That Touch of Mink is going to seem a very odd movie to the audiences of 2012, who can effortlessly access internet porn and are accustomed to seeing things almost as racy at their local multiplex.
That Touch..., one of the hit movies of the summer of 1962, is about a grown woman determined to protect her virginity against the insistent encroachments of a fabulously wealthy and charming man.
Today the idea that the character played by blonde, freckled, 39-year-old Doris Day could remain a virgin at her age seems a stretch at best.
And you know what? It probably seemed preposterous to audiences back then, as well. In fact, people joked about Day being a “professional virgin” who on screen was always saving it for the right guy.
Problem was, in 1962 Hollywood couldn’t yet admit that sex existed.
Sheesh...on TV’s Dick Van Dyke Show Rob and Laura Petrie were still sleeping in separate beds. Dr. No, the first of the James Bond films – which were instrumental in putting the male libido front and center on our movie screens – would not be released in the U.S. for another year.
So whatever the entertainment value of That Touch of Mink, it also provides a snapshot into the morals of the early 1960s.
That Touch... originally was intended as a vehicle for Day and Rock Hudson, who had starred in the successful and sexless romantic comedies Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back (they would make a third, Send Me No Flowers, in 1964).
Day’s husband-manager, Martin Melcher, believed that in those earlier hits Hudson had gotten too much credit at his wife’s expense. And since Hudson’s performances in those films were frequently described as resembling the work of Cary Grant, Melcher decided to go for the real thing and hire Cary Grant.
Grant was dubious until Stanley Shapiro, who had written the Grant hit Operation Petticoat (as well as Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back) was assigned to the project. Shapiro had a history with both Grant and Day. It seemed a perfect fit.
Audiences thought so, too. Even though the plot – rich older guy lusts after girl, loses girl, finally gets girl – was anything but original.
For women in 1962 the film may very well have served as a sort of fantasy. Grant’s Philip Shayne meets Day’s Cathy Timberlake, a shopgirl, when his Rolls Royce splashes mud on her. Grant pulls out all the rich-guy stops to seduce her, including a visit to the Yankees dugout during a game (Grant, a huge baseball fan, was thrilled to share a scene with Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and Roger Maris), a trip to the Bahamas, and dinners in his sky-high penthouse.
But Cathy won’t budge. Only a wedding ring will do.
All of this is presented with much wit and fine comic timing thanks to director Delbert Mann, an Oscar-winner for 1952’s Marty and the maker of such serious stuff as Desire Under the Elms and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs.
Gig Young has some good comic moments as Philip’s neurotic manservant, who serves as a sort of moral Greek chorus and yearns for his predatory boss to get his comeuppance from a virtuous woman.
In the end That Touch of Mink scored not only at the box office but in the awards races. It was nominated for Oscars for art direction, sound, and screenplay. Grant was nominated for a Golden Globe and the film won the Globe for best comedy. Plus the Writers Guild of America honored it as the year’s best written original comedy.
Other films in the series “Hollywood Homers”
Saturdays at 1:30 p.m.:
- July 7: The Music Man (1962) Not Rated
- July 14: That Touch of Mink (1962) Not Rated
- July 21: Ride the High Country (1962) Not Rated
- July 28: Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) Not Rated
Admission to these films is free.
About the Author
Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at butlerscinemascene.com. He joined the Library's Public Affairs team in 2012.