Doris Day made her film debut in 1948 in the musical, Romance on the High Seas. Many of Day’s films throughout the 1940s and 1950s cemented her role as one of Warner Brothers’ top musical stars. Some of Day’s best known films during this period are: Tea for Two, I’ll See You in My Dreams, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, The Pajama Game and Calamity Jane. During the 1950s, Day also demonstrated that she was a capable dramatic actress and appeared in non-musical films like The Man Who Knew Too Much, Julie, and Love Me or Leave Me. Day ended the 1950s starring in Pillow Talk with Rock Hudson. This film proved that in addition to musicals and dramatic roles, Day was also comfortable in sophisticated romantic comedies. In 1960, Day starred in one more thriller, Midnight Lace.
The filming of ‘Lace’ proved to be so traumatic for Day that she refused to make another film of this type ever again. ‘Lace’ depicts a woman terrified that someone is trying to murder her. The intensity of Day’s fear conjured up old memories of her abusive first husband. She was so traumatized by the filming of ‘Lace’ that she vowed to not make another thriller again. Day kept her promise. During the 1960s, Day made two more romantic comedies with Hudson and then appeared in other romantic comedies with the likes of Rod Taylor, Cary Grant and James Garner. Day also appeared in family comedies like Please Don’t Eat the Daisies with David Niven and her final film, With Six You Get Eggroll co-starring Brian Keith.
With Six You Get Eggroll was one of Day’s top money-making films. This film, much in the same vein as Yours, Mine and Ours (1968) and The Brady Bunch (1969-1974), dealt with the blending of two families and the issues that can arise. Day portrays Abby McClure a widowed, single mom who supports her three sons as the boss of a lumberyard. Abby’s sister, Maxine, played by Pat Carroll (aka Ursula from The Little Mermaid), is constantly trying to fix Abby up with men. In this particular case, Maxine wants to hook her sister up with Brian Keith, who portrays widower Jake Iverson. Iverson is the father to a teenage daughter, Stacey, portrayed by Barbara Hershey. Abby’s oldest son Flip (John Findlater) and Jake’s daughter are classmates. In true classic film fashion, Abby’s youngest kids are at least ten-plus years younger than their brother, Flip. Abby’s one son, Jason, looks like a mini Mo Rocca from The Daily Show.
When we first meet Abby, we see her committing a major OSHA violation by standing on the forks of a moving forklift in her lumberyard. I really enjoy the fact that Abby is the boss of a male-dominated field and appears to be running it efficiently and effectively and has the respect of her subordinates. Next, Abby’s sister Maxine shows up and convinces Abby that she needs to invite a date to the dinner party that she’s having that evening. Abby ends up taking her sister’s advice and invites Jake to the party.
While getting ready for the party, everything that could go wrong for Abby, does. Her dog, Calico, gets a hold of her wig and ruins the hairstyle. Abby is forced to re-curl her wig. Her “hair” is soaking wet by the time she is finished, and she resorts to cooking her wig in the oven at 200F in an attempt to dry it out and set the style before the party. Meanwhile, while Abby is “putting her face on,” the kids are taking a bath. Abby hears a bunch of noise coming from the bathroom that is most definitely not kids bathing. When she walks in, she sees that the kids have somehow spilled yellow paint into the tub. With children that now resemble The Simpsons and a golden-hued arm, Abby comes across her dinner party guests who’ve let themselves in. With her yellow-dyed skin, yellow and white splotchy robe, amazing flowered shower cap and a face covered in cold cream, Abby looks a fright, but soon manages to get it together and have her party.
Sister Maxine and her husband are all over Jake from the second he walks in. When Abby finally enters the room, they go to work trying to convince Jake and Abby that they’re perfect for one another and should get together. Both Jake and Abby are uncomfortable and try their best to keep their cool. Jake finally has had enough and makes up a bogus excuse about having to meet clients at the airport in a couple hours. Later, Abby and Jake run into one another at the supermarket and end up having coffee at the drive-in, which is run by Herbie Fleck, portrayed by George Carlin (!).
Throughout multiple dates and outings to the drive-in to escape their children, Abby and Jake end up falling in love. While I suppose it’s understandable, I don’t enjoy the behavior of the oldest two children, Flip and Stacey. Flip is worse than Stacey. When Abby comes home late one night after stating that she was running to the market for pumpernickel, Flip rips his mother a new one as if she were a teenager breaking curfew. He is particularly patronizing to Abby and I wish she would have chewed him out right then and there, but perhaps that isn’t Abby’s style. Flip repeatedly treats his mother like a misbehaving child and treats Jake as if he were some deviant. Stacey isn’t as bad, but does treat her father and Abby pretty poorly until she finally comes around. I understand that Flip and Stacey are having trouble adjusting to their parents having new romantic relationships, but seriously. They graduate from high school during the film and presumably will be going to college. Does it really matter?
After a few months of sneaking around and drinking copious amounts of coffee and champagne at the drive-in, Abby and Jake decide that they should just get it over with and marry, much to the chagrin of the oldest children. After marrying, Abby and Jake try to figure out how their family will live together in one house. Day’s house is larger, but needs at least one more bedroom for Stacey. Jake’s house is much smaller. The newly blended family tries to bounce back and forth between houses, but logistically, it becomes a nightmare. They eventually decide that they’ll buy a larger house. Until their respective homes sell, Abby and Jake purchase a camper trailer that will serve as an extra bedroom. After fighting over who gets to sleep in the camper, Abby and Jake move in–much to Abby’s chagrin.
Up until the camper fiasco, much of this film resembles one of day’s more sophisticated comedies. There are multiple discussions about sex and there are quite a few “did they or didn’t they?” scenes between Abby and Jake. In a scene where Abby and Jake have just endured watching television with the younger children, they look forward to having time to themselves to (presumably) make out on the couch. Flip, however, senses this and makes a point of staying in the room, effectively ending any makeout sessions. The tension, both sexual and not, in this scene is palpable, with Flip very smug, knowing exactly what he’s doing. If With Six You Get Eggroll had been made when the production code was in full swing, I do not believe that Abby and Jake could have been portrayed as being home alone, canoodling with champagne in front of the fire, especially since they fall asleep in front of the fire. Finally, Abby’s maid, Molly, played by Alice Ghostley (aka Aunt Esmeralda from Bewitched) expresses her annoyance when Abby and Jake show up at Jake’s house unannounced, looking for a place to rendezvous away from everyone. It seems that Molly was promised the use of Jake’s house for the same reason.
Another feature of this film that sets it apart from other family comedies of the same time is the look and portrayal of the leading man. Jake uses fairly strong language (for a family film) with multiple instances of “hell” and “damn.” He seems quick-tempered (though not violent) and stubborn. It’s also interesting that he has a pretty rough looking tattoo on his arm, which is prominently displayed when the kids walk in on Abby and Jake the morning after they eloped. Good on Abby and Jake for getting dressed again! We have to assume SOMETHING went on on their wedding night.
One of the best scenes in the film is when Stacey exerts her “lady of the house” attitude one too many times for Abby’s liking and Abby decides to show Stacey what it means to be in charge of the home. She writes up a very long and difficult list of household chores (ironing, vacuuming, waxing floors, silver polishing, etc.) for her to complete. After working all morning and day, Stacey completes the list. Abby gives her a new list for the next day, a list consisting of going to the movies and visiting with friends. Stacey has a new appreciation for her new step-mother and they have a very sweet bonding moment. Of course father Jake comes in and sees the list and completely misunderstands the point Abby was trying to make. This misunderstanding evolves into a very heated argument, which serves as the catalyst for the camper mayhem at the end of the film. The ending of the film features Jamie Farr (Klinger from M*A*S*H) and Allen Melvin (Sam the Butcher from The Brady Bunch).
One of my favorite things about 1960s comedies, is that there is almost always a scene taking place in a club with some crazy music playing. The music is never identifiable and I imagine that it’s just being performed for the film. With Six You Get Eggroll features a wild dance club with some music that sounds like they sampled the marimba track from The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb.” What’s also amazing about these scenes is the dancing. As someone who is rhythmically challenged, the dancing that appears in these 1960s movies or the Beach Party movies looks like something I could do. Cactus Flower, Yours Mine and Ours, and Bob, Carol, Ted and Alice all feature amazing club scenes. I also think it’s funny that the music is pretty much the same throughout the entire duration of the club scene–it never changes.
With Six You Get Eggroll was released in 1968. At this time, the sexual attitudes in the United States were greatly evolving and Day’s brand of clean comedy was falling out of style. Day was offered the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, but her manager/husband, Marty Melcher, turned the role down on her behalf. Both Day and Melcher felt that the script was vulgar. While Day’s films still attracted an audience, they were not turning the type of profit that they had prior. During filming of ‘Eggroll,’ Melcher unexpectedly died. Doris was devastated in more ways than one. Of course, she was devastated that her husband had died; but she also discovered that her husband and his business partner had squandered all her earnings, leaving her deeply in debt. She also discovered that her husband had signed her up for a weekly sitcom on CBS. Day did not want to do a television show, but she had no other option. She was obligated and also needed to repay her debts. The Doris Day Show which aired from 1968 to 1973 essentially ended Day’s film career.
After the end of Day’s sitcom, she appeared on a few more variety shows and talk show interviews, but she was all but retired by the 1980s. In 1989, she came out of seclusion to attend the Golden Globe Awards and accept the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. Since her retirement, Day has dedicated herself to animal rights and welfare. She continues to keep busy at her home in Carmel, CA and tomorrow, on April 3, she will celebrate her 96th birthday–you go Doris!