Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Julie (1956)

Doris Day plays the title role as a woman being terrorized by her new husband in JULIE.

Julie married pianist Lyle Benton (Louis Jourdan) after her first husband committed suicide. After the wedding Lyle begins acting increasingly difficult, given to jealous rages and fits of temper.

After Lyle nearly kills Julie in a car accident, family friend Cliff (Barry Sullivan) begins to suspect that the death of Julie's husband was no suicide, and Lyle admits the truth to Julie: he murdered her husband.

From that point on, Julie's on the run from Lyle. The sequence where she initially makes her getaway is like one of those nightmares where you run in place but can't move, including a car that won't start! Most of the police are little help, although Detective Pringle (Frank Lovejoy) believes Julie and takes a sympathetic interest in her case.

Matters come to a climax when Lyle is unnoticed as he follows Julie onto an airline flight where she's a stewardess. At this point the film turns into an early version of an airplane disaster movie -- it preceded ZERO HOUR! by a year -- with a nerve-wracking sequence which may have helped inspire AIRPORT 1975 nearly two decades later.

I've previously read a couple reviews, including one by Leonard Maltin, indicating the film was unintentionally humorous or too hard to believe. However, other than a couple overwrought voiceover narrations by Day -- and perhaps the film's final sequence -- I thought those criticisms were off the mark. In fact, the subject matter of a wife stalked by her abusive husband, while police shrug helplessly, seems to me to have been rather ahead of its time. I also appreciated the film's realistic look in scenes such as those set in police stations. I wonder if, in some ways, this film may play better today than it did for reviewers of years past.

The film is also bolstered by particularly credible performances by Day, Sullivan, Lovejoy, and Jack Kelly as the plane's first officer. Day is properly shattered, having been through a suicide and then discovered she's married to an abusive homicidal maniac (!), but she's also admirable as she tries to hold it together and get on with her life. The final scenes are an affirmation for Julie that she's a strong woman who can move on.

I thought the closing flight sequence was extremely well done, thanks to Day, Kelly, Lovejoy, Barney Phillips as a doctor on the plane, and the various actors at the airport. Ann Robinson (THE WAR OF THE WORLDS) plays Julie's fellow stewardess. Sure, this section of the film may have been a little far-fetched, but the actors made me believe it, and I was certainly glued to the screen watching it!

Lovejoy has the capacity to be completely annoying (i.e., GOODBYE, MY FANCY) or solid and reassuring (THREE BRAVE MEN). This was one of his "reassuring" roles. Similarly, Sullivan can at times be on the bland side, but he strikes all the right notes as the concerned family friend.

Kelly, who appeared in FORBIDDEN PLANET the same year and would soon be one of the stars of MAVERICK, is excellent as the gutsy young copilot in a tough situation. It was a pleasure to see him in such a significant role.

Jourdan is scary as the psycho husband; we never really understand him or his motivations, other than he's simply flat-out crazy.

Although the movie was filmed in black and white, it has beautiful location shooting in the Monterey-Carmel area of Northern California. The cinematography was by Fred Jackman Jr., who ironically enough had been married to Jack Kelly's sister, Nancy, in the 1940s.

JULIE was written and directed by Andrew L. Stone, who also wrote and directed the suspenseful A BLUEPRINT FOR MURDER (1953) and THE LAST VOYAGE (1960). Stone received an Oscar nomination for the JULIE screenplay. His wife Virginia served as editor.

Aline Towne, Ed Hinton, Jack Kruschen, Carleton Young, John Gallaudet, and Eddie Marr are also in the cast. The film runs 99 minutes.

JULIE was released on VHS, but it does not appear to have ever had a DVD release.

It can be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

August 2011 Update: JULIE was just released as a remastered widescreen DVD-R by the Warner Archive.


Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

" In fact, the subject matter of a wife stalked by her abusive husband, while police shrug helplessly, seems to me to have been rather ahead of its time. I also appreciated the film's realistic look in scenes such as those set in police stations. I wonder if, in some ways, this film may play better today than it did for reviewers of years past."

Interesting point. I've read many reviews over the years of films where I thought the critic glossed over, or even seemed obtuse about certain aspects of a film. But it is also true that films sometimes age better than our original opinions about them.

3:51 AM  
Blogger Melissa Clark said...

I like this movie. It really shows how talented and versatile Doris Day was. She could do a lot more than sing and be funny, although of course she was great at those things, too!


7:03 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks to you both for your feedback!

I'd be curious to know your thoughts if you watch it sometime, Jacqueline. The more I look into this film the more I feel that some reviewers have old conceptions about the film. George Morris doesn't even bother to give it more than 2 paragraphs in his Pyramid Illustrated History of the Movies book on Day -- and his quick dissing of the movie makes me think maybe he didn't have a copy of the film to actually watch when he wrote the book, as tended to happen in the '70s. But even Tom Santopietro's excellent, relatively recent book CONSIDERING DORIS DAY gives the film a mere "C," terming it "ludicrous." Not even a B minus? Ah, well. At least I had a good time watching it! :)

MC, interested to know you enjoyed it too! Doris really was one of those who could do it all. I sure love her.

Best wishes,

4:14 PM  
Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

I never cared for this movie (and I kind of put this one alongside the Day-Cagney film Love Me or Leave Me too). But I never thought it was unintentionally funny as those other critics you mentioned said. It was a long time since I had watched this for a personal Doris Day marathon so it might be time for a revisit. Great review!

8:02 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks very much for sharing your impressions of the film, Raquelle! I'd be interested to know if your initial reaction holds on a repeat viewing. This seems to be a film which receives a variety of reactions so it's very interesting to hear what more film fans think of it.

A Doris Day marathon sounds like a fine idea! :) It just so happens that her debut film, ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS, is on TCM tonight...

Best wishes,

8:40 AM  
Blogger Estella said...

I'm weighing in a little late on this one, Laura--I've been traveling a lot and thus unable to check in as often as I would like on my favorite blogs. :) Speaking of favorites, "Julie" has always been one of mine. Although I haven't revisited it in quite a while, my recollection of it coincides with what others said in their comments above. I love Doris Day, and especially treasure her comedy/romance films (particular favorites are "Move Over Darling" and "Pillow Talk"). However, I think she really proved how broad spectrum her acting skills were in the suspense films she did, such as this one, and "Midnight Lace" with Rex Harrison and Myrna Loy. In my opinion, "Midnight Lace" was a far superior film to "Julie" in every way (how could it NOT be when she was teamed with Rex Harrison?), but I still count "Julie" as one of my faves. I have seen it many times, and, like Raquelle, I don't recall any scenes that were unintentionally humorous.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Estella,

Wonderful to hear from you!! Hope your travels have all been most enjoyable. :)

Why am I not surprised to discover you're a fellow fan of Doris Day?! (My favorites include PAJAMA GAME, CALAMITY JANE, PILLOW TALK, THE THRILL OF IT ALL...I know I'm forgetting some!) But would you believe I've never seen MIDNIGHT LACE? I'm obviously going to have to rectify that. Thanks much for the recommendation and for weighing in on your love for JULIE!

Best wishes,

8:40 PM  
Blogger Estella said...

Laura, you MUST see MIDNIGHT LACE! (I'm going to adopt your capitalization of movie titles. I get tired of quotes!) You will love it--I promise! What a treat you have in store! I love all the movies you mentioned as well, especially CALAMITY JANE. Have you seen MOVE OVER, DARLING with James Garner? If not, it's a must, too. The carwash scene is one of my absolute, all-time favorites. SUCH a hoot!

11:50 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi again Estella!

Yes, MOVE OVER DARLING is great fun. Had to get the DVD since I'm also a big James Garner fan! :)

I checked and my dad has MIDNIGHT LACE in his Doris Day collection, so I'll request that from him in a future "movie shipment"! Thanks again for the recommendation!

Best wishes,

11:53 PM  

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