GLASS BOTTOM BOAT, THE (director: Frank Tashlin; screenwriter: Everett Freeman; cinematographer: Leon Shamroy; editor: John McSweeney; music: Frank De Vol; cast: Doris Day (Jennifer Nelson), Rod Taylor (Bruce Templeton), Arthur Godfrey (Axel Nordstrom), John McGiver (Ralph Goodwin), Paul Lynde (Homer Cripps), Edward Andrews (Gen. Horace Wallace Bleecker), Eric Fleming (Edgar Hill), Dom De Luise (Julius Pritter), Dick Martin (Zack Molloy), George Tobias (Mr. Norman Fenimore), Alice Pearce (Mrs. Mabel Fenimore), Ellen Corby (Anna Miller), Dee J. Thompson (Donna, receptionist); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Everett Freeman/Martin Melcher; MGM; 1966)
“It’s just a wonderfully stupid comedy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An enjoyable nonsensical Frank Tashlin (“Son of Paleface”/”Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter”/”The Disorderly Orderly”) spy comedy that features plenty of Jerry Lewis’s mentor’s trademark sight gags and slapstick. It remains an underrated vehicle for both Tashlin and star Doris Day, who were both soon to retire and never received their just due for this irreverent “battle of the sexes” spoof that is frantically funny, filled with colorful and ingenuous sets and has Doris outlandishly costumed and singing such delightful tunes as “Que Sera, Sera,” “The Glass Bottom Boat” and “Soft As The Starlight.” It’s scripted by Everett Freeman to make it absurd in every which way, from automated kitchens running amok to cream pies in the puss to making light of the Cold War paranoia to gently spoofing America’s unrelenting consumerism to mocking the American puritanical hypocrisy by pointing out that secretive sexual affairs are the staple of the frustrated American’s diet. Once famous radio talk show host and host of TV’s Talent Scouts from the 1950s Arthur Godfrey, a combination ukelele playing host/pitchman, adds to the film’s goofiness as Doris’s lovable, caring, and eccentric father.
Widow Jenny Nelson (Doris Day) works for an aerospace design laboratory as a PR tour guide and on weekends dons a mermaid tail outfit to put on a show for tourists on her father’s glass-bottom boat tour of Catalina Harbor by swimming under the boat. On one occasion when working with her dad, Jenny’s mermaid tail gets caught on the hook of the fishing pole of her boss, Bruce Templeton (Rod Taylor), whom she does not recognize. She’s left swimming around bare-bottomed and as angry as a scorned woman. Later when she gets her high-heel stuck in the vibrating platform machine back at the lab, Bruce comes to her rescue and a romance begins when he conveniently promotes her to work on his biography so they can be together for long periods.
Bruce is the brilliant bachelor research scientist who invented a devise called “Gismo,” that can overcome weightlessness in outer space. Through his playboy bachelor business partner, Molloy (Dick Martin), their lab has a lucrative military contract for their valuable invention. But during this tense period of the “space race” the USSR also wants it and plants spies to steal the formula, which is kept locked in a secure vault. When word gets out that efforts are being made to steal the formula, of all people, the all-American Jenny becomes suspect number one of the security people. Uniformed head security guard Homer Cripps (Paul Lynde) overhears her make a call where she signs off by saying goodbye Vladimir, not realizing that’s her way of exercising her dog who when he hears the phone ringing runs around the room barking. It’s something she does four times a day, which further arouses suspicion among these lightweight security people; it’s also learned that Jenny is in the habit of burning all her paper memos she receives in the office. Bruce doesn’t believe for a moment she’s a Commie spy, but that’s not the case with a CIA operative Hill (Eric Fleming) assigned to the lab and the visiting General Bleecker (Edward Andrews) who signed off on the military contract. To complicate things further, there’s incompetent spy Julius Pritter (Dom De Luise), working for the Russians by planting bugs in the lab and stealing a love note to Jenny that Bruce discarded and passing it on to his shady threatening sponsors as part of the secret formula.
The film works its mistaken identity routine to the hilt and draws the most comedy it can from it thanks to Doris’s pleasingly giddy performance as the nice girl who surprisingly has those “bedroom eyes,” and the good chemistry she has with her personality opposite Taylor. He sparkles as the even-tempered and handsome Mr. Right. Meanwhile the comical supporting cast shines, as the bumbling De Luise is a spy you can almost feel sorry for, Lynde dressed in a formal woman’s gown that becomes untied by its bow is a scream, and Martin and Andrews ending up together in bed in the “Red Room” thinking they were with Doris and turns its homosexual reference into a few PC incorrect funny one-liners. For the silliness it is, it’s brilliant due to Tashlin’s magical sleigh of hand in drawing comedy by his irreverence. It’s just a wonderfully stupid comedy.
REVIEWED ON 1/13/2006 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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