Evening Primrose (1966)

24 Oct

mv5bmtmzmde2ntuzml5bml5banbnxkftztcwndm1mjy4mw-_v1_uy268_cr40182268_al_Evening Primrose is a musical written for the television series ABC Stage 67, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and I am indebted to Realweegiemidget for making me aware of this film. It sounded too quirky to pass up. A sort of grotesque little Romeo and Juliet set in a department store.

Anthony Perkins is Charles Snell, a poet who decides to get away from the world and devote himself to inspiration and poetry by hiding out in a department store. To his surprise, however, the department store is  already inhabited by people, who pose as mannequins during the day and live their lives at night. Almost all of them are elderly. Mrs. Monday (Dorothy Stickney) is the original resident, arriving in the department store before the turn of the century. During various depressions (1921, 1929) more people arrived.

There is one young person there, however. Ella Harkins (Charmian Carr) was left in the department store as a child and now works as a servant to Mrs. Monday, though she is viewed and treated as an outsider. Charles is immediately enchanted with her, but Mrs. Monday and her people have very strict rules. One does not associate with Ella, who is not living there from choice; one cannot ever leave (they are afraid of exposure); and one apparently must do everything Mrs. Monday says, who’s really running a kind of snobby dictatorship. Her will is enforced by “the Dark Men,” mysterious inhabitants of a mortuary who periodically visit to enforce Mrs. Monday’s laws by turning people into mannequins.

It makes one wonder very much how many of the mannequins are really mannequins and how many are simply corpses. Interestingly, all the mannequins are young people. Though one perhaps could make a case that the elderly inhabitants, playing their bridge, dancing their waltzes, are half-mummified, too.

It’s ironic. Charles left the world so he could leave the petty money and social concerns of life and encounters another oppressive society in microcosm in the department store. Ella and Charles have to meet on the sly while he teaches her how to read and do arithmetic. It’s actually very touching, along with Ella’s desire to “see the world,” which she can barely remember. She poignantly sings about her memories in a song that compares things like the sky to various department store items.

It’s a rather romantic film, if ironic and deeply quirky, even horror-ish, and it totally had me going until the end, at which point I was a little horrified. I laughed, and was a bit horrified.

downloadEvening Primrose, as I understand it, is distinctly minor Sondheim, but the songs are rather catchy and poignant, especially “Take Me to Your World. It was televised in color, but only recently did they find and released the black and white copy on DVD. It still looks rather grainy, but the film has a certain atmosphere about it. It made me think of a wax museum.

I must admit to being taken aback to learn that Anthony Perkins did a musical, but he does well. His voice has a somewhat limited range, but it works for the role. Charles Snell is still a little eccentric, but one still feels completely invested in his character.

I can’t help but think of Charmian Carr as Liesl, but it was nice to see in her an another film. Here, she is sad, eager, both brimming for life and longing for it – they are a rather adorable couple. If you like Perkins or Carr, are in the mood for something a little offbeat or are a fan of Stephen Sondheim, it’s definitely worth seeing.

The film can currently be seen on youtube.


Posted by on October 24, 2016 in Movies


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

13 responses to “Evening Primrose (1966)

  1. Andrea Lundgren

    October 24, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    I thought Liesl when I saw her face, too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      October 24, 2016 at 2:21 pm

      Yes, she will always be Liesl! I guess she didn’t make very many movies. Literally only The Sound of Music and this one. She apparently wanted to raise her children rather than be an actress.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Andrea Lundgren

        October 26, 2016 at 1:09 pm

        Well, that is not a bad aspiration on her part.

        Liked by 1 person

        • christinawehner

          October 26, 2016 at 1:50 pm

          No, it’s an admirable one! Sad for her audience, but I don’t think we really have a right to complain. 🙂


  2. Erin

    October 24, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    This definitely sounds unique! The mannequin aspect reminds me of a certain Twilight Zone episode, but only slightly (and that episode isn’t a musical, of course). Thanks for recommending this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      October 24, 2016 at 3:49 pm

      It is very unique! I’m beginning to think I’ve been missing out by having never seen the Twilight Zone; I miss so many references. I think this did come after the Twilight Zone, so perhaps it was inspired by it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The Animation Commendation

    October 24, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    I only heard of this when I heard that Charmian Carr had passed away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      October 24, 2016 at 6:09 pm

      Yeah, it was the same with me, too. Apparently, she only ever did this movie and Sound of Music.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Realweegiemidget

    October 28, 2016 at 10:37 am

    Still have to see this myself and thanks for the wee mention, definitely going to look into this one more xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      October 28, 2016 at 10:56 am

      Hope you get a chance to see it! I would never have even heard of this film except for you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Realweegiemidget

        October 28, 2016 at 11:14 am

        I hadn’t heard of it myself, until she passed away – was surprised to see she hadn’t done the usual Aaron Spelling ensemble series like many stars from that time.


  5. Patricia Nolan-Hall (@CaftanWoman)

    October 28, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Anthony Perkins was nominated for a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for the 1960 Frank Loesser play “Greenwillow”. Perhaps he thought of himself as a musical performer more than his audience did.

    Thanks to you and Realweegiemidget for adding another quirky title to my list of quirky titles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      October 28, 2016 at 9:39 pm

      Oh, I didn’t realize he had done other musicals. That is interesting. Perhaps if he had became an actor a decade earlier he would have shown up in more musicals.

      I hope you get a chance to see this one! It is definitely quirky. 🙂



What Are Your Thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: