs to mail a letter to her husband, but Doris just keeps calling her back to ask her more inane questions.  I’m surprised Peg didn’t go, “Dammit Doris!  Ask all at once or not at all!”

So the guy calls the apartment and freaks Doris out, so she and Rex go to Scotland Yard and they learn that these phone calls are also kind of run in the mill in London.  Jeez. 

They return home, and then Doris goes to pick up her Aunt Bea, who’s visiting from America.  Rex comes home late and gives her a diamond brooch in the shape of a gondola (because they were going to go to Venice), but then tells Doris that they can’t go to Venice so soon, because Tony’s business needs him.  Hunh.  That feels familiar.

Then the Stalker calls again, and Rex runs upstairs to hear the guy on the extension, but Doris hangs up the phone before Rex can pick up.  When he asks her why she hung up, she claims that she couldn’t stand it any longer.  Rex calls Scotland Yard, and they say they’re going to change their phone number to unlisted, but they also insinuate that perhaps Doris Day is making it all up.  Rex defends her, but the question sticks with him…

… into the next scene, where Doris and Rex are having dinner with Aunt Bea and a former beau of hers.  When Charles takes Doris to the dance floor, Rex tells Aunt Bea about the latest Stalker call, and Scotland Yard’s claim that maybe Doris is a wife who is pretending to be stalked to gain the attention of her husband.  Aunt Bea refutes that claim, but then asks if the call came before or after Rex called their Venice trip off.  As we scroll back up, we see that the call came after the calling-off of the Venice trip, giving Rex some more food for thought.

That night — or possibly another night, I’m not sure — Doris is seated by the fireplace in the dark, thinking.  When she moves to the bed — WAIT A MINUTE.  Rex and Doris sleep in twin beds!  Oh man — oh Hayes Code, how stupid you were in retrospect. 

Doris goes out the next morning — or, at least she tries to but the elevator gets stuck.  The lights go out and she’s stuck in the box all alone.  She starts to scream for help, but then she sees a shadowy man walk up the stairs around the elevator, and she gets all freaked out.  Especially when the man starts beating at the door on the floor above (oh, that sounded bad, Alaina — that’s not what I meant.)  Anyway, he is able to break open the door, and Doris is having a full on panic attack — she’s crying, screaming, and overall flipping out.  The guy gets the hatch open to the elevator car and drops himself in, and then it turns out to be Mr. Younger, who was at the construction site the other day when she almost got flattened. 

And that’s why, whenever you’re being stalked, you always take the stairs. 

She goes and has a drink with Younger to steady her nerves, and he reveals that when he was in the army, a shell got stuck in his tank and he thought he was going to blow up.  Now he’s an architect, working in open spaces.  Doris feels better and happy now that she’s made a friend, and she goes off to run her errands.  The pub’s lady owner comes over and comments on how pretty Doris is, and then asks Mr. Younger if he wants to add his phone calls from last night onto his bill.  DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN

Doris, Rex, Aunt Bea, and Charlie are watching a ballet.  I apologize, I did not catch which ballet it was.  I’m going to go with The Swan Princess or whatever it was that Natalie Portman wanted to be the Black Swan in.  She and her party are sitting in one of the boxes, and I’m sorry, I’m an avid theatre-goer, and I still can’t understand why anyone would want to watch a staged show from a box.  You can’t see the entire stage, and in many cases, you can see directly backstage where the actors and actresses are waiting to make their entrance.  To me, it loses something.  I’d rather sit center.

Swan Lake!  That’s what the ballet’s called.  Rex got called out for a phone call or something, and Aunt Bea and Charlie are on their way home when Nora’s creepy son Malcolm shows up in the box, and asks about paying for Nora’s medical bills.  Doris is put off, and it seems that Malcolm is about to threaten her with worse, when Rex comes back to the box.  He threatens Malcolm in turn, and throws him out of the box.  But Rex has to go to work, because someone has found something.  Looks like someone is embezzling!  And it may be Aunt Bea’s friend Charlie!

Rex goes home, and he’s staring into the fire, going over everything that happened, and then Doris goes into her little twin bed which is just so damned ludicrous and stupid.  And then Doris sees a shadow climbing around in the scaffolding from the construction site next to their flat.  She freaks out, Rex offers to call the cops, she says no, because they don’t believe her anyway.

Ugh … this is so … things go well, then the phone rings.  Doris gets freaked out, then screams for help.  At this point, the movie’s been going on for over an hour, and we still don’t know why the stalker wants to kill her.  The Scotland Yard comes along and then, using logic, makes it seem as if Doris Day is making the whole thing up.  I’m starting to get bored.

Although, do I recall that, in the end, it’s Rex Harrison doing it?  I seem to recall that Rex is behind everything, because he was the one embezzling and he wanted to escape without his pretty American wife.  I don’t know, that’s what my gut is telling me.  (Although my gut is also very hungry…)

Anyway, things progress.  She’s attempting to get on a bus but then she’s pushed-slash-trips and lands in front of the bus.  She meets up with Peggy and asks her to lie to Tony about hearing the Phone Guy, because then someone would believe her, but the lie doesn’t work when the phone ends up being out of order.  Then she has a nervous breakdown, and Rex and Aunt Bea put her into a psy — HOLY SHIT IS THAT DOCTOR BELLOWS?!

‘m sorry – I was recapping the scene where Doris goes to the psych ward, and I happen to look up and the psychiatrist is played by Dr. Bellows from I Dream of Jeannie!  I loved him growing up!  He and the Professor from Gilligan’s Island — although, I’ll be honest here, I had more of a crush on the Professor.  I just kind of felt bad for Dr. Bellows for four seasons.  I’m honestly surprised that Dr. Bellows didn’t end up in therapy.

Okay, moving on.  How much more of this movie do I have to watch?  [Only about half an hour.  Thank god.] 

Mr. Younger goes back to the pub and actually sees the guy that ended up in Doris’s apartment that one time.  Meanwhile, the stalker calls Doris, and this time, she actually gets Rex to pick up the phone and hear the guy on the other end.  Rex calls the Yard, and he is told to pretend to go to a meeting so the stalker can make his move, leaving Doris alone in the apartment.  Mr. Younger’s hanging around outside, smoking his pipe, when he sees someone sneak into the construction site.  He follows the guy, doesn’t find him, but accidentally — I kid you not — trips over a wheelbarrow and scares the bejeezus out of Doris.

Then the creepy guy breaks in through the terrace, and he and Rex fight, breaking like, everything in the apartment, and then the gun goes off and Rex gets up, the other guy dead. 

And then — AS I CALLED IT — Rex reveals that he never called the police, and that he had planned to kill Doris all along, in order to gain her inheritance to help cover up the embezzlement that Rex had done. 

Oh, ‘Enry ‘Iggins.

In the end, Doris escapes through the window and across the scaffolding — oh, and Doris’s friend Peggy was Rex’s mistress and in on it the whole time — and the Yard had bugged the phone and was able to confirm that, not only were the calls real, but also that Rex was behind it all.  So he gets arrested and Doris escapes with Mr. Younger and Aunt Bea, and now, I can finally go to bed.  In the ninety-degree heat. 

Hooray … ?

Grade for Midnight Lace: Meh.

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Posted by on July 15, 2012 in Insomniac Theatre


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