Julie, or Doris Has a Bad Day

Okay, I am no admirer of Doris Day; I find her music sleep inducing and suggest medically it could probably be used as a definitive cure for insomnia. Her albums are posters for 1950’s bland. As for her film career, it is spotty at best.  “Pillow Talk” is a likable romantic comedy, and in “Love Me or Leave Me,”  as real life singer Ruth Etting, she gets one of her best roles in her career, and opposite James Cagney no less!  “Midnight Lace” is a nice attempt, if not totally successful, at recreating a Hitchcock thriller atmosphere.  Then of course, there is the real Hitchcock film, “The Man Who Knew Too Much” which ranks as the high point in Ms. Day’s film career. She is wonderful in the famous Albert Hall sequence where without any dialogue whatsoever she conveys the anxiety, the tension to save her child while at the same time knowing that a political figure is about to be assassinated.

Then there is “Julie” released in 1956, right after “The Man Who Knew Too Much” which must have made this film’s weaknesses even more evident to the more demanding filmgoers in the audience. The film was produced by her then husband Marty Melcher who must accept much of the responsibility for Day’s later atrocities such as “Ballad of Josie,” “Caprice” and “The Glass Bottom Boat” to name a few. The film was directed insipidly by Andrew L Stone, who also wrote the script while his wife and partner Virginia L. Stone was the editor.

The plot is inane. Here is what you’re are in for. Before your artificially flavored popcorn spread even has a chance to soak in, Julie (Doris Day) is in fear her new husband, Lyle Benton (Louis Jordan)  is a murderer and now wants to kill her. We are told quickly Lyle was responsible for Julie’s first husband’s death. You see, Lyle is obsessed with Julie, he wants her for himself so he removed husband number one from the picture. Julie spends most of the film running away from Lyle, and Lyle, the sneaky dude that he is, always manages to find her. The police are no help; they don’t believe poor Julie is in any danger.

She then runs into old friend Cliff Henderson (Barry Sullivan) who helps her escape to San Francisco only to be found by crazy Lyle once again. Her next attempt to escape her terror is by reclaiming her former job as a flight attendant which she seemed to be able to do as quickly as tossing a frozen meal into the microwave. Make a phone call, bam you got your job back!

Before you know it, Julie is on a flight out of California. Only so is Lyle who manages to discover her plans yet again, getting on board the plane without even a ticket! Talk about lackadaisical security. Lyle easily finds a seat and a newspaper to cover his face until the plane is in the air. Once airborne, Lyle shoots the pilot, with a gun he smuggled on board, and wounds the co-pilot before getting killed himself.

But wait, there’s more!

The co-pilot (Jack Kelly) is wounded so badly he keeps floating in and out of consciousness! Certainly, no way to fly an aircraft. So, guess what? It’s up to old Julie to fly the plane!  In between his bouts of consciousness and la-la land the co-pilot instructs Julie on flying the aircraft. “I can’t do it, ” she cries out.  “You must!” the co-pilot mumbles. The co-pilot can’t hang on much longer. He soon blanks out. Now it’s up to the airport controllers to assist Julie in landing the flight. Can she do it?

Of course she can! Julie brings the plane down safely, saving a couple of hundred lives. Que Sera, Sera. Opps wrong movie.

There is plenty of bad dialogue spread throughout but one point I want to note is related to how women are condescended to here. This was the 1950’s and during the “exciting” landing with Julie at the controls we have the airport controller helping guide her in bringing down the flight safely. Good so far, only he talks to her almost in a childlike manner referring to her as “girl” as in “atta girl” and “a little to the left, honey.”  My God, the woman is flying a plane! Condescending to say the least. Then again, it was the 1950’s and that was the way it was.

Is there anything good about this film? Well yes, the early scenes were filmed in Carmel along the California coast. It’s beautiful and the location filming introduced Doris to the area where she would live for most of her life. She fell in love with the area which is easy to understand.  That said, “Julie” is a contrived, poor excuse for a thriller. As I stated at the beginning, I am not admirer of Doris Day but she deserved better.

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26 comments on “Julie, or Doris Has a Bad Day

  1. Kellee says:

    I’m actually a Doris Day fan but admit that I’m not a fan of Julie. For me, Doris Day shined brightest in her comedies. Her comedic sense of timing and spunky charisma was brilliant in her top comedies, in my opinion.

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    • John Greco says:

      Thanks for commenting. Day does have a nice comedic touch and in films like PILLOW TALK, SEND ME NO FLOWERS and even MOVE OVER, DARLING it works well. Overall, at least for me, her career deteriorated with some terrible films like WITH SIX YOU GET EGGROLL, CAPRICE and THE BALLAD OF JOSIE. In her defense, Day was almost forced to make some of these films because her then husband Martin Melcher was involved, with a third party, in some shady financial adventures costing him and Doris millions of dollars. Subsequently, he signed her up, forcing her, to make quite a few second rate films for big bucks with no thought to her own feelings toward the end of her film career.

      Admittedly, I am not a fan of her spunkiness but I try and give her films a fair shake. Thanks again and feel free to come back at any time.

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  2. This one’s sitting in my DVR queue because I’d liked some Stone thrillers I’d seen recently on TCM, particularly The Night Holds Terror. But from your description this looks like a subpar outing for the Stones. It may still have some document-of-cultural-attitudes or just plain camp value, so I may still watch it.

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  3. John Greco says:

    Samuel,

    I am not an admirer of The STONES, Andrew and Virgina. I have not seen THE NIGHT HOLDS TERROR so I cannot comment but I have seen CRY TERROR and THE STEAL TRAP. I found both pretty dull and routine. I though James Mason was wasted in CRY TERROR while Inger Stevens shrieks and Rod Steiger does a variation of his psychotic crazy he would repeat in other films like NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY. JULIE made have a camp value. Let me know what you think, I would be interested.

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  4. I have to be honest and say that this movie just sounds laughable, BUT somehow as I sit here smiling while I read this post, I want to watch the movie just to laugh at the ridiculous “conveniences” throughout.
    Doris Day is one of the actresses of the world that I had never seen one of her movies until about four months ago. (I have no idea how this happened.) I liked “The Man Who Knew Too Much” and “Pillow Talk”, and will be looking for “Midnight Lace” soon. And yes, if I can find “Julie” I will probably try it out as well. Thanks for the great post a always!

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    • John Greco says:

      Paul, Thanks. “Julie”” has played on TCM twice in the past couple of weeks so keep an eye out for it. THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH is her best film. Of course, she had Hitchcock directing. The film has some camp value and actually the final landing scene is done pretty well but the story is just bad and Day’s intenseness way too much. Thanks as always!

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  5. Omigosh, I loved your post — I just happened to catch this movie last week and I could not believe my eyes. One of my favorite columns from the old Movieline magazine was called ‘Bad Movies We Love’ — this one has GOT to be a candidate. Unlike you, I am very fond of Doris Day — I love her singing voice, and she just seems like a really cool person — but good heavens! I don’t know what she was thinking when she signed on for this clunker. Your write-up was absolutely hilarious and, incidentally, just what I needed on a particularly funky day that started with me getting a ticket and, so far, has included me getting pooped on by a bird. So thanks for the laughs, John! : )

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  6. John Greco says:

    SS- Glad my post put a smile on your face considering the day you are having so far. I remember MOVIELINE magazine and that column well.

    Her husband at the time seemed to be controlling her career, at least film wise, and he made some shady deals apparently that cost them a lot of money. His control drove her to make some horrible films when she apparently wanting to work with others who she could have benefited from career wise.

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  7. I must admit I do like Doris Day. Perhaps my own personal blandness makes her look exciting. Anyway, this film sounds so awful that I may have to go out and rent it just to experience it in all its inanity. (Is this a word??) Thanks for the great review!

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    • John Greco says:

      CFB,

      The film does pop up on TCM and is available at Warner Archives. Hopefully the resource you use to rent carries Warner’s stuff. Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. Sam Juliano says:

    John—
    Doris Day has three unforgettable turns in the movies, and you beautifully framed them in that buffo opening paragraph. Nobody could ever take aways when she accomplished in LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and perhaps her finest work of all in PILLOW TALK. Your delightful takedown of this much lesser effort is well deserved, as is in fact the vast majority of Day’s screen work. One could with a certain degree of generosity make claim to Day’s dubious career choices, but as you note when you chide her for sleep-inducement (ha!) she isn’t one who on balance would be posed as one on any best actress listings, to put it mildly.

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    • John Greco says:

      Thanks Sam,

      I know a lot of folks like her, and there is nothing wrong with that, as Mr. Seinfeld use to say but her film career was light on good film as was her talent. She will never be mistaken for Bette Davis or Katherine Hepburn. As for her dubious choices, many due to her huband, it did not help her cause.

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  9. How things might have been different if she had taken the role of Mrs. Robinson…

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    • John Greco says:

      Chris,
      True, Mike Nichols offered her the role of Mrs. Robinson and she turned it down due to the film’s sexual content. Sad, because the film would of given her a chance to break out of her virginal image and also would have given her a chance to work with a major director once again who may have guided her to a good performance like Hitchcock did. Ann Bancroft did a great job in the role but it would certainly have been interesting if Day had taken it on.

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  10. Steve A. says:

    I too would have loved to see her In the Mrs. Robinson role. Personally I found her quite sexy, perhaps for the very reason that she never tried to be. But yes, her film oeuvre will never be confused with Katherine Hepburn’s.

    In any event, your post put me in mind of what I consider one of the great John Simon lines of all time. In commenting on the virginal nature of her roles, he berated her films (in his characteristic manner) for “leaving all ambient beds prelapsarianly unsullied.” Needless to say, I had never heard it put quite that way.

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    • John Greco says:

      “leaving all ambient beds prelapsarianly unsullied” LOL That was quite a mouthful by Mr. Simon, but true.

      I can understand you finding her sexy. She was certainly an attractive woman, kind of had a girl next door quality,

      Steve A. – thanks for your terrific input here and please stop by again.

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  11. FlickChick says:

    I agree that the film is a stinker but disagree about Ms. Day, who I think is one of the most underrated of stars. But, back to Julie. One can only think that, had Hitchcock decided to tackle this turkey, it would have been much better. Poor Doris.

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    • John Greco says:

      FlickChick,

      It certainly would have improved if AH were directing but I think the script still would have needed some major rewrites too. As for Ms. Day, well she was a big star in her time but as an actress of any depth I think she was limited. A few nice performances in PILLOW TALK, MOVE OVER, DARLING, LOVE ME OR LEAVE and THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and not much else, I think we will have to agree to disagree on the depth of her talent. Thanks as always.

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  12. Judy says:

    John, I do like Doris Day and in particular her beautiful singing voice, but I’ll admit I don’t like the sound of this movie! She is still very popular in the UK, and last year her album ‘My Heart’ was a big hit here, making her the oldest artist ever to have a top ten album featuring new material, at the age of 87.

    On top of the films that have already been mentioned, I also really like her in musicals like ‘Young at Heart’ with Frank Sinatra, and ‘Calamity Jane’ and ‘On Moonlight Bay’ – I still have to see the follow-up to that one, ‘By the Light of the Silvery Moon’. According to Wikipedia she is the top female box office star of all time – not sure how that is measured, but interesting.

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    • John Greco says:

      Judy,

      That is amazing about her album hitting the top 10. I checked the web and I could only find that the album debuted here at #135 on the album chart but could not find if it gain ground or not. Still at 135 that is pretty good. I also admire her because the proceeds from the album sales are all going to her animal foundation. i know she has been a long time animal lover.

      Believe it or not TCM has just released an album of many of Day’s classic songs, a two disc set with includes “On Moonlight Bay” “Secret Love” and “Love Me or Leave Me.”

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  13. DorianTB says:

    John, while I’m not a die-hard Doris Day fan, I’ve enjoyed many of her screen performances, including Alfred Hitchcock’s 1956 version of THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME, and THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT (is that so wrong? :-)). I’ve found Andrew and Virginia Stone’s thrillers kinda hit or miss — but from what I’ve seen of JULIE, it struck me as great MST3K material! Too bad Doris couldn’t just kick Marty Melcher to the curb! Your cheeky review was way more fun than what I saw of the movie on TCM! 🙂

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    • John Greco says:

      Dorian, in the Hitchcock film Doris gives one of her better performances as she does in LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME. As for THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT, I will leave that unsaid (LOL). I also like PILLOW TALK which had a very good script. For me of the three Stone’s films I have seen, they leave a lot to be desired but this one has got to be the worst except for its camp value.

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  14. Joe says:

    John! John! Doris Day rocks. As Molly Haskell once observed, she’s “Hollywood’s most misunderstood commodity.” Her timing in her comedies – especially in “The Thrill of It All” and “Send Me No Flowers (both by Jewison) and in Quine’s “It Happened to Jane” – is peerless. And don’t forget her pre-feminism performances in Seaton’s “Teacher’s Pet” and Donen-Abbott’s “The Pajama Game.” And, as you mention, she’s more than fine in Vidor’s “Love Me or Leave Me” and Hitch’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” but Miller’s “Midnight Lace” is my own personal Day guilty pleasure. And as a singer, for me, she’s Sinatra’s female equivalent. If ever a career was worthy of reconsideration, it’s Day’s. Repent, blasphemer, repent! -J

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    • John Greco says:

      Thanks Joe for your sincere attempt to set me straight.(LOL) I have been getting a lot of heat for my position here. I actually do think THE THRILL OF IT ALL, SEND ME NO FLOWERS, and I will throw in MOVE OVER, DARLING are enjoyable films. I just could never warm up to Doris and this film here is just horrible but in her defense she gets no help from the script. It verges on laugh out loud funny.

      I do promise you, Joe that I will make a fair attempt to re-evaluate Ms Day, I am tempted to get a copy of the new PILLOW TALK blu-ray and give it another look. Have not seen it in years. .

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  15. joe lally says:

    well I think, Scorcese thinks and Jean Luc Godard thinks she is one of the great cinema actresses: Jack Lemon named her also in the same light.

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  16. John Greco says:

    Well Joe, you are in good company. Let me ask a question, have you seen JULIE? It’s a terrible film! As I say at the end “Julie” is a contrived, poor excuse for a thriller.” and while “I am not admirer of Doris Day… she deserved better.”

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