Movie star and recording artist Doris Day died this week at the age of 97. For some reason, she had been on my mind for a while and I happened to watch a movie of hers on YouTube that I hadn’t seen since it first came out in 1968.
With Six You Get Eggroll is a goofy comedy about a blended family (an anomaly at the time) and the obstacles the new couple face as they try to make their new family and marriage work. Day, who plays a widow, meets a widower played by Brian Keith of The Parent Trap (1961) fame.
When I saw the movie for the first time, I was on the verge of puberty. I should probably call it the “brink” of puberty. I identified with Day’s older teenage son, who appears in an early scene with shaving cream on his face. I can’t be sure what I was feeling at the time except that the image must have been significant to my developing identity as a male. I recognized it again immediately when I watched it on YouTube.
Beyond personal appeal, the movie offers a glimpse into a period of Americana that has just about disappeared. Set in a suburban community in the Bay Area, there are no sidewalks, white picket fences separate ranch style houses, and birch trees cluster in groups on front lawns like giraffes. The film portrays, accurately, the tranquility typical of towns throughout the Bay Area at that time, particularly in the South Bay in what would later become Silicon Valley.
Interestingly, this was Day’s last movie. Some have surmised that she sensed the changing mood of the country and the growing restlessness among youth. Certainly, the movie hints at none of the social unrest that led to the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, race riots in cities across the country, and antiwar demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, all of which occurred that same year. These took place against the backdrop of the sexual revolution, the Paris riots, the Tet Offensive, the Second Vatican Council, and the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union. It is possible that 1965-1975 has been the most tumultuous decade in recent history.
You wouldn’t know it from watching With Six You Get Eggroll, but then the movie doesn’t attempt social or political commentary beyond an idyllic portrayal of family life. Unfortunately, that life would soon change forever. Other movies released in 1968 took on social issues with edgy perspectives more suitable to the changing times: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, and Rosemary’s Baby, for instance. I saw all of these in the theater and can tell you that, as thrilling as they were, none of them resonated with me the way this movie about egg rolls did. The fact that no egg rolls appear anywhere in the movie is beside the point (see Note to Self below).
No doubt, my identification with a teenage son as opposed to a gorilla or Satan worshiper had something to do with this, although these other movies most likely were not aiming for a prepubescent audience. We would have to wait another thirty years and Titanic for that. Day’s instincts proved right about the country and its turn to sex, drugs, and rock and roll. There would be no more room for the wholesome “girl next door” character going forward. We can thank the French deconstructionists for that, at least in part, but suffice it to say that things would never be the same again in the Bay Area or anywhere else in America. That’s not misplaced nostalgia but the historical record.
Still, Doris Day did not let the past define her. Neither did she long for it even though she had been a successful singer through the 40s and 50s. Retiring from Hollywood and public life did not mean her work was over. She devoted herself to the care and protection of animals, even founding a nonprofit organization and opening a pet friendly hotel in Carmel, California.
Such resiliency may be her greatest legacy and the most important lesson we can take from her long life, which was not without suffering. Ironically, she had four marriages and endured the premature death of her son. In the end, I can watch With Six You Get Egg Roll and recall it as a marker in my own life, shaving cream and all. As long as it serves as a guide to the future.
RIP Doris Day Flickr photo by Trending Topics 2019 shared under a Creative Commons (BY 4.0) license. Album cover Flickr photos by Kevin Dooley shared under a Creative Commons (BY 4.0) license with some alteration for spacing.
Dedicated to Pam, Jodie, and Kim Bryan, the girls next door. Note to Self: Egg roll movies with no egg rolls, egg cream drinks with neither egg nor cream. I feel a post coming on. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance.
A real “Sentimental Journey” Robert….
If youve never seen ” Pillow Talk” with Rock Hudson, your definitely missing out. Later on in her life, she shunned the public eye, I assume for her own sanity. There are no photos of her in the last 10 years for public consumption.
She and another Icon, Bridgett Bardot, have dedicated their Golden Years in the campaign and care for animal causes.
She sounds in your mines eye like a real Teacher’s Pet…..
Whoa, Bernie, you’re on a roll…an egg roll…!
Thank you for this travel back in time, Robert. Yes, I recall the title of the movie, vague memory of plot…
Yes, 1968 was a significant transition point. Such differences between living in Los Angeles and the small midwestern towns like Deerfield, Illinois.
Susan, I think it’s all about home and the search for it through time and space (Lost in Space!). In that regard, 2001 and Planet of the Apes were right on.
You must be familiar with Native searches and how they are expressed. The same?
Yes, it is true… Native searches have a language and ritual that seem to point to the paths. And an acceptance of dreams and visions as possible portals???
I have recently experienced a bit of this, unsought. How different for us, the unsettled sense of the unexpected, when to persons of the past , nothing out of the ordinary.
Right: how to develop a “settled sense of the unexpected,” or how to “expect the unexpected.” I hope your experience wasn’t over the line. When people say whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, I tell them I’m not so sure about that. Some things can maim you while leaving you breathing.
Interesting how moments in movies that seem inconsequential can have such an impact on us.
No discussion regarding the difference between Doris Day’s life and her public persona is complete without the wonderful Oscar Levant quote: “I knew her before she was a virgin.”
Ann, how true. I am regularly amazed at how often you come up with the best quotes…!
Just now saw this – thank you! I’ve somehow become a walking Bartlett’s!;-)