Doris Day’s Fixer-Upper in “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies”

Doris Day movie "Please Don't Eat the Daisies"

One of my favorite Doris Day movies is the 1960 family comedy Please Don’t Eat the Daisies. The Mackay family has a great apartment in New York City, but after their family of six outgrows it, they buy an fixer upper in the suburbs.

The Fixer Upper:

Doris Day movie "Please Don't Eat the Daisies"

When the family sees the old house they’re moving into for the first time, even the dog looks skeptical. 

Doris Day movie "Please Don't Eat the Daisies"

The book was based on the true adventures of the Walter and Jean Kerr family. John Kerr, one of their sons, says that his parents had actually planned to look at a house that was for sale across the street. When they couldn’t get in to see it, they bought this one instead.

Everyone thought they were crazy, he says, but they didn’t care. They bought it anyway. And they lived there for the rest of their lives.

"Please Don't Eat the Daisies" movie house

I thought it must have been a matte painting, but a reader named John gave us the scoop about the exterior:

“The house stood on Lot Two of MGM Studio, and was referred to as the Vinegar Tree House. It was one of the few sets built to be photographed from both the front and the rear. The front of the house looked fully complete, roof and all. The rear of the house was indeed lacking a roof, thus you were half correct (about it being a matte painting)!

“The bottom portion we see in the film is real, and the roof and sky are matte paintings. The backside of the structure was called Bransom Cottage. The house was built in 1938 for the film Rich Man, Poor Girl and named as it was because of the actual vinegar tree in the front yard. Other notable films that utilized the set were National Velvet and Joy In The Morning.”

So interesting! Thanks, John.

"Please Don't Eat the Daisies" movie house entry hall

Walking through the house on moving day and surveying the amount of work that has to be done:

"Please Don't Eat the Daisies" entry hall before

The Living Room as they find it on moving day, complete with suits of armor and spare tires:

"Please Don't Eat the Daisies" movie house living room before

During the renovation, you can see they’re halfway through painting the woodwork:

"Please Don't Eat the Daisies" movie house fixer upper during reno

After the Remodel:

"Please Don't Eat the Daisies" movie house after remodel

All the woodwork has been painted white, the furniture recovered, orange-red drapes hung on the windows, and a big TV unit added to the corner.

"Please Don't Eat the Daisies" movie house

The musical number Kate rehearses for the amateur show (“Any Way The Wind Blows”) had been written for the previous year’s Doris Day movie, Pillow Talk. The song title was, for a while, even the working title of that film. (IMDb)

"Please Don't Eat the Daisies" movie house kitchen

Please Don’t Eat the Daisies was based on a bestselling book by Jean Kerr, a playwright and humorist married to Walter Kerr, a well-known drama critic. They had six children — Christopher, twins Colin and John, Gilbert, Gregory, and Kitty.

Jean Kerr

Her story about city-dwellers with a big family moving to the suburbs and fixing up an old house was not only adapted for the big screen with Doris Day in 1960, but became a TV show in 1965.

Jean Kerr’s Real-Life Fixer-Upper in Larchmont, New York:

Jean Kerr's Please Don't Eat Daisies House

In 2003, Jean Kerr’s house went on the market for $4.9 million, and the Larchmont Gazette reported, “House For Sale: Seven bedroom Spanish-Tudor, six stone angels, three gargoyles, four copper wolf heads, five portholes, three lions, and 27 carillon bells.”

The house was originally a carriage house for the mansion next door. In this photo of the living room, you can see that the style was similar to the sets in the movie:

Kerr house-living room

You can see the Gazette’s slideshow and read more about its history here. According to the article, “When the Kerrs moved in, they toned down some of the more flamboyant interior features and added spaces to accommodate a family of six active children.”

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Comments

  1. says

    Wow, my dream is to someday find a diamond in the rough like this and turn it into my dream home! Question: where do you find some of these movies? Sadly, all the video rental places around where I live have only new releases or really well-known classics. I love old films like this but never come across them.
    .-= Lori-Anne´s last blog ..A Flower for an Okanagan Mom =-.

    • hookedonhouses says

      Lori-Anne–

      My local video store doesn’t have them either. I have to order them through Netflix, or I buy them at Amazon. -Julia

  2. E. George says

    Hi Julia I love Doris Day but I have not seen any of her movies for a while over here so I don’t remember the names the one that I loved was where the family is keeping a turkey for thanksgiving and her little brother decides the turkey is a pet and they are not going to eat it so he hides it wish I could remember…. love Pillow Talk …. The house looked a bit gothic at first but it scrubed up well….. Oh by the way I got to see Its Complicated and I wanted to smack Alec Baldwins character but like everyone I must say loved the house and garden and her bakery WOW. Well that’s it for now till next time Regards Esther from beautiful sunny Sydney……. Have a wonderful week.

  3. says

    Oh Julia, thanks for the memory!! I love love love this movie. I also remember they made a TV show out of it. I am a huge Doris Day fan. I also like the one where she comes back from the dead, can’t think of the name of it but I love that one too.
    .-= LeAnn´s last blog ..What Mother’s Day means to me… =-.

  4. Rhoda Toulouse says

    LOVE Doris Day! Check out her handbags in this movie, I covet each one!

  5. says

    I like the early Doris Day – in the later ones she had so much scrim over the camera she was in light fog while everyone else’s faces were clear! I saw the early ones on tv much later, and was so impressed by her figure, and her acting -she was really funny.

    I so enjoy your analyses of movie ‘houses’ – may there be many more!

    ps: what do you think of Popeye’s village??
    .-= Tricia Rose´s last blog ..So Subtle =-.

  6. says

    I love Doris Day, but I haven’t seen this one. I think my favorite movie of hers is Pillow Talk as well. But I also like the one with James Garner where she comes back from the (legally declared) dead.
    .-= Nichole´s last blog ..Something is Very Wrong =-.

  7. Billy says

    Niven did play Kerr as a jerk. And it was near impossible to find Vaseline at Thrifties when Ms. Day was filming in Burbank.

    How about “Move over Darling”, the dvd I watched had some of the Monroe/”Something’s Got to Give” dailies as an extra, and I remember the house as interesting like built in top a hill, and done up in what would be called Hollywood Regency” now, but I can’t remember which house that was, Something or Move Over.

    Also “Caprice” had some great mid century architecture and decorating, if you can sit through the film.

    “With Six you get Eggrolls” the houses are fairly standard but the decorating is early in the transition to eclectic from suites of furniture.

    Anyway, thanx for the post and I just saw the “Pajama Game” is available on Netflix instant watch, and it’s not too late out here on the left coast.

  8. Kim says

    Great post! I love Doris Day films. Two of my favorites are: “Touch of Mink” and “Billy Roses Jumbo”. In “Touch of Mink”, I was jealous when she got to try on all of those expensives dresses. I really love the formal dresses from the 40’s 50’s and 60’s.

    I love the sets of this movie. I especially love that mansion they move into at the end, it’s gorgeous. I can see why they lived in it forever. Too bad that house is not real.

  9. says

    Thanks so much for posting about this house – my mum absolutely loves Doris Day flicks, and this one is a favourite because of the beautiful house. I hold my mother responsible for the genetic trait of being more interested in the houses than the actual movie! Mum thinks it’s amazing there are more people out there with the same strange affliction, but had to believe it when I showed her your blog. Thanks for another fabulous post, you’ve made two movie house tragics very happy! Kerri xx
    .-= Kerri´s last blog ..Let’s go shopping! =-.

  10. Andrea says

    Oh what fun to see these pictures from the movie as well as the real Jean Kerr house!
    I remember reading the book and laughing all the way through. Two of my favorites are this and Cheaper by the Dozen, which this makes me think of.

    As for Doris Day, she’s just about perfect in my eyes; wonderful smiling voice, fine actress, and a kind person who loves animals.

    {E. George, I believe you’re thinking of, “On Moonlight Bay,” my favorite DD movie, too.}

  11. says

    I just loved this movie as a girl, laughing my young head off and gleaning an appreciation for fixing up old houses. Hmmm. I blame that on my husband when maybe I should blame it on Jean Kerr!

    I read the book in high school, just loving it, and devouring it by staying up all night, trying not to laugh and wake up my parents, who would have put a stop to my late night reading.

    An enjoyable journey to the past this morning. Much thanks.
    .-= Penny´s last blog ..White lilacs and hoodies =-.

  12. says

    I remember seeing this movie and many other Doris Day flicks at the drive-in when I was a kid. What fun that used to be..we would go in our pajamas with cookies and the picnic jug with juice…I used to think the snack bar must be the most exotic place on earth, but alas I was a teenager before I ever got food there. We would play on the swings until the newsreel or cartoon began…such fond memories.

    Spanish-Tudor seems a bit of an oxymoron!

  13. says

    I adore Doris Day…yet I haven’t seen this movie. Looks so cute! One of my favorite things in my house is my vanity. It just makes sense to have a place to sit down to do your hair and make-up.
    .-= Becky @ Farmgirl Paints´s last blog ..The Luau =-.

  14. says

    LOVED this one, Julia!! I think the only Doris Day movie I’ve seen is “Move Over, Darling,” which is very cute.

    I am definitely going to have to check out the movie (and the book). I just love Movie Mondays b/c you not only get us hooked on the features of the movie homes, but also the stories. :)

    Have a wonderful Monday!
    .-= Amanda @ Serenity Now´s last blog ..My Slightly Mortifying Mother’s Day Gift =-.

  15. margaret says

    Love this movie – and just about any Doris Day movie. Move over Darling is an all-time favorite.
    Did you notice that ALL the woodwork in the living room was white – even the cage?

  16. says

    The fixer upper in Don’t Eat the Daisies is one of the funniest “before” houses in movies. The “after” is amazing though, loved it! And I too felt really bad for the little baby in the cage! I watched this movie with my husband’s grandma (huge Doris Day fan!) and I asked her if they really had baby cages back in the day. She said “not with tops”, so funny!! Obviously referring to play pens which we still have today.
    .-= hip hip gin gin´s last blog ..A Daughter’s Love =-.

  17. says

    Oh, I just love Doris Day! Did you know she was a recluse today and rarely seen? Oh, well. I did love her movies and this was one of my favorites! Love seeing the house. I just loved the kitchens.
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia 😉
    .-= Shelia´s last blog ..Victorian Tea Party with Cielo =-.

  18. cheryl says

    What a great way to start off the week! I have always loved this movie (and Doris Day). The newspaper article from 2003 with the history of the house and listing photos is fabulous. What a dream…finding the cottage or mansion of your dreams that needs “fixing up” …having the money to do it…and DOING IT. My son is 11 and I am always pointing out homes that need love and attention and telling him what I would do with them if I could. One day he looked at me and said “Mom when I grow up I will buy you all the old houses I can and just let you go crazy”! My son Connor really gets me…what a kid!

    CHERYL

  19. says

    Hi Julia,
    You do the best posts! Especially movie Monday. I can’t imagine the amount of research you have to do, but we, your fan, really appreciate it.
    I loved this house — and particularly how quickly it gets renovated (wouldn’t it be nice if you could renovate a dump in 3 weeks?Back then when people weren’t renovation crazy, movie goers wouldn’t know that). I also loved her dresses in this movie.
    Thanks for writing this post.
    My favourite Doris Day movie is also Pillow Talk.
    Cathy.
    .-= Cathy´s last blog ..Toronto’s Waste Initiatives: Are they Working? =-.

  20. Cindy says

    I LOVED watching Doris Day movies and now I want to plan a marathon to watch them with my 3 daughters-in-law. Since nobody else has I want to mention “The Glass Bottom Boat” because there’s a very interesting house in that one and to quote someone on youtube “the original Don Draper”. This was another great post Julia.

  21. Christy says

    That was great! I love Doris Day and Pillow talk is probably my fav movie ever! I’m so excited theres more Doris lovers out there. And sometimes when I’m trying to put on some makeup I wish I had a child sized cage…

  22. Susan S says

    A delightful post, Julia! Ah yes, movie magic! I never saw this movie if you can believe it. A few thoughts were drifting through my head as I was reading and looking at your many (thanks!) photos. Wow, it’d be wonderful to have that NYC apartment NOW! Awww, those movies from the 60s where the housewives were always perfectly coiffed and dressed up with pearl jewelry everyday–yeah, right! And of course as you stated, the renovations taking a mere three weeks–yeah, right again!! The most hysterical shot is of the living room with the now-painted cage in the corner!! Beyond funny!

    I just read the history of the home. Mr. Charles King must have been a character! The location of the home is ridiculously beautiful!!

  23. Karen says

    I am a huge Doris Day fan! She has such a classic style – just love her:) “Do Not Disturb” is another fun one where she moves to England and has a huge house to decorate as well! “It Happened To Jane”, with the always wonderful Jack Lemmon was filmed in the summer of 1958 in New England – the exterior shots are beautiful. “The Thrill of it All”, with sexy James Garner:) is another winner. Actually I can’t think of a Doris Day film I don’t like! Her TV series had neat sets as well – most of these films and TV series are available at Amazon and my local library had quite a few of the films. Thanks for a another wonderful post!!

  24. HollyM says

    I’m so glad you added the real house (Jean Kerr’s home) to this post. And, of course, being the exact audience HoH is designed for, I already had the real estate listing for the Kerr house saved; I had found it a couple of years ago. It was originally owned by Charles Brady King, inventor of an early automobile. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_(automobile)

    He was eccentric, to say the least, and filled the house with all manner of items taken from the demolitions of churches, mansions, ships, etc. It’s why it was such a hodgepodge of stuff.

    For anyone who has read the ‘Karen’ books by Marie Killilea, Mr. King and then the Kerrs were neighbors of the Killileas in Larchmont, NY. Their house, photographed while they were still living in it, can be found on the Larchmont Historical Society’s webpage. Here’s the link: http://www.larchmonthistory.org/photopost/showphoto.php/photo/1402

    I always enjoy your posts because you do your homework if the house was real or based on a real one.

    As for Doris’s movie homes, I like the suburban beauty in The Thrill Of It All.

  25. says

    Such a great story! I love Doris Day – I grew up watching her. My favorite will always be Young At Heart … Doris Day and Frank Sinatra in one movie, what’s not to love. I haven’t seen this movie though, I’ll have to check it out.
    .-= Melanie Beth´s last blog ..Today I am loving stripes =-.

  26. says

    Oh, Julia, just one more reason to love you. . . .

    I, too, am a Doris Day fan. It would be hard for me to pick a favorite of her movies, although Pillow Talk and That Touch of Mink would be close to the top. I have been known–much to my family’s chagrin–to break into a rousing rendition of “Pillow Talk” or “Roly Poly” or “Que Sera, Sera.” Oh, yes. I LOVE Doris Day.

    Thanks for this peek into fun! Now you’ve got me singing. . . “Please, please, don’t eat the daisies; don’t eat the daisies, please. . . .” :)
    .-= Richella´s last blog ..Nothing better in the world =-.

  27. Crusty Crone says

    Doris was perfect… a combination of innocents and sexiness. I don’t think that’s easy to pull off. Loved being reminded of the movie.

  28. Rachel says

    Hi Julia,

    Thanks so much for featuring this house! It’s one of my favorite movies. When I was looking at the entry my 9 year old came by and said, “Isn’t that Please Don’t Eat the Daisies?”!

  29. Nita says

    Wow, what a diamond they found! The one in the movie looks French regency and much larger than the real house, but I would take her real house any day!!!!

    One tidbit about David Niven: He and his wife bought a new house, I believe in Beverly Hills, and they threw a party to celebrate it one night. She being unfamiliar with the house, opened a door, assuming there was something on the other side. She fell to her death. Pretty sad about a new house, huh?

  30. Nita says

    Julia,

    Pick any Doris Day movie and do it! I love the house she is in with James Garner, Move Over Darling? The one where she sells soap and is a doctor’s wife. Also, she is in an older one with Van Johnson, something like In the Good Old Summertime where the houses are 1940ish.

  31. Nita says

    Oh, I feel bad. I got the David Niven story wrong. It wasn’t their house she died in, it was Tyrone Power’s.

    Quote from Wikipedia:

    After a whirlwind two-week romance in 1940, Niven married Primula Susan Rollo (18 February 1918, London – 21 May 1946, Beverly Hills, California), the aristocratic daughter of a British lawyer. The couple had two sons, David Jr. and Jamie. Primula, whom he called Primmie,[19] died at age 28, only six weeks after moving to the U.S., of a fractured skull and brain lacerations from an accidental fall in the home of Tyrone Power. While playing hide and seek, she walked through a door believing it led to a closet. Instead, it led to a stone staircase to the basement.
    Niven recalled this as the darkest period of his life, years afterwards thanking his friends for their patience and forbearance during this time. He later claimed to have been so grief-stricken that he thought for a while that he’d gone mad. Following a suicide attempt involving a handgun that failed to go off, he eventually rallied and returned to film making. He told his biographer Michael Munn that he needed to remarry quickly for his sons’ sake: “I needed someone in my life. I was used to having someone special. And my sons needed someone to be a mother to them.”[19]

  32. jodi from new jersey says

    That was fun. It amazes me that the sets really aren’t that dated. That baby cage was creepy, though. The kitchen in the apt. is so cozy!Doris Day is such a class act, too. I love her and also have a girl crush on Grace Kelly in ” Rear Window ” with James Stewart. I always thought he was goofy for her in that movie. When she walks into the apartment in that pale blue dress, she takes my breath away. Maybe it’s white. She is so beautiful. I just love movies . Thanks, Julia , for bringing them right to my fingertips!

  33. Nita says

    http://www.dorisday.net/by_the_light_of_the_silvery_mo.html

    I am batting 0 today when it comes to movies. I think this movie and On Moonlight Bay were the movies I loved, with not Van Johnson but Gordon MacRae. They take place around World War I. The movies back then were so lovely, so innocent, so wonderful, and for whatever reason, they just don’t make them like that anymore.

  34. says

    Julia,
    I need to watch this movie again. I have an autographed picture for Doris. Yes, the cage was alittle weird? Of course playpens back then were wooden, like cribs, but no top on them, that I ever saw.
    Have a great evening.
    Robin
    .-= Robin´s last blog ..Vintage Magazine Monday =-.

  35. says

    Julia-You always have so many interesting details! I remember thinking David Niven was perfect for his part :) I loved the tv version with Patricia Crowley. Even the listing agent had a good sense of humor! Another wonderful Monday!
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Fiesta Delicioso =-.

  36. Becky says

    Did the sink skirt from the apartment kitchen turn into the curtain trim in the new house kitchen? I think so, and I love it! So on par with today’s repurposing trend.

  37. says

    thank you for the tour! i have read the book but not seen the movie and this way i can check to see if my imagination was close lol
    .-= Tami Lewis´s last blog ..mother’s day =-.

  38. Michele says

    You can read more about the house in the non-fiction book “Karen” by Marie Killilea. They were neighbors of the Kerr family.

  39. Debra says

    I have always adored Doris Day and feel she is highly underrated as an actress and singer! “Pillow Talk” is certainly one of my favorites, as well as “A Touch of Mink ” and of course” Move Over Darling”. I could go on and on… Thanks of sharing this and making me think of all her great old movies not to mention her fabulous clothes and the sets!

  40. Billy says

    To get a soft focus they put a a very small amount of Vaseline between two pieces of glass, then install them into a device that squishes glass pieces together in a way that creates a very thin and even film. The whole filter is placed in front of the lens in close up tho erase years of sun and smokes, or in long shot to create an eerie mood.

    I think that James Whale, director of Frankenstein (1931), developed it., but can’t find a site for support quickly.

  41. Susan Rosenberg says

    My husband grew up a few blocks from this house. Every time we would walk by on our way to Manor Park he would say, “Walter Kerr lived here. You know, he wrote Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.” Every time.

  42. says

    I will be getting this movie in Net Flix pronto! I love these movie stills. I never thought to go look at old movies for inspiration. Well, now I have a new mission. Thank you, your a sweet heart!
    .-= katie´s last blog ..The Magic of White Linens =-.

  43. Lisa says

    I remember watching this movie as a child and asking my mother about the “cage”. It is actually two playpens, one upside down on the other. The hardware to keep them together was added by the parents.

  44. Susan Gallen says

    There must be a shared gene for all of us “HouseCrazy” people. I actually bought this movie because …..I LOVED THE SET DESIGNS! I loved the way New York apartment and the house in Larchmont were decorated. And I loved her in this too. She was just so cute!