Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Doctor, You've Got to be Kidding! (1967)

Doctor You've Got to be Kidding (1967)

1967 was a rough year for Sandra Dee. She was in her mid-twenties and had outgrown the youthful persona that made her famous. Her contract with Universal, the last of the studio era, had ended a couple of years ago and now was the time to transition into a new phase of her career. However, the cutesy image of Sandra Dee was one that was difficult for the public to let go and when her husband Bobby Darin left her during the filming of Doctor, You've Got to be Kidding! (1967) it seemed like that image was shattered forever. This time proved to be a natural end to her acting career. She made a couple more films including Rosie (1967) and The Dunwich Horror (1970) and various film and TV appearances but Sandra Dee the movie star was no more. Even with all of this I refuse to look at Doctor, You've Got to be Kidding (1967) as anything but a fun, kooky film that captured the last of an on screen personality that has continued to captivate and charm us many years later.

Sandra Dee in Doctor, You've Got to be Kidding! (1967)

Doctor, You've Got to be Kidding is an MGM film directed by Peter Tewksbury (originally intended for Charles Walters)  and based on the novel Three for a Wedding by Patte Wheat Mahan. The plot for the story would be nothing without adding a bunch of zany antics to up the entertainment value. It starts with a crazy race to the hospital. Heather Halloran (Sandra Dee) is about to give birth and the identity of the child’s father remains a mystery. Her three suitors want to make her an honest woman and fight with each other to capture her as their prize. Who is the father of the child? Is it one of the three? Or someone else? And so the mystery begins.

Dick Kallman, Dwayne Hickman and Bill Bixby
Dick Kallman, Dwayne Hickman and Bill Bixby

We flashback to the beginning of Heather’s story. Her mother Louise (Celeste Holm) is an elevator operator determined to make her daughter a singing sensation. Over the years Louise has trapped various entertainment executives in her elevator and forced them to listen to Heather’s rendition of Be My Love. These elevator pitches got them nowhere. Heather grows up, dates boys, graduates college and joins the workforce all to her mother’s dismay.

Sandra Dee in Doctor You've Got to be Kidding (1967)

Sandra Dee

Celeste Holm

Heather tries to live a normal life amidst the antics of her kooky mother and a trio of pushy suitors Hank (Dwayne Hickman), Dick (Bill Bixby) and Pat (Dick Kallman). She’s got plenty of guys going gaga for her but it’s her new boss Harlan Wycliff (George Hamilton) who drives her crazy. At first he’s just annoying her with his constant multi-tasking and his brutal honesty. But it just takes one car ride alone together for them to see fireworks. What’s Heather going to do now that she’s about to become an unwed mother and everyone in her life is absolutely bonkers?

Harlan: "Your trouble is that you're wholesome."
Heather: "What a rotten thing to say!”

Sandra Dee and George Hamilton
Sandra Dee and George Hamilton

For those of us who have a deep appreciation for Sandra Dee, this film is a charming entry to her body of work. It’s a glimpse at the last moments when she was happy before she went into the dark post-Darin years. It was during the filming of Doctor You’ve Got to be Kidding that Sandra Dee found out Bobby Darin had left her. In one scene with Bill Bixby, Dee’s character slaps him and she breaks down in tears. That is a real breakdown for the actress who couldn’t hold back her emotions during a turbulent time in her life. According to a TCM article, Dee slapped Bixby so hard she gave him a concussion. When you watch the scene closely there is a continuity error with her hair. It goes from wildly out of place to perfect coiffed. I’ve always wondered if the scene was too much for Dee and the rest had to be shot another day hence the continuity error.

Doctor You’ve Got to be Kidding has a sad background but is essentially a fun wacky film. It might be a bit much for contemporary audiences but those of us who love the absurdity of the 1960s will enjoy this one. My husband watched this one with me and was overwhelmed by it’s kookiness. I had to remind him that “it’s the ‘60s baby.”

This film gives 1960s devotees a glimpse at the youth culture of the time notably dancing, music, nightlife of teens and young adults. For those who love vintage style there is plenty of eye candy including Celeste Holm’s colorful outfits, Bill Bixby’s glasses, Sandra Dee’s shimmery gold ensemble and George Hamilton’s slim fit suit. It’s worth the price of admission just for the shots of Hamilton’s office which is a splendor of 1960s corporate excess. Mad Men eat your heart out.

Heather and the Wild Affair

There are some notable minor roles in this film including beloved Allen Jenkins who plays Joe Bonney, a victim of one of Louise’s many elevator pitches. He helps Heather and her bad The Wild Affair nab a sweet gig at a club run by Mort Sahl’s character Dan Ruskin. Nichelle Nichols of Star Trek fame has a minor role as a secretary in Hamilton’s grandiose office. I had fun spotting Erich Von Stroheim Jr.’s name in the credits; he was an assistant director on the film!

Allen Jenkins and Celeste Holm
Allen Jenkins and Celeste Holm

Nichelle Nichols and Sandra Dee
Nichelle Nichols and Sandra Dee

Doctor, You've Got to be Kidding! (1967) is available on DVD-MOD from Warner Archive. This kooky film is a must see for Sandra Dee devotees and anyone who loves 1960s camp. It's a fun film if you don't take it too seriously.

 Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I purchased Doctor, You've Got to be Kidding! from Warner Archive. Heck I even requested this title when I wrote to them for their podcast. The episode aired sometime in March 2015.

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