Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tonight's Movie: The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT is an exceedingly silly Doris Day movie. It's made palatable by the film's two leads, the lovely Doris herself and handsome leading man Rod Taylor. Taylor brings a much-needed dose of real-world sanity to the proceedings.

Doris plays Jenny Nelson, a widow who goes to work at a space laboratory owned by inventor Bruce Templeton (Taylor). Bruce is attracted to Jenny despite the fact that disaster seems to follow her wherever she goes. Bruce assigns Jenny to write his biography as an excuse to work closely together.

A goofy security guard (Paul Lynde) decides that Jenny is a Russian spy, and the plot gets sillier from there.

There are some genuinely funny moments, often provided by Taylor, who makes an excellent straight man. I enjoyed his bemused reactions to Doris's antics. His facial expression when he finds a couple of characters in an unexpected place near the end of the film is priceless. However, the film's frequent slapstick, cartoonish humor isn't my particular cup of tea; apparently this juvenile approach was director Frank Tashlin's typical style.

I did enjoy the set design and other aspects of the '60s lifestyle portrayed in the film. One of the more amusing scenes in the film has Taylor demonstrating his futuristic kitchen inventions to Day; his kitchen includes early versions of a microwave oven and a Roomba vacuum. A downside to the '60s look is that Doris is stuck with a bad haircut of the era, which she is constantly pushing back away from her face.

Doris sings a couple of songs midway through the movie; I wonder how many times she sang "Que Sera, Sera" onscreen? This is one of them. "Soft as the Starlight" is one of the movie's nicest moments.

Day and Taylor have excellent chemistry in this film, much better than as the battling couple in the previous year's DO NOT DISTURB. I wish they had made more movies together -- with better scripts!

Many of the supporting actors are familiar from '60s sitcoms; in particular, the movie seems like a BEWITCHED reunion. George Tobias and Alice Pearce, who played the nosy neighbors on BEWITCHED, play Day's nosy neighbors; Paul Lynde, another BEWITCHED semi-regular, is a security guard.

Dick Martin, Dom DeLuise, Edward Andrews, John McGiver, Arthur Godfrey, and Ellen Corby are also in the cast. Martin is effective in an occasionally witty role as Taylor's second in command, but most of the supporting cast is stuck with boring cartoon-style humor.

'60s TV fans will enjoy an amusing surprise cameo appearance near the end of the movie.

The cinematographer was Leon Shamroy. The film runs 110 minutes.

THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT has been released on DVD as a single title release or as part of the Doris Day Collection Volume 1. It's also had a VHS. (2017 Update: This film has been reissued on DVD by the Warner Archive.)

This movie can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer is here.

A final note: other than a brief mention in the opening scene, the story has nothing whatsoever to do with a glass bottom boat!

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