Please Don't Eat the Daisies
Cast & Crew
Drama professor Lawrence Mackay is launching his career as a New York newspaper theater critic by reviewing his friend, producer Alfred North's, new Broadway musical. On the eve of opening night, Larry's dutiful wife Kate is visited at their apartment by aspiring playwright and cab driver Joe Positano, who hopes that Larry will read his play. After Kate finishes settling her mischievous boys David, Gabriel, George and toddler Adam, who are dropping water balloons on passersby, she agrees to give Larry the play, knowing her husband is generous with his advice. Meanwhile, at Columbia University, where Larry is giving his last lecture as a professor, his students berate him for becoming a critic, confident that he will find fault with every performance just to promote his own career. Later after the show, Larry feels terribly guilty that as an honest reviewer, he has to pan his friend's play, but Kate encourages him to tell the truth.
The next morning, when Alfred interrupts the Mackay breakfast because he is upset about the review, Larry tries to reassure his friend that he wrote it in the kindest way possible. Distraught about the confrontation, Larry and Kate have breakfast at a local restaurant, where Deborah Vaughn, the star of Alfred's show, slaps Larry in front of a cameraman who captures the embarrassing moment on film. When the picture makes front-page headlines, much to Alfred and Deborah's chagrin, Larry, with encouragement from Kate, publishes a column alongside the photo claiming the show's popularity is dependent not on Deborah's paltry acting but on her sub-par derriere. Days later at a society cocktail party, Larry enjoys being the center of attention while Kate is largely ignored by the pretentious crowd. When Deborah seeks Larry's forgiveness and saunters in front of him hoping that he will reconsider his opinion of her behind, Larry gladly approves to charm the crowd. Meanwhile, Alfred warns Kate that Larry is on his way to becoming a critic who thinks his own jokes are better than any play he reviews. As they leave, Larry ridicules the play opening that evening.
At home after attending the drama, an infuriated Kate asks Larry if he disliked the play before seeing it, alluding to his cocktail party remark. Larry assures her he had not prejudged it, thus appeasing Kate. Days later, as Larry reads Joe's biblical play, he harshly criticizes him for writing about an era he has not researched. Offended, Joe tells Larry that he is not the same man from whom Joe once sought an opinion. Soon after, Larry and Kate discover that the lease on their apartment is about to expire and talk about their plans to move to a large house outside the city. Although Larry agreed to the move earlier, he now wants to remain in the city to enjoy his recent success and fame. Using her feminine wiles, Kate claims that his work comes first and calls the entire family just a "parasite" on his burgeoning career. Larry momentarily sees his arrogance and agrees to the move. With few choices available, the family decides on a huge dilapidated gothic house in Hooten, 70 miles outside New York. With the help of Kate's mother, Suzie Robinson, the entire family set about fixing up the house. When community leaders Mrs. Hunter, Dr. Sprouk and Rev. Dr. McQuarry ask Larry and Kate to help them find a play for the local theater group, Larry states that he has no time for trivial projects. Kate is furious with Larry, but Suzie cautions her not to be overly critical of her husband. Later in the city, Deborah finds Larry dining alone and makes a pass at him, but Larry politely refuses and then returns home to find an apology from Kate. On the children's first day of school, Larry refuses the principal's request for the parents to volunteer, claiming the school is performing "moral blackmail."
The next day, when community leaders once again ask the couple for a suggestion on a play, Kate calls Alfred for a suggestion. Alfred gives her a play that Larry wrote as a young man, retitling the play and author to disguise its origins from Kate. Meanwhile, when Larry complains that he is unable to write because of the noisy renovations, Kate suggests that he stay in New York until the house is finished. Days later, Kate watches incredulously as Deborah insinuates in a televised interview that she and Larry are having an affair. Suzie warns Kate that although Larry has not had an affair, her daughter must lavish some attention on him or lose him. Back in a quaint coffeehouse in the city, Deborah tries to entice Larry again, but Larry dismisses her and returns to Hooten and attends Kate's rehearsal. Suddenly recognizing the dialogue from his old play and embarrassed by his bad writing, Larry refuses to give the theater group the rights to the play despite the fact that the benefit performance is already sold out. Kate takes him aside, telling him she will never forgive him unless he relinquishes the rights.
On the night of the show's opening, Alfred shows Kate Larry's review of the play. He writes that he is grateful that someone rejected his bad writing early on and promises to continue reviewing truthfully, even cruelly, if necessary, advising audiences to avoid the Hooten production. Later, Joe visits Larry at his New York hotel room and gratefully attributes his decision to stop writing to Larry. Deborah then arrives at the hotel and announces that since Larry has become mean he has gained popularity. Suzie, the third visitor, admonishes Larry to be unwavering and berates Kate for "pretending to be smart." Understanding that his insensitive "strong" routine has only left him sad and lonely, Larry, ready to return to Hooten, heads for the elevator, where he finds Kate, who offers to sell the house. However, Larry admits his guilt and asks that things remain the same. As they return to their Hooten home, the boys are eagerly waiting with a water balloon to christen their parents' homecoming.
M. G. Cline
George W. Davis
Charles K. Hagedon
John Mcsweeney Jr.
Please Don't Eat the Daisies
Doris Day was already a household name in America when Please Don't Eat the Daisies was released; her reputation as a gifted comedic actress had been confirmed in previous films like Teacher's Pet (1958), and Pillow Talk (1959) and her persona stayed true to form for Daisies. Yet, while there is an undeniable chemistry between Day and co-star David Niven on-screen, the two actors rarely interacted once the cameras had stopped rolling. In Niven's case, there was a reason for his aloof behavior; during filming, he had separated from his wife, Hjordis, an event that caused the actor considerable anguish. Richard Haydn, who played a supporting role in Please Don't Eat the Daisies, recalled (in The Other Side of the Moon: The Life of David Niven by Sheridan Morley) "a rather distraught David on the set. It so happened that we were both called for the first day of shooting but he was terribly nervous and that whole day's work had to be done again later."
Producer Joe Pasternak, who had worked with Niven twice before, was now observing a markedly insecure man, and devised a way to deal with his growing self-doubt. In Morley's aforementioned biography, Pasternak recalled that "David used to keep asking me why I'd hired him when there were so many better actors around so I said, 'Look, I'll tell you what I'll do. Every day I have to look at the rushes, and if you're any good I'll give you a quarter.' So every morning he used to hang around like a schoolboy waiting for his 25 cents and some days I wouldn't give it to him and then he'd act a bit better the next day. But I don't think he was very happy...and David seemed much more turned in on himself than he had been before." This image of Niven is so vastly different from the dashing figure he cut in such films as Raffles (1940) - as an elegant jewel thief - and Around the World in Eighty Days (1956), where he played sophisticated world traveler Phileas Fogg. David reconciled with his wife before filming wrapped on Daisies, but the strain the incident had placed on Niven was glaringly evident to both cast and crew.
Charles Walters, the director of Please Don't Eat the Daisies, was better known as a choreographer of musicals in Hollywood. Among his credits were Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) and Ziegfeld Follies (1946), both helmed by Vincente Minnelli. Upon graduating to director, however, Walters found additional success with The Tender Trap (1955) and The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964). For Daisies, he had the luxury of working with an esteemed supporting cast, beginning with Janis Paige as a sultry temptress. Paige had an interesting connection with Day, her career high point being the lead in the Broadway production of The Pajama Game in 1954 - a role Day would play on film three years later.
Other supporting players who stand out in Daisies are Spring Byington as Day's dotty mother and Richard Haydn as Niven's producer friend. Previously Oscar-nominated for her work in You Can't Take It With You (1938), Byington would make her final film appearance in Daisies. Haydn is best remembered for his role as the enterprising family friend of the Von Trapps in The Sound of Music (1965) and the voice of the caterpillar in Disney's animated Alice in Wonderland (1951). Also featured in Daisies is Patsy Kelly, who made a career out of playing the wisecracking sidekick alongside such talents as Thelma Todd, Jean Harlow, and Tallulah Bankhead.
Fans of the TV series, My Three Sons (1960), will recognize Stanley Livingston, who played Chip Douglas on the sitcom. "Mack the Knife" fans, keep your eyes peeled: in an uncredited role, crooner Bobby Darin pops up briefly.
Producer: Joe Pasternak
Director: Charles Walters
Screenplay: Isobel Lennart, based on the novel by Jean Kerr
Art Direction: George W. Davis, Hans Peters
Cinematography: Robert J. Bronner
Editing: John McSweeney, Jr.
Music: David Rose
Cast: Doris Day (Kate Mackay), David Niven (Larry Mackay), Janis Paige (Deborah Vaughn), Spring Byington (Suzie Robinson), Richard Haydn (Alfred North), Patsy Kelly (Maggie), Jack Weston (Joe Positano), Margaret Lindsay (Mona James).
C-112m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.
by Eleanor Quin
Please Don't Eat the Daisies
For a critic that first step is the first printed joke. It gets a laugh and a whole new world opens up. He makes another joke, and another. And then one day along comes a joke that shouldn't be made because the show he's reviewing is a good show. But, as it so happens, it's a good joke. And you know what? The joke wins.- Alfred North
As noted in many reviews, the book on which the film was based was a recollection by author Jean Kerr of her life with her husband, Walter Kerr, noted New York Herald Tribune [NYHT] drama critic and Pulitzer Prize winning dramatist and playwright. Kerr co-wrote several successful plays with her husband including King of Hearts and The Song of Bernadette. She was also well-known for her comedic plays Finishing Touches and the hit Mary, Mary, among others.
The real newspaper for which Walter Kerr's alter ego, "Lawrence Mackay," was the drama critic, was not specified in the film, but the New York Herald Tribune review, perhaps tongue-in-check, criticized the film's portrait of a New York newspaper drama critic as unrealistic and its exaggeration of the influence the film attributed to the job. The reviewer further warned readers not to draw any conclusions about real critics and their wives from the film. A January 15, 1958 Variety article stated that in the contract with M-G-M, Kerr insisted that the studio refrain from using the names of the author, her husband, their four children or her husband's newspaper.
According to Hollywood Reporter news items, Jane Betts, Helen Wallace and Jack Chefe were added to the cast; however, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Although onscreen credit is given to a "Baby Gellert," a July 31, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item also adds that both Larry and Rickey Gellert were cast. It is unknown which or if both actors portrayed toddler "Adam McKay" in the film. The song "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)," which became Doris Day's signature song after she sang it in The Man Who Knew Too Much, can be heard briefly in Please Don't Eat the Daisies.
Please Don't Eat the Daisies marked the final film appearance of the long-time character actress Spring Byington (1893-1971). A television series based on the film starring Patricia Crowley was broadcast on the NBC network from September 1965-April 1967.
Released in United States Spring April 1960
Released in United States Spring April 1960