Doris Day and James Garner star as a couple whose marriage hits a rough patch when Day decides to work outside the home. At first it’s only one night a week, promoting a soap product on live television. But as Day becomes famous for her efforts, the soap company takes up more and more of her time. Can a woman have both a family and career? Can a husband stand it?
A movie like The Thrill of It All couldn’t be made today, of course — least of all as a fluffy comedy. But as a product of its time, the script (written by Carl Reiner) is fairly progressive, giving Day’s character the wherewithal to stand up to her husband when needed. It helps a lot that the husband is played by the very likable James Garner. The film works best when it gives these two stars the chance to play incredulity, like when Garner drives his car into a back yard swimming pool that wasn’t there the day before. Later he kicks a bunch of soap detergent into the pool, and overnight the suds envelope their home. Supporting player Arlene Francis deserves special mention for a terrific opening sequence, literally laughing her way on a trip through New York City and infecting everyone along the way with her good cheer.
The third act gets a little uncomfortable for my taste. Garner decides to get even with Day by pretending to have an extramarital affair. The couple clearly have issues that can’t be washed away by a tidy ending — especially one that has Day give up her career for her family. In addition to thorny sociology, the film also has a screenplay that loses focus at times. But if you’re a fan of Garner and Day (as I am), you may still find enough to enjoy in a movie that’s otherwise stuck in time.
With Edward Andrews, Reginald Owen, and Zasu Pitts. Directed by Norman Jewison.