With Six You Get Eggroll
Thursday November, 24 2016 at 02:30 AM
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Doris Day's last feature film, With Six You Get Eggroll (1968), is a sunny comedy about two single parents, played by Day and Brian Keith, who marry and cope with the problems of blending their families. But behind the scenes, a crisis that had been brewing for more than a decade was about to put an end to Day's film career, and send her life into turmoil.
Day's husband-manager Marty Melcher had been in charge of her career since their 1951 marriage, and it appeared that he had done an excellent job. She had gone from hit to hit, and just when it seemed that her career might be slowing down in the late 1950s, she segued into a series of sexy romantic comedies in which she tried to protect her virtue from such smooth operators as Rock Hudson and Cary Grant. Playing a middle-aged woman with children in With Six You Get Eggroll could have moved her into a new phase of her career - family comedies. During production of With Six You Get Eggroll, Melcher was ill with what appeared to be the flu. After filming ended, he got worse, but as a Christian Scientist, he refused to consult a doctor until Day insisted. Melcher was quickly hospitalized with a heart condition, and in April of 1968, he died.
After his death, Day discovered that Melcher and his business partner had embezzled and squandered her 23 million dollar fortune on bad investments. There was nothing left. Melcher had also committed her to star in a television sitcom without her knowledge. Although she did not want to do television, she felt obligated to honor the contract. She also needed the money to pay off the debt Melcher had incurred, and to fight the legal battle against Melcher's business partner, which she ultimately won. The Doris Day Show ran from 1968 to 1973. After two television specials, which were also part of the contract with CBS, Day retired.
Fortunately, Day's final film is a worthy one, much more so than such previous films as Where Were You When the Lights Went Out? (1968) and The Ballad of Josie (1967). What could have been a cliché situation in With Six You Get Eggroll benefited from sharp writing, the charm and chemistry of the two stars, and an excellent supporting cast. Comic George Carlin makes a bright film debut playing the owner of a hamburger stand. Barbara Hershey, who had starred in the television series The Monroes (1967), also made her feature film debut as Keith's sullen teen daughter. And veteran Alice Ghostley showed off her skill with verbal zingers as Day's harried housekeeper.
Critics, while not effusive about With Six You Get Eggroll, were at least mildly enthusiastic. Roger Ebert, in the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote, "It's not great, but if you like Doris Day in pleasant family comedies with lots of kids and dogs, you could do worse." Vincent Canby of the New York Times wrote of Day's performance, "There are...some hints of the very real comic talent that has, over the years, become hermetically sealed inside a lacquered personality like a butterfly in a Mason jar."
In his book Reconsidering Doris Day (2007), Tom Santopietro notes the Day-Keith chemistry: "Day and Keith make a terrific team, beautifully playing off each other; her pep gives his laconic delivery some zing, and he calms her down through some nicely calibrated understatement." Santopietro regrets what might have been. "It makes her subsequent retirement from feature films all the more frustrating because this movie clearly demonstrates that with good material, she could still rise to the occasion - and then some."
Producer: Martin Melcher
Director: Howard Morris
Screenplay: Gwen Bagni, Paul Dubov, R.S. Allen, Harvey Bullock, based on a story by Bagni and Dubov
Cinematography: Ellsworth Fredericks, Harry Stradling, Jr.
Art Direction: Cary Odell
Music: Robert Mersey
Film Editing: Adrienne Fazan
Cast: Doris Day (Abby McClure), Brian Keith (Jake Iverson), Pat Carroll (Maxine Scott), Barbara Hershey (Stacy Iverson), George Carlin (Herbie Fleck), Alice Ghostley (Molly the maid), John Findlater (Flip McClure), Elaine Devry (Cleo Ruskin), Herb Voland (Harry Scott), Jamie Farr (Jo Jo), William Christopher (Zip 'Cloud'). C-94m.
by Margarita Landazuri