That Touch of Mink is the sight of the king and queen of distinct styles of romantic comedies trying to enliven mediocre material. Not even the considerable talents of Doris Day and Cary Grant can keep your interest in a movie that features a great kitchen-sink dramatist taking the directorial duties. This combination of routine material and odd director choice makes That Touch of Mink flat when it should be fizzy.
Granted, Day’s 60s bedroom farce is something of a stale piece of cake in comparison to Grant’s pedigree as the king of screwball. Think of how sexy, fun, flirty, and funny screwball comedies are in comparison to something like That Touch of Mink, which is basically the bedroom comedy distilled to its most primary tenants. There’s Day doing her “world’s oldest virgin” act, Grant as the lecherous suitor, a pair of more colorful and interesting best friends (Gig Young playing neurotic, Audrey Meadows playing sarcastic), and a healthy dose of smarm covering the whole thing.
It’s not that the script is something we’ve seen a million times before in Day’s body of work, look at how effervescent other films she made still are, it’s that Mink is missing that extra oomph. Dick Sargent appears as a newlywed that tells Grant how much he’s dreading his upcoming life as a married man, and this sense of marriage as a tomb pervades. How are we supposed to root for the two leads to get together when the film is obsessed with letting us know that marriage is a small death of the soul?
Even worse is how ill-matched Delbert Mann is with this material. The surfaces are all right, but the beats are wrong or off. Mann was a brilliant director of hefty drama, think of Marty or Middle of the Night. He seems uncomfortable with the heightened artifice and theatricality necessary to pull this material off. At least he knows to deploy supporting players like Audrey Meadows, Gig Young, and John Astin often as they play this material for all of the glossy, goofy weight they can throw at it. Day is perfectly fine here, but this genre was her bread-and-butter and it does feel like we’ve seen this performance a time or two before. It’s Grant who isn’t bad per se, but is undone by the script’s treatment of his character. His character is a smarmy, oily asshole, and Grant feels slightly uncomfortable playing the character next to the youthful Day at this stage of his career.
The conspicuous consumption and materialism on display here is par for the course, but the sexual obligation that Day’s character experiences leaves That Touch of Mink with a bitter aftertaste. There’s a few funny jokes to mine from the material, like Day’s crisis of conscience putting her and Grant on a bed in various locations. Even better is the dressing down that Meadows delivers when she exclaims that the female species sold itself out for the right to smoke indoors, and Day doesn’t even smoke. To be fair, there are minor charms here, and nothing with Day and Grant is totally without merit. It’s just that between them, they’ve blessed the world with plenty of classic romantic comedies and That Touch of Mink is personality-free and unmemorable that it feels worse than it actually is.