For the second half of today’s Jack Lemmon double-feature, we’ve got his 1962 mystery/comedy The Notorious Landlady, which also stars Kim Novak and Fred Astaire!
Upon arriving in London, American diplomat William Gridley (Jack Lemmon) looks for a place to stay. He answers an ad from Carly Hardwicke (Kim Novak), who had some space to rent. At first, she was reluctant to rent to him, but he managed to win her over. Once that was settled, he offered to take her out for dinner that evening, after he checked in at his new job. A few weird things happen while Bill is with her, but for the moment, he makes nothing of it. The next day, he learns from his boss, Franklyn Ambruster (Fred Astaire), that Carly had been accused of killing her husband. He doesn’t believe that it’s possible, but Inspector Oliphant (Lionel Jeffries) of Scotland Yard pushes him to try and snoop around the house, looking for anything to prove her guilt or innocence. William starts to worry as a result of some things that the inspector said, but he is still certain of Carly’s innocence. That night, William and Carly try to grill some steaks outside, but accidentally start a fire. When it makes headlines, Mr. Ambruster threatens to send William away, but Carly intervenes. Now, Mr. Ambruster is also sure of her innocence, and he decides to help William try to prove it. However, that night, while William is talking to the inspector on the phone, a gunshot goes off in Carly’s room, and William finds her husband’s body (obviously, now he IS dead). At the trial, the inspector reveals that he had enlisted William’s help in spying on her (which he had to do when William tried to deflect the blame away from Carly towards himself). Carly is only exonerated when her elderly neighbor’s nurse, Agatha Brown (Philippa Bevans) testifies to Miles Hardwicke’s death being an accident. Afterwards, the nurse gets a pawn ticket from Carly, and Carly reveals to William that the ticket was for a candelabra that had some jewels in it (and was what her late husband was after). Realizing that it was her elderly neighbor, Mrs. Dunhill (Estelle Winwood), and not the nurse, that would have seen what happened, the two of them go searching for Mrs. Dunhill (especially after the nurse kills the pawnbroker). But, can they succeed, or will the two of them be arrested for this new murder (since they were seen leaving the scene of the crime)?
This is a movie that I’ve been enjoying seeing off and on for a number of years now. Fred Astaire was the main reason I saw the movie in the first place, and while his non-musical films can be hit-or-miss for me, this is one of his better ones. Even in his early 60s, he’s still in good shape, and even gets to do his own stunts/physical comedy here. And he also works with Jack Lemmon (it seems the two of them were friends offscreen)! Jack Lemmon’s antics throughout the movie generally keep me amused (but he also does well when the script calls for things to be more serious, too). And I love the score’s use of the classic Gershwin tune “A Foggy Day” (introduced by Fred Astaire nearly twenty-five years earlier in A Damsel In Distress)!
Now, do I think that this movie is perfect? No. In general, the plot kind of feels uneven, particularly within the last part of the movie as they introduce new elements and then try to wrap them up too quickly (and apparently even Jack Lemmon later on admitted to being confused about what was going on when he watched the movie on television). I also feel like the tone is a little inconsistent. It works for the majority of the film, but (again) really changes things up for the last few minutes, as it borders on farce (in and of itself, not a bad thing, but it’s still quite a shift from the rest of the movie). Still, this is a movie that I have fun with, and would recommend trying!
What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… The Notorious Landlady (1962)
This movie was released on Blu-ray by Sony Pictures Entertainment. While I don’t know enough to be able to tell on my own whether this is a 4K, 2K or HD scan, I will say that the picture is quite pristine, and the detail is excellent, making this Blu-ray one I don’t mind having in own collection, and one I would advise fans of the movie to look into!
Film Length: 2 hours, 3 minutes
My Rating: 7/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Fire Down Below (1957) – Jack Lemmon
Pal Joey (1957) – Kim Novak
Estelle Winwood – Murder By Death (1976)
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