May 16 is National Classic Movie Day, which means we are to take action on masse in praise of the classics we love. Your role is simple – get to your laptops, tablets or smart phones and recommend classics.
Rick of the fabulous Classic Film & TV Café conceived of this commemorative day and came up with another terrific way to honor classic movies with his fourth consecutive blogging celebration. This year Rick is asking that we share thoughts on movies we turn to in hopes of improving ailments of body, mind and spirit for The Comfort Movie Blogathon.
I thought long and hard about what my comfort movie of choice would be for this event and decided on one of my favorites since I was a child, Charles Walters‘ Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960). On the surface Please Don’t Eat the Daisies is fluff, a light comedy starring two of filmdom’s most likable and popular stars. Doris Day, who stars as Kate Robinson Mackay, was fresh off Michael Gordon’s Pillow Talk (1959) when she took on the role. Pillow Talk not only earned Day the only Oscar nomination of her career, it also made her the number one box-office draw. In fact, she references that in Daisies while Kate is having an argument with her husband. “I was having a rendezvous with Rock Hudson,” she says angrily when he questions her whereabouts.
David Niven, who plays Laurence (Larry) Mackay in Daisies, was also riding high, as his previous endeavor was an Oscar-winning turn in Delbert Mann’s Separate Tables (1958). For this fan, however, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies is much more than enjoyable fodder between these two stars. When I first watched the movie on TV as a child, I hadn’t a clue about who Day and Niven were. All I knew is that I was delighted to join them in a family escapade that delights, one that would play an important role on my road to classic movie fandom.
Please Don’t Eat the Daisies is based on the 1957 book of the same name by Jean Kerr. The book is a collection of humorous essays about life as a mother, wife and woman. The movie combines the stories into one story, the story of Kate Robinson Mackay (Day) who tries to balance life as the wife of important theater critic, Laurence Mackay (Niven), and as mother to four unruly boys. Soon after Laurence becomes one the most important critics in the theater world the family’s lease if up on the apartment in Manhattan forcing them to move into a huge, dilapidated house in the country.
You may ask why Please Don’t Eat the Daisies is my comfort movie and the answer is simple – every time I watch it, I go home again, back to Washington Heights, to the place where I fell in love with movies. Consider for a moment how many things about Please Don’t Eat the Daisies make it a perfect vehicle by which to introduce children to classic movies as it did me. You get a neurotic dog and four talented children, three of which I’ve seen in other movies or TV shows I enjoy – Charles Herbert, Stanley Livingston, and Flip Mark. The fourth and youngest, Adam, (Baby Gellert) is cute as a button as the baby who can pick locks and say “Cokie-Cola.”
Doris Day would become a favorite of mine my entire life due to Daisies alone. Of course, I would later fall in love with her repeatedly in her other movies as well. Day’s talent for comedy is evident in Daisies as is her iconic style in the beautiful Morton Haack costumes with a blue flowered ensemble being a particular favorite.
Please Don’t Eat the Daisies also introduced me to Doris Day the singer and to her signature song, “Que Sera Sera.” Imagine this wonderful talent singing in Spanish just for me! Day introduced the song in Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), but I saw that one after I saw Daisies. Doris sings two other songs in this as well, the title song and the rather silly, “Any Way the Wind Blows,” which is featured as part of a play in the movie.
I also love David Niven, but not for his Oscar-worthy turns or memorable classic performances. Rather, I would come to adore him for Daisies and another movie I consider comfort for the soul as well, which also played on TV quite often, Michael Gordon’s The Impossible Years (1968). It was Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, however, that introduced Niven to me as a haughty, exasperated family man and academic, which I thought was the role he played in every movie. I have read some people think Niven’s too old for Day in Daisies, but I think they complement each other quite nicely. Although that is true of the entire cast in this.
Spring Byington would become one of my favorite character actors, but she remains primarily the grandmother from Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, her final feature film appearance. Byington is delightful here as Kate’s mother and the owner of a pet shop. Her delivery is right on target as are her double takes. Patsy Kelly is another one. Little did I know when I first saw Kelly as Maggie the maid in this that she too had had a long and storied career. Janis Paige is a lot of fun to watch and another favorite of mine. She steals several scenes as Deborah Vaughn who is the first victim of Larry’s poison pen. Vaughn is a resilient soul, however, and gets over the bad review rather quickly with a targeted flirtatious attack on Mr. Mackay. One of my favorite lines in the movie happens when she asks playwright Joe Positano if she can read his script. “I have to warn you, it’s a bad script,” Joe replies to which Deborah says, “I don’t mind, I’m a bad actress.” Joe drives a cab while he’s waiting for his theater break and he’s played by the great Jack Weston who never delivered a performance he did not own.
Finally, there’s Richard Haydn who plays theater producer Alfred North, Larry’s best friend and godfather to the Mackay children. Larry’s inaugural review is a scathing one of Alfred’s inaugural play, which sets the drama in motion in enjoyable fashion. Haydn, like the rest of the actors in this movie, will always be Please Don’t Eat the Daisies alumni.
Please Don’t Eat the Daisies was a big hit for MGM and I have to say I’m with 1960 audiences on this one. When I think of comfort food, I think of being cared for in childhood, I think of warmth and smiles, and I think of Please Don’t Eat the Daisies among the relative few movies that bring me comfort. I will also always tune in if I happen across it. And, dear reader, may I wish you the same good fortune.
Be sure to visit the Classic Film & TV Cafe for comfort during these troubling times. Then #PayClassicsForward across social media on National Classic Movie Day.