Wednesday, October 17, 2018


Spoiler alert: This is a critical essay, not a review. Pertinent 
details and plot points are referenced for the purpose of analysis.

The suspense thriller is one of my favorite movie genres, but some films age better than others. The Patty Duke starrer You’ll Like My Mother had already been branded a word-of-mouth “sleeper hit” when it opened in the San Francisco Bay Area in December of 1972, having already built a momentum of respectable reviews and favorable public response during its East Coast engagements earlier in the fall. By the time this minimally-publicized release from Bing Crosby Productions made its way out West (BCP's low-budget horror-thriller Willard had enjoyed a similar surprise success in 1970), the advance buzz about the film was considerable. Public interest in the film received a significant leg-up when up-and-coming co-star Richard Thomas became an overnight household name as the star of TV’s The Waltons, which had premiered that September. 

Additional free publicity (though hardly favorable) was generated by the tabloids making much of  Patty Duke's real-life Mamma Mia!-like paternity scandal. The Oscar-winning actress had recently given birth to son Sean, whose father was potentially one of three men: May/December fling Desi Arnaz, Jr (Duke was 24, Arnaz 17); quickie 13-day ex-husband Michael Tell*; or current husband (wed just 4 months at the time) John Astin. The fan magazines ate it up, and in spite of the potential public backlash, Universal Studios didn't seem to mind, given how often the word "mother" had to be used in each article. *In 1994 Sean Astin had a DNA test to determine Tell as his biological father. 
Patty Duke as Francesca Kinsolving
Rosemary Murphy as Mrs. Kinsolving
Richard Thomas as Kenneth Kinsolving
Sian Barbara Allen as Kathleen Kinsolving

Although my subscription to Rona Barrett’s Hollywood had kept me abreast of all the aforementioned Patty Duke daddy drama, I’d somehow avoided hearing a single thing about You’ll Like My Mother before catching sight of the poster for the film at Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome during our family's Christmas Season visit to Los Angeles. Looking at the poster now, it reveals a graphic heavy-handedness and lack of confidence in its audience I would later find to be characteristic of the film itself; but at the time, I was so intrigued by those scissors and all those exclamation points, I couldn’t wait to see it. 
Lest someone get the wrong idea and mistake it for a bit of homespun wholesomeness like TV's The Waltons, the film was marketed with the words "a thriller" in large type and in such close proximity, it appeared to be part of the complete title

Francesca (Duke) is the enormously pregnant wife of an Army pilot recently killed in Vietnam. Having met and wed in a whirlwind, Francesca and husband Matthew hadn’t been married long, nor even knew that much about the other, but during their brief time together Matthew would often say to his bride, “You’ll like my mother.”
On the strength of that endorsement, Francesca, widowed and without family of her own, braves a 3-day winter bus journey from Los Angeles to Minnesota to visit her mother-in-law; a woman she’s never met, never spoken to, or knows anything about.  

A snowstorm greets Francesca’s arrival at her destination, a small, remote town far from anything but snow, snow, and more snow. But the storm is like a day at the beach compared to the frosty response she receives from townsfolk whenever she mentions her husband's family name: flag number one. With weather conditions preventing vehicle transportation to the doorway of Kinsolving home, Francesca, ill-dressed for the occasion and looking every day of her clearly-advanced state of pregnancy, has to trudge through Zhivago-levels of snow to make it to her mother-in-law's home--a large, imposing estate possessing all the coziness of The Overlook Hotel. 
The Kinsolving home is actually the Glensheen mansion in Duluth, Minnesota. In real life, the location gained notoriety in 1977 as the site of the shocking Congdon heiress double murder

If at first glance the Jacobean-style architecture of the Kinsolving mansion appears lacking in the sort of eerie ornamentation one comes to expect from Gothic melodramas like this, fear not, for Francesca’s knock on the door summons forth a true flesh-and-blood gargoyle: Mrs. Kinsolving herself. Frostily disdainful of her uninvited guest from the get-go (“Why did you feel you had to come here?”), Mrs. Kinsolving’s internal Frigidaire setting hits glacier-level when the sight of her daughter-in-law’s filled-to-bursting state of pregnancy fails to inspire grandmotherly concern. Rather, it triggers she's-trying-to-horn-in-on-the-inheritance apprehension—"Since I didn’t acknowledge [you] the first time as Matthew’s wife, I saw no reason to applaud the progress [you’ve] made.”
Adding further to Francesca’s newfound family tree fun is the double-barreled discovery that Matthew has an intellectually-disabled, virtually non-verbal sister he never told her about, plus a distant, clearly homicidal cousin named Kenny who currently just so happens to be on the loose and wanted for a brutal murder.
When Francesca makes the wise decision, there and then, to hightail it out of Kinsolving Place as fast as her belly and boots will allow, she can hardly be blamed. But alas, her departure is waylaid by a stalled car, a disconnected phone (along with no TV, houses like this never have working phones), and an encroaching blizzard. When snow-clogged roads turn an awkward overnight stay into an acrimonious open-ended sojourn, Francesca's guest status soon takes on the appearance of imprisonment.   
Mrs. Kinsolving allows Francesca to stay in Matthew's old room

Thus far, an irresistible (if a shade familiar) stage has been set in having unforeseeable circumstances (a storm) force Francesca to confront a suspicious situation rife with questions both she and the viewer are asking: Why do the townsfolk react like horses hearing the name Frau Blücher whenever Francesca mentions the Kinsolving family? Why is Matthew’s mother so blatantly hostile and why did she lie about not receiving a telegram announcing her son’s marriage? Why hadn't Matthew told Francesca about weird cousin Kenny and kept his sister a secret? Is there someone else in the house? Mystery and viewer-identification are intensified from initially only knowing as much as Francesca knows. Later, when more information is disclosed, suspense springs from knowing...long before it dawns on Francesca...precisely the degree of real danger she's placed herself in.

The element of time becomes a suspense factor as well, as Mrs. Kinsolving needs to get Francesca out of the house before the unwanted visitor has time to unearth the secrets everyone in the household is so invested in keeping hidden.  Meanwhile, tension mounts as Francesca’s any-minute-now delivery date render an escape on foot an impossibility, while also leaving her vulnerable to Mrs. Kinsolving’s inclination (she’s a registered nurse) to drugging her and giving her shots without consent.
You’ll Like My Mother is a nifty, PG-rated (thrills are on the effective-but-tepid side), woman-in-peril suspenser in the classic tradition of all those paperback Gothics with covers featuring a woman in a long flowing gown running away from a sinister-looking mansion looming in the distance. Well-acted, atmospheric, but populated with stock characters and rarely deviating from formula; it’s a film that plays well on first viewing but whose plot doesn’t withstand the scrutiny of repeat visits.
Dennis Rucker as Red Cooper

I enjoy You’ll Like My Mother a great deal, but the disparity in my response to seeing it in 1972 and now is rather jarring. For the longest time, I harbored memories of it being this incredibly intense moviegoing experience…a nail-biting, suspenseful thrill ride I treated myself to four times over that Christmas holiday. Part Rosemary’s Baby (1968), part captive-damsel-in-distress/hag-horror Gothic à la Tallulah Bankhead’s Die! Die! My Darling! (1965); I remember being thoroughly gripped by Patty Duke’s predicament and startled by each new plot twist and character revelation. Because virtually no one else at school had even heard of it, I sang the film’s praises to any and all as this undiscovered gem they simply had to see.
When I watch the film now—seeing it through a nostalgia prism which takes into consideration my having been a 15-year-old at the time and not very well-versed in the clichés of the women-in-peril genre—I’m still able to access certain things I responded to so favorably long ago. For instance, I continue to be impressed by Rosemary Murphy’s iron butterfly take on motherhood, the shivery Minnesota setting, and the plot overall retains its bizarre quirkiness. But by and large, I find myself a little bemused when confronted with just how little it took for a movie to scare me in those days.

Sparsely populated, over-reliant on close-ups, with nearly every plot device spelled out for even the slowest on the uptake, You’ll Like My Mother plays more like your better-than-average made-for-TV movie than a major feature film. This is no doubt due to the film being helmed by veteran television director Lamont Johnson (That Certain Summer -1972) who directed Patty Duke to her only Emmy Award win in 1970s My Sweet Charlie
Though only 92-minutes long, You’ll Like My Mother is paced in that deliberate way characteristic of a great many ‘70s films, but in this instance the leisurely unfolding of the film's minimal action (once Duke is in that house, she's IN that house) calls attention to the many holes in the plot while inviting the viewer to remain always one step ahead of the familiar storyline.
Pray for Francesca's Baby
In the final analysis, nostalgia aside and divorced from any expectation for the film to live up to my teenage experience of it, You'll Like My Mother measures up as a fine, low-wattage suspense thriller that feels perfectly scaled for the small screen. Devoid of the clockwork shock cuts and audience-pandering excesses of so many of today's thrillers, I found myself appreciative of the film's direct, no-frills approach to the material. The performances still hold up--a little less so in regard to Sian Barbara Allen's Golden Globe-nominated turn. But the film benefits from a lack of Neely O'Hara overplaying on the part of from Patty Duke, and from an effectively offbeat (make that downright weird) story. While no edge-of-the-seat thrill-ride, I was surprised to find  You'll Like My Mother still crazy after all these years.

In the language of the studio pitch meeting, You’ll Like My Mother really is Rosemary’s Baby meets Die! Die! My Darling!, with perhaps a little bit of Psycho mother-fixation on the side. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as narratively assured as Polanski’s classic, nor as agreeably camp as Bankhead’s cinema swan song. But the mother-son stuff measures up as appropriately creepy.
Most obviously, You’ll Like My Mother evokes memories of Rosemary’s Baby in that a major thrust of the story is how Francesca’s pregnancy and baby are placed at risk. For not only is Francesca constantly lied to and given mysterious drugs in drinks, but her own predicament and the potential fate of her child is metaphorically foreshadowed when she arrives at the Kinsolving home just as her mother-in-law has drowned a litter of kittens. Mrs. Kinsolving’s pointed explanation to her daughter-in-law is that her beloved and pedigreed feline “Forgot herself and mated with an alley cat. The kittens were no good of course.” 
A Boy's Best Friend Is His Mother
Mrs. Kinsolving's relationship with creepy Kenny has a Norman & Mrs. Bates quality to it

Because they share a guest-as-captive-prisoner theme, You’ll Like My Mother most closely resembles the less well-known Die! Die! My Darling!. Both films featuring large, isolated estates without phones--although in Mother that plot point is something of a red-herring--lorded over by imperious,  loony, matriarchs with unconventional surnames (Bankhead’s is Mrs. Trefoile) suggesting great wealth and closets full of skeletons. The films share the central dramatic conflict of a young heroine locked in a room at the mercy of a rancorous old woman who blames the girl for the death of her son and the alienation of maternal affection. I’m not sure why developmentally disabled household help was such a staple of the genre, but in the Bankhead film, the pathos duties assigned to Sian Barbara Allen are assumed by a young Donald Sutherland. 

After the blissful debacle of Valley of the Dolls, Patty Duke worked almost exclusively in television, making only one other film before this one--1969s Me, Natalie for which she won a Golden Globe. Duke has said that it took years for her to appreciate Valley of the Dolls for the beloved camp classic it eventually became, but by her superb work in Me, Natalie, and her muted, underplaying performance here, it appears it didn't take her very long to learn the lesson of less is more. Duke gives a persuasive, intelligent performance here, displaying a subdued naturalism that would keep her working continually in television and film until her untimely death in 2016 at the age of 69.
Although their in-law relationship is antagonistic in You'll Like My Mother, Rosemary Murphy
and Patty Duke went on to play mother and daughter in the 1979 TV movie Before and After 

Not being a fan of The Waltons, my only awareness of Richard Thomas at the time was as one of the sociopathic teenagers in Frank Perry's disturbing Last Summer (1969), so his being cast as a possible rapist and serial killer didn't shock me as much as those who associated Thomas with the angel-faced John-boy Walton. Thomas is very good here, his malevolent boyishness creating the nightmare impression of a grown-up Dennis the Menace.
Actress Sian Barbara Allen gets an "introducing" credit in You'll Like My Mother, and her performance garnered near-unanimous praise along with the aforementioned Golden Globe nomination as Most Promising Newcomer. Although I still find her performance to be very touching and sympathetic, I must confess it was more effective when I was younger. These days I'm distracted by the fact that her characterization reminds me so much of Mia Farrow in Joseph Losey's Secret Ceremony -- all downcast cow eyes and dark hair cascading over her features. At the time, Allen and Thomas were quite the romantic item.
However, it's character actress Rosemary Murphy who makes the film for me. She's a credible villainess; ruthless, but not heartless. And she never once goes over the top or turns her character into a caricature. Her cool bearing hides a steely determination that makes Mrs. Kinsolving's motives unreadable and her actions all the more frightening.

Genre films are bound by a paradox that demands originality and freshness while still adhering to form. Robert Altman’s That Cold Day in the Park (1969) or even Julie Christie's sci-fi curiosity Demon Seed (1977) stand as good examples of creative variations/subversions of the "captivity" melodrama. You’ll Like My Mother, which intentionally hews close to classic Gothic tradition, may not offer much in the way of novelty, but in being written by women, it bears the distinction of a female perspective. The original 1969 novel is by Naomi A. Hintze, its setting featuring an overflowing river instead of a snowstorm. Hintze's book was adapted for the screen by Jo Heims, the female screenwriter credited with writing the story for Clint Eastwood's directing debut - 1971’s Play Misty for Me.

Copyright © Ken Anderson 2009


  1. This takes me back, though I haven't seen this one since its original release. My parents, on a whim, took my sister and me on an out-of-season weekend trip to Amish Country. Since not much was open, we went to the drive-in (inexplicably still open, now that I think of it).

    I remember being pretty scared + Duke's nipple 20 feet high on the drive-in screen and not much else besides being cold. We had a good time, though.

    I'm wondering if this started out as a TV movie, given Johnson's involvement and that the ABC Movie of the Week had its share of pregnant-woman-in-peril movies like Crowhaven Farm and the one where Barbara Eden gets knocked up by an alien.

    1. Yes, this one has all the earmarks of TV movie, but with the 70s it was sometimes hard to tell. Production companies like Bing Crosby's did most of their work for TV, so when they did branch out to make films, they tended to hire the same production teams. The end results always had the stamp of TV on them, even when they were intended as feature films, always looked like they were made for TV. BCP made the R-rated THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD, and were not for the nudity, I would swear that was a movie of the week as well.
      However, I do remember when television became enamored of all those pregnancy-themed TV movies.
      Cool that you actually saw this on release, at a Drive-In theater, no less. In Amish Country! And your sparse recollection of the film is hilariously in line with what would stick in the mind of an barely-remembered experience.
      Thank you very much for reading and commenting MDG!

    2. This played the drive-ins in Los Angeles as well. Co-billed with...HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER!!!!

    3. HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER! That's a title I haven't thought of in a long while! And even though I grew up in the era of the double-bill and understand that in those days studios (and the public, I imagine) thought -- in the interest of "variety" --to feature films as different from each other as possible; it nevertheless amazes me how unrelated and seemingly mood-killing the pairing of some double bills were.

  2. This is one of my very favorite suspense thrillers, and few films of the genre manage to achieve its tension and creepiness; although some, including those made for TV in this era, came close. It's hard to believe that Richard Thomas could play Kenny and John-Boy with such a proprietary conviction within a year of each other, but that's how good he is. Patty Duke excelled at roles that found her tormented and in crisis; and Rosemary Murphy, chilly and crisp, was never a better bitch than she is here, as when she picks up her Persian cat, extolling its bloodlines before adding: "One day she forgot herself and mated with an alley cat; the kittens were no good, of course," nonchalantly explaining why she'd have to murder the litter. Sian Barbara Allen was the oddest of the lot here, not for being mute, but for showing up in every picture in the early '70s and then vanishing by the end of that decade as fast as she entered. I really, really love this film.

    1. Nice to hear from someone who harbors such a familiarity with and fondness for this film! Concur on all points and hope your enthusiastic appreciation of its atmosphere and fine performances encourage a few of those unfamiliar with the film to seek it out. Especially as the Blu-Ray boasts a 55-minute bonus feature interview with both Richard Thomas and the retired-from-acting Sian Barbara Allen.
      Thank you for commenting!

  3. Thanks very much. Yes, I'm rather fond of this film I first saw as a child and have seen several times since. Thanks for the tip on the Blu-Ray version too. Nice work here! I enjoy your reviews!

    1. That's very kind of you. Thank you very much! I always enjoy hearing from people who reaffirm what I've always believed about films: that it is a living art, and movies that speak to us have the potential to become a part of our lives forever. "You'll Like My Mother" clearly made an impression on you as a child, and it's great that the experience has stayed with you.

  4. Hi Ken,

    I love how you demanded that everyone in your school see it. I felt the same way when I first saw it, paired with of all things, the Marlo Thomas movie Jenny. My local theater had the screwiest combos. I honestly remember more about the movies I saw than anything else about my childhood. I even bought the novel—what a surprise, like you say, that it was set during a humid summer heat wave.

    Anyway, I was thrilled to get the new Blu ray and while it wasn’t quite all that I’d remembered, what still really impressed me was the weather! Patty Duke is trudging through actual waist-deep snow. What a trouper!

    Thank you for another excellent read. Max

    1. Hi Max
      For as long as I can remember, the trend in revival theaters has been to book double-features of complimentary films. Your recollection of seeing this thriller paired with the youth-centric soap-opera of "Jenny" reminds me that back when double features were common, studios went the variety route; something heavy paired with something light (although, I guess the mutual pregnancy angle of MOTHER & JENNY bears noting).
      One of the reasons I saw THE ODD COUPLE so often was that it was always paired with ROSEMARY'S BABY.

      That's great that you were as taken as I with this film when you were young. Reading the novel of a favored film is a sign of devotion I well remember.
      I'm glad it finally got a Blu-ray release, but when it comes to either thrillers or horror films, I guess one can never be sure if the adult revisiting of a movie can live up to the memory. Usually it leads to some other discovery...much like you, I was rather impressed with the weather. It adds a great deal to the film's atmosphere, and you feel the chill as poor five-foot Patty Duke makes her way through snow nearly as tall as she is.
      Thank you for sharing your memories of this movie with us, Max. In all these years I've never seen JENNY, but even back then the trailers made it look like a TV movie. I think I'll look about to see if its on YouTube or something.

    2. Yep. That's what I did when Bonnie and Clyde was reissued with Bullitt. I went every day and timed it so I could see B&C twice and only have to sit through Bullitt once a day.

      I'd be curious to hear what you think of Jenny. It also has Elizabeth Wilson to recommend it and, of course, of 70s pop love theme--by Nilsson.

  5. Hi Ken - you like this one more than I do; I agree with your adjective of "tepid" but the cast is first-rate--scene stealing Ms. Murphy, the handsome John-Boy and beautiful Sian Barbara, and of course our Miss Patty. You have perfectly highlighted all the references...from Rosemary to Die Die to Psycho, etc., but all of those films "do it better" for me. Maybe I just want more guignol and camp--even though it is awful, I prefer to watch Patty as Rosemary in Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby!

    I don't care what the DNA test supposedly found. Who Patty's son Sean resembles is as plain as day to me, and plain as the nose on his face!

    Of course, now I need to see this one again, thanks to you, Ken!!

    1. Hi Chris
      I can understand why MOTHER might not be a favorite. Responses to it frequently hint that people who saw it in childhood harbor a stronger fondness for it than those coming upon it later. Like MAGIC, an equally tepid thriller that nevertheless traumatized an entire generation of 7 and 8 year olds, YOU'LL LIKE MY MOTHER seems to work best with a nostalgia chaser.
      The horror genre relies on a certain level of familiarity with and reference to certain tropes. The risk being that if they bring to mind too many similar and "better" films, the film you're watching can pale by comparison.
      Your mentioning of Patty Duke's Rosemary's Baby "sequel" brings upon headaches. BOY! If there was ever a miscalculation in casting and execution (and a Ruth Gordon cash grab) it's that movie. Donna Mills, for chrissake! Of course, I own a copy.

      You are like Patty Duke herself, who respected her son's DNA finding but always insisted that she KNEW who the real father was in her heart. The internet has provided photos of Michael Tell, and to me, Sean seems like a perfect melding of Duke's and his features, but I love you Neely O'Hara tenacity. Duke would be proud to have an ally. Thanks for reading and commenting, Chris! Always great to hear from you!

  6. Hi Ken,

    Though it has been positively eons since I’ve seen this I loved reading your reminisces and overview of the movie!

    I should really track it down, surely it’s floating around somewhere on the net, to refresh my memory. But I’ll be on my guard now against the role nostalgia might play in my view of it. It’s starting from a strong position though since its two main players are ones I adore.

    Poor Patty! If anybody’s big screen career was ever screwed by one film it’s her. It’s a pity because as you said she’s very fine in Me, Natalie (the film itself is very variable but she’s wonderful as are Martin Balsam and Nancy Marchand) and her few other features but I’m not sure her persona was suited to the big screen. I mean the talent was certainly there but there wasn’t a bigness to her personality that projected itself outward. When she played troubled characters they were very internal in their conflicts (at least as an adult, Helen Keller was big emotions both inside and out) and otherwise she evinces a warm level-headedness. Something having read her books I realize she didn’t always possess in her private life though God knows she tried and worked at it! But she was never an open performer like June Allyson or Debbie Reynolds who could fill a big screen. She was much more along the lines of Donna Reed-I know, I know she was a movie actress first but Oscar notwithstanding she was a much bigger star when she moved to TV- or Mary Tyler Moore, the intimacy of the small screen found something that was lost on that big canvas. She was also extremely likable whenever I saw her in interviews or on game shows, particularly the $25,000 Pyramid-sunny and whip smart-with the most beautifully lustrous hair! She was one of those performers, like Elizabeth Montgomery, whose death really hit me hard. They are so intertwined with my childhood memories and they were both still relatively young women who were taken suddenly.

    This did come right in the middle of the period where she was frequently if not always plagued by forces beyond her control-She Waits…The Diary episode of Night Gallery (one of my favorites of that series along with the Elsa Lanchester Green Fingers)…Deadly Harvest…this film-and she rose to the challenge in an often delightfully unhinged way yet managed to be more controlled than the excesses of Neely O’Hara. Though I love her as that crazy loon in that mess of a movie! How well I remember the huge brouhaha surrounding Sean Astin’s birth and parentage and Lucille Ball’s vehement opposition to baby Desi’s involvement with Patty-really to the point of unseemliness. No matter who his father is there could never be any question of his mother, I always thought he looked like Patty Duke as a man.

    1. Hi Joel!
      I'm in accord with your assessment of Patty Duke's TV career vs how she comes across in movies. I think you articulate precisely the internal quality she possessed that served her so well in all those TV movies and episodics, but somehow never registered on the big screen.
      And I too loved seeing her on TV game shows. She always came across so appealingly. A client of mine was paired with her on a Password or Pyramid, but she said it must have been during one of Duke's manic phases, for she claims it was difficult to get her to focus. I wish I could recall who was the host, for it seems to be one of those episodes that never appears in reruns on the Game Show network.
      Anyhow, I really enjoyed reading your well-observed comments and Patty Duke career reminisces. Especially glad that you recall her in a similar time context and feel about her much as I do (her son DOES look like her as a man!) She's one of those stars I've always wished I had the opportunity to meet. Thanks, Joel!

  7. It will be interesting to see Rosemary Murphy in the role of a harridan after all this time. I know she had a long career and played all different kinds of women but I can’t help it, to me she will ALWAYS be the ultra-chic and wry Dorothy Cleves, wife of the philandering Jason Robards in the fluffy 60’s Jane Fonda comedy Any Wednesday. It doesn’t have the greatest reputation and its gender politics are horribly dated but I LOVE that movie! I don’t know if it’s because that was the first place I saw her or that the role just fit her classy and patrician bearing to a tee but she could be playing a scrubwoman and she’ll still be elegant Mrs. Cleves as far as I’m concerned. That’s really unfair to her talent I suppose, I’ve seen her in dozens of things and she’s always very good but so it goes.

    As far as the other two major performers in the film I’m nowhere near as fond of either. Sian Barbara Allen was everywhere for those few years, and quite frankly I couldn’t understand why. I guess she caught a certain zeitgeist of the moment along with Lane Bradbury, Ronne Troup and a few others-wan sylph like creatures with big cow eyes who mooned and brooded on the sidelines of the action while the big star took care of the heavy lifting. I was never a Waltons fan-it was (and remains) too precious for me-and I found Richard Thomas too earnest for words. I realize that was his responsibility in the role but pretty much everything else I saw him in reinforced that. However when I was in London, quite a few years ago now, I saw him onstage in Art (with Paul Freeman and Patrick Duffy!) and he was wonderful in the tricky part of Yvan-all three men were very good-and it made me reassess him. I’ve since seen him again on stage in 12 Angry Men where he was equally strong. It could be a case of he’s better on stage but I suspect that the John-Boy typecasting pigeonholed him into boring roles.

    Now I’m off on the hunt to see if I can find this!

    1. Hell Joel (part II)!
      It's terrible but I ALWAYS get Rosemary Murphy and Nan Martin mixed up. Because I've seen Martin in more films I think my mind is always visualizing her whenever I write about Murphy (In fact, I had to scrawl back up to the screencaps to remind myself of what Rosemary Murphy looked like). Further complicating it is that I also mix in Elizabeth Wilson, so I'm never quite sure I'm "seeing" the person I'm referencing.
      I love that you're a fan of "Any Wednesday"! Unfortunately I dislike Jason Robards as an actor so much I rarely ever think of the film despite the fact I saw it like four times as a kid because it played for two weekends on a double-bill at the Castro theater. It was one of several wholesome/smutty sex comedies about philandering men I was exposed to at the time (my mind flies to Tony Curtis and Walter Matthau movies) so I think it did set well with me. I haven't seen it since its release, but your fond remembrance of it makes me wonder if it would be fun (or at least interesting) to see it now. All I remember is that big bubble hairdo of Fonda's and and a room full of balloons.
      I laughed at your appraisal of the Sian Barbara Allen and the absolutely perfect actress "type" that seemed to fill the Mia Farrow void on TV when she became a star. I never really understood the appeal of any of those ladies, Lane Bradbury probably being the one who bothered me the most. She, too, seemed to be everywhere, but something about her always rubbed me the wrong way.

      I've never been much of a WALTONS fan, either, seeing Richard Thomas in this and Last Summer sort of solidified him as creepy in my mind. He never seemed remotely wholesome. But it's easy for me to imagine him as a strong actor, so I can well imagine the curious casting of that play you mention yielding surprising but
      pleasant results.
      You have such a broad knowledge of film and such and marvelous grasp of your impressions of its personalities and performers, I read your comments with a great deal of enjoyment. And I know I can't be the only one. Thank you, Joel, for contributing to this blog's reputation as having some of the smartest, most entertaining, film-savvy comments on the web (folks tell me that all the time).

  8. I met Mackenzie Astin a few months ago and mentioned how much I adored Patty Duke. He thanked me for saying so, and said: "She was such a wonderful mother. I miss her so much." He lives in Baltimore, where his father, John Astin, runs the theatre program at his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University.

    1. Thanks for sharing that. Duke's children speak so glowingly of her, I can well imagine that they all miss her very deeply. The persona she radiates on all her interviews on YouTube, those conduced late in her career, is one of such thoughtful generosity and kindness that I often find them hard to watch. Baltimore is my home town, but I didn't know John Astin ran the theater program at John Hopkins! Wonderful!

  9. As for John Astin and his program, listen to Gilbert Godfried's podcast with Astin as his guest. And...the font used in the title of YLMM is the identical font used for Mommie Dearest. Hmmm. And...I happen to know a Glensheen mansion relative. Because I'm a transplant to MN, I didn't grow up with the legend becoming part of my life story. I simply never think about it until it's brought up, like it was here.

    1. How terrific is it that you noticed the font similarity for that other 'mother' movie! Brilliant eye you have there! And thanks for the info about the John Astin podcast.
      Oh, and should you ever hear anything particularly creepy about the Greensheen mansion from your friend, please stop back and share! Thanks for visiting the sit and commenting.

  10. Hi Ken-
    I hadn't heard of this movie until your blog post, which I decided to view first then go back to read. Another spot-on assessment. I found it an enjoyable enough viewing, and it certainly kept me guessing if either Duke or her child would make it through the end of the last reel. (Gotta love those 70's downer endings.) Like the horrible poster art for "What's The Matter With Helen?" though, it reveals too much so it's a tad spoiled by that. Oh well, it didn't ruin it at least. (I still love "Helen". Winters is so wonderfully unhinged.)
    As good and likable as Duke is here, the film really is mostly about Rosemary Murphy. She really does strike the perfect balance. The line about the kittens is sooo chilling! It's probably the best moment in the film in terms of instant dread.
    I had written off Richard Thomas, expecting there was a reason he was pretty much relegated to fame as John-Boy, but I underestimated just how creepy he could be. I now need to see "Last Summer" as well.
    Not being old enough to know of all the other waif ingenues of the time, while looking at Sian all I could think of was her slight resemblance to Denise Richards...who thankfully doesn't act like Ms. Allen at all. (Big fan of "Drop Dead Gorgeous" and guilty pleasure "Wild Things" here.) Not that I think Sian does a bad job; I think she's fine for what she has to do. (It is kinda strange how often these types of films like to feature a mentally challenged character.)
    Thanks for including things like this from your movie memory bank, even if they're not an obvious classic.

    1. Hello, Pete
      So glad you watched the film before reading this. I give absolutely everything away!
      Your comment "Gotta love those 70's downer endings" reminds me of what made scary movies of that era so were never sure if things were going to turn out well for the protagonist.
      It's good to hear this 48-year-old film still had the ability to keep you in suspense.
      Rosemary Murphy is so good in this!
      If you have even a passing curiosity about Sian Barbara Allen, I REALLY recommend the 1973 TV movie SCREAM, PRETTY PEGGY with Bette Davis. It's available on YouTube and it's a campy hoot.
      And I do genuine recommend LAST's brilliant, but a decided downer. You've been warned.

      By the way, I wouldn't call myself a fan of Denise Richards (I see the resemblance!) but love those two films you mentioned, especially WILD THINGS...a guilty pleasure favorite).
      You really are outdoing yourself in tackling so many of the films here! I'm quite impressed. I'm the least-flexible movie-watcher of all time. My partner is often open to watching almost anything I suggest, possessing a curious mind as he does. Me, if I don't already harbor an interest in it, it's so hard to get me to watch a film.
      I applaud you and I thank you! Cheers, Pete!

    2. Aw, thanks Ken. I'm *pretty* open to most any film (except, regrettably, for the one fateful time I VERY rapidly and aggressively turned off the Best Picture winner "Crash", which my partner really wanted to rewatch...I just couldn't deal with Hollywood being that obvious, preachy and cringeworthy), but it also helps that you mostly discuss older films, which is where the bulk of my main interests lie. If you were primarily discussing stuff from the last decade I'm not sure I'd be quite as quick to dive in the pool...but you're such a good writer I probably would follow you, pied piper!

      I haven't seen "Scream Pretty Peggy" yet, but it was already on my to-watch list, as I love Bette Davis. Seeing that Sian was in it bumped it up the list; since it's on YT and a brief 70 minutes I'll probably give it a viewing later tonight.

      Have you written about "Wild Things" on your blog? If you haven't, I would LOVE to get your take on that...if only so we could discuss how awkward Daphne Rubin-Vega is in it. Also, "Drop Dead Gorgeous" sees a blu ray release on October 6th, in case you didn't already know.

    3. Omg, "Screen Pretty Peggy" is a riot! "Jennifer" is so ridiculously tall. Poor Bette is reduced to just repeating "get outta here!" (minus Joan Crawford's slurring) while drinking tea (perhaps also tinged with alcohol?). Did anyone believe Ted Bessell as either a sculptor or crazy person? And poor Sian is in serious hyper-puppy mode. At least she got to have the hair out of her face for this one.

    4. Ha! Your description of your experience with CRASH (a film I actually saw in the theater, but really don't think I could watch again) reminds me of an essay file I've been compiling: I've asked friends what movies they've walked out on, slept through, or had to turn off.
      This is always interesting when it comes to folks (like me) who have tastes that embrace the unintentionally bad. It begs the question...we know "so good it's bad" films, but what are the films that are "so bad they're just bad"?

      Oh, and I'm glad you already saw SCREAM PRETTY PEGGY!
      I found it to be a hoot too. Seeing Sian in "up" mode (so much wide grinning!) made me nostalgic for her performance here. And as much as I like Ted Bessell, outside of the presence of Marlo Thomas, he was such a lox as a leading man.
      Good for you for your film flexibility. There's a lot of stuff out there, and being open to it may expose you to a lot of the unbearable (seriously, how many zombie or martial arts movies does Amazon Prime need to carry?) but it's a thrill to discover a gem in a genre where you'd least expect it.

    5. Oh, please do eventually post the essay about films people weren't able to finish. I haven't actually physically walked out on many myself, but two I can recall are:
      1) "Sweet Sweetback's Baadassss Song", which I knew/know is culturally important but a) I thought it was a poorly maade messsss and b) I knew wasn't the intended audience for anyway
      2) the "King Kong" remake with Naomi Watts and Jack Black (the latter of which I'm not a fan of). I made it until the moment where Watts slid down a wet, muddy hill in her white silk gown which magically barely got dirty at all (neither did her face or hair). Um, what? Heaven forbid the star of the film ever look less than stellar but that's just dumb. I had found the film dragging its ass (asssss?) too much until that point, then it got ridiculously loud when Kong finally I bailed. The person I went to see it with actually asked me if it was okay he stayed behind to finish it! So polite of him, considering I was the one being rude. Lol. I was just over it though.
      As for falling asleep, I memorably did that when rewatching Coppola's Dracula in a theater for a second time. (I guess I was just too tired that night.) I haven't yet dared it again...I still like the Annie Lennox end credit ballad though!