Any Doris Day fans out there? I’ve always loved her movies, and one of my favorites is the 1960 family comedy Please Don’t Eat the Daisies. A big reason I enjoy it so much is the sets.
First they have a great apartment in New York City, but their family of six outgrows it and they buy an old, broken-down, haunted-looking house in the suburbs. I think it’s fun watching them fix it up. With a little Movie Magic, it only takes about 3 weeks!
Watching the kids running wild in the apartment made me think of 9 by Design, the addictive new reality show on Bravo. Have you seen it? For a few months, the family of 9 was staying in a 2-bedroom apartment in NYC and the noise was driving their neighbors nuts.
In the movie, the older boys put their baby brother Adam on the windowsill and give him bags filled with water to drop on peoples’ heads as they walk by.
Jack Weston plays Joe, a cabbie who wants to be a playwright. He comes to the door, hoping to give Larry his play to read. Kate is in the bedroom, frantically trying to get ready for the evening, but when her sons answer the door, they invite Joe in, saying, “Mom’s not busy. She’s just getting dressed.”
In this shot we can see the front door to the left and the one to the kitchen on the right:
David Niven plays Doris Day’s husband Larry, an up-and-coming drama critic whose rise to fame is going to his head. I like Niven, but there were a lot of times during this movie when I seriously wanted to smack him.
Poor Baby Adam spends most of his time in this cage. I think it was supposed to be funny, but I found it a little disturbing. No wonder the only words he could say were “Cokey-Cola.”
Kate and Larry’s Apartment Bedroom:
The Apartment Kitchen:
I like this kitchen with the hutches displaying Kate’s dishes and the cheery red and white skirt on the sink.
Deborah Vaughn’s Apartment:
Richard Haydn plays Larry’s friend Alfred. Here he’s visiting the glam apartment of the lead actress in his play, Deborah Vaughn (Janis Paige). This has to be one of the biggest, pinkest bathrooms I’ve ever seen:
Moving to the Country:
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.
The camera slowly pans up so we can see the house they’re looking at:
I’m guessing it was just a matte painting. If anyone knows differently, fill us in.
3/12 UPDATE: A reader just contacted me with the scoop about the exterior. John writes:
“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 which played the P.D.E.T.D. 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.
The Entry Hall:
Walking through the house on moving day and surveying the amount of work that has to be done:
The Living Room as they find it on moving day, complete with suits of armor and spare tires:
During the renovation, you can see they’re halfway through painting the woodwork:
Larry’s Study–Complete With Clown Painting:
In this shot of his study you can see the fireplace:
The Living Room After:
All the woodwork has been painted white, the furniture recovered, red drapes hung on the windows, and a big TV unit added to the corner:
A little trivia about the music:
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 (1959). The song title was, for a while, even the working title of that film. (IMDb)
The Movie Was Based on a Bestselling Book by 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.
I’m reading the book now and it’s hilarious. It’s out of print, but you can find old copies for sale in places like Amazon.com.
Jean Kerr’s Fixer-Upper in Larchmont, New York:
In 2003, Jean Kerr’s house was on the market and the Larchmont Gazette ran a story about the real house that the story was based on, announcing, “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 asking price was $4.9 million.
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. Not all of the woodwork was painted white in real life, however:
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.”