Happy Soap Makes for a Happy Day
In the latter part of Doris Day's movie career where she ventured into romantic comedies she generally played one of two stereotypes, the loving wife and mother or the head strong, feisty career woman. Occasionally these two different characters crossed over which was the case with "The Thrill of it All" the first of the two movies which Doris Day made with James Garner, the second "Move Over, Darling" being released in the same year. And as you would expect from a Doris Day romantic comedy "The Thrill of it All" has all those components which made her movies so much fun from the facial humour, the set piece gags and the romance.
Whilst at a dinner party, Beverly Boyer (Doris Day - Billy Rose's Jumbo), wife of obstetrician Gerald (James Garner - The Great Escape), tells the owner of 'Happy Soap' how it saved her life when she had to use it to shampoo her daughter's hair. Won over by the innocent and homely tale he offers Beverly the chance of appearing in a commercial to tell the world about 'Happy Soap'. Although hesitant she agrees and despite making a hash of things becomes a success leading to a career on TV, much to Gerald's dismay.
"The Thrill of it All" is very much a movie of its era with the husband being the bread winner who feels threatened once his wife starts to earn money. As such it's hard to ignore that the storyline revolves around a lot of stereotypes from the whole concept of the wife being the happy home maker whilst the man's place is to bring in the money. But it's hard to criticize because "The Thrill of it All" is all about the 60s ideal of perfect family life which then gets messed up when the wife gets a life of her own. As such it's fun, it's packed full of humour as well as romance and Carl Reiner who wrote the screenplay has tapped into everything about the 60s ideal of the perfect family.
Where "The Thrill of it All" works best is not so much from the actual storyline which ends up being a little predictable but from all the humour. From the opening scene which sees a very happy Mrs. Fraleigh pronouncing she's pregnant through to the ketchup bottling scene every other minute there is something which will make you smile or laugh. In one of the best, almost surreal scenes where we see a garden full of suds with workmen loading up their trucks with the bubbles you just can't but help laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, but it's also sort of amusingly clever.
Talking of suds the whole comedy surrounding the advertising for Happy Soap and Happy Suds is not only spot on for the era but also hugely funny. When Beverly is posing for publicity shots kissing a bar of Happy Soap it's amusing but every time she breaks the pose to be normal it just makes the almost fake ness of advertising even funnier. Even the bumbling ads she makes are perfectly humorous as are the repetitive dramas which the ads punctuate. It may have been intentional, it may not have been but "The Thrill of it All" is a wonderfully clever and amusing look at the whole 60s way of life.
Plus of course when it comes to the humour you have Doris Day and James Garner a partnership not too unlike that of Doris Day and Rock Hudson. Day is yet again on fine form delivering that homeliness of the perfect wife with her warm smile and twinkling eyes but also delivering the comedy with wide eyed looks of shock which punctuate scenes brilliantly. In this day and age the over the top looks would be frowned upon but they work so perfectly causing smiles and laughs every single time Day pulls one of those faces. And as for James Garner well he is pretty spot on as the handsome bread winning husband threatened by his wife's success. It's again all over the top but the way Garner delivers the frustration is comically spot on and many would say perfectly cast as a handsome obstetrician.
But Doris Day and James Garner are by no means alone and "The Thrill of it All" is full of amusing supporting performances from the Boyer children Maggie and Andy (Kym Karath & Brian Nash) through to Reginald Owen as Old Tom Fraleigh.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "The Thrill of it All" is dated with its comedy around 60s ideal and stereotypes it's still great fun. There is a witty cleverness to much of the humour and although it is predictable when it comes to the storyline the performances of Doris Day and James Garner make it work.