There are some motion pictures which are special to me for purely nostalgic reasons that have nothing to do with the movies themselves. “Caprice” is one such film. I remember, in a non-specific and probably rose-tinted way, watching it with my grandparents and it falls into a fuzzily-defined group of films that I know I like or liked but haven’t seen or thought about in years, if not decades. So when it turned up on some high numbered channel on satellite TV at some ungodly hour of the morning, I set the Sky+ to record it and was looking forward to getting reacquainted with one of my ‘inheritance movies’.
The story concerns Patricia Foster (Doris Day), an cosmetic designer who dabbles in industrial espionage. While pursuing the formula for waterproof hairspray, she crosses paths with Christopher White (Richard Harris), an agent employed by a rival cosmetic firm to catch Foster in the act and ruin her, and her employer’s reputations.
Reputedly, both Day and Harris loathed making this film (although they enjoyed working together) and Day was committed to the production without her knowledge (due to a bizarre and unwise power of attorney arrangement with her manager and husband Martin Melcher.
Credit then to the two leads, because there’s no sign of their disdain for the project in their performances. There’s an undeniable air of carefree glamour from the moment the film starts and Day makes an engaging and likeable spy, albeit in the relatively tame world of the cosmetic industry. There’s a healthy mix of adventure, satire and comedy, giving this sixties spy caper a jolly, comforting atmosphere. Harris is suitably steadfast and handsome in the role of counter spy/ would-be suitor while Edward Mulhare (Devon from “Knight Rider”!) and Jack Kruschen face off as the heads of the rival cosmetic empires. Ray Walston also lends some cantankerousness to proceedings as a cosmetic designer with a secret of his own.
There’s an underexplored subplot about missing Interpol agents which doesn’t really go anywhere and to be honest, towards the latter half of the film, the plot becomes something of a confusing mess; there are abrupt changes of location and scene which don’t really hang together, making it something of a precursor to “Quantum Of Solace”. In any event, the gentle spy versus spy romantic cat and mouse chase between Day and Harris get this over the line.
Much maligned in its day by critics and its cast, and generally ignored by audiences, it’s actually aged quite well and as a slice of kitsch filmmaking and design, it’s still a nice choice for a rainy Sunday afternoon movie.