“Is this an informal romantic comedy? Or shall I bathe?”
Charles Martin’s My Dear Secretary was the incredible Kirk Douglas’ sixth motion picture, and the first in which he was the male lead & received top billing. Nine years later he would play one of his most memorable roles, World War I French Colonel Dax, under the direction of Stanley Kubrick in Paths of Glory – considered to be one of the greatest anti-war films of all time. The collaboration was repeated three years later in Spartacus when Douglas, as Executive Producer, replaced the originally selected Anthony Mann as Director with Kubrick.
In My Dear Secretary, Kirk Douglas plays Owen Waterbury, a noted author whose most recent novel, Last Year’s Love, made the best-sellers list. He’s a playboy & a sexist with a gambling problem who goes through secretaries almost as fast as he does his book advances at the track. One evening, while giving a lecture to writing students at the Kilbride School, he announces his plan to hire one of the students as his personal secretary. His best friend & Personnel Manager, Ronnie (played by journeyman Keenan Wynn), accompanied Waterbury to the lecture. When Waterbury announces the opening, Ronnie offers it to the cute blond he’s been flirting with via a comment on her notebook. Owen couldn’t ask for a better friend than Ronnie. But as a Personal Assistant, he’s horrible: He encourages Owen’s philandering; he scorches more shirts than he presses; and his culinary creations are a better formula for weight loss than the Mayo Clinic Diet. The blond, of course, is the film’s leading lady & love interest. Stephanie ‘Steve’ Gaylord is Laraine Day, best known for her starring role as Carol in Hitchcock’s 6 Oscar nominated classic, Foreign Correspondent. Steve’s great ambition is to be a great writer like her hero, Owen Waterbury. But her idea of a writer’s secretary involves shorthand, typing & scheduling; not laundry, cleaning, dancing & kissing. Two other performances of note: Florence Bates is Waterbury’s landlady, Horrible Hannah; and his maid, Mary, is Irene Ryan. You’ll recognize her as a still middle-aged Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies.
Although Kirk Douglas was nominated for 3 Academy Awards, he never won a performance Oscar. However, in 1996, at the 68th Oscars, he was given an Honorary Academy Award ‘for 50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community’. The lovely soundtrack behind My Dear Secretary was composed by two-time Oscar nominee Heinz Roemheld. He composed or co-composed the music for over 200 films. In 1943, at the 15th Academy Awards, he shared the Best Score Oscar with the great Ray Heindorf for Michael Curtiz’s Yankee Doodle Dandy which starred James Cagney as George M. Cohan. Heindorf & Roemheld were awarded the Oscar even though neither was included in Yankee Doodle’s credits.
So if you want a little glimpse into an era when romantic comedies were consistently good, Charles Martin’s My Dear Secretary starring Kirk Douglas is included below in its entirety. I give it 3 Stars. But if you’d rather see it on the big screen, I’ll be hosting it at Rave Cinemas Buckland Hills, Manchester CT on Monday November 5, 2012 at 1:00. The film is just $3 and includes a small popcorn & soft drink. “And now, as I promised you, our guest speaker today will be none other than Owen Waterbury.”