The Notorious Landlady (1962)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Landlady could be killer.

            William Gridley (Jack Lemmon) is an American who has arrived in London and looking for a place to stay. He rents a room from a home owned by Carly Hardwicke (Kim Novak) a gorgeous woman who Bill immediately becomes smitten with. The problem is that many people think Carly has killed in her husband even though his body has not been found. When Bill gets word of this he becomes determined to investigate the case and prove her innocence.

You would think a script written by Larry Gelbart and Blake Edwards would be funnier and full of zany scenarios and slapstick, but instead it gets grounded in a lot of dialogue for much of the first hour and forty-five minutes and only starts to get interesting during the final fifteen. The conversations lack any wit, or sharp one-liners, and the premise plods along at a much too leisurely pace. There is a segment where Bill accidentally sets fire to the patio, but I think this was simply thrown in for some action as there is very little else of it. The plot is formulaic and fails to add any new twist or perspective and once it is over it is easily forgettable. Lemmon’s character is bland and transparent and more than a little naïve since he falls in love with her immediately and is then convinced that she is innocent even though he has only known her for a day.

The best part comes at the very end where the two find themselves at a recital for a group of senior citizens that are all sitting in covered wheelchairs. This scene gets drawn out amusingly and includes a bit where an old lady named Mrs. Dunhill (Estelle Winwood) is pushed down the side of a hill, which is nicely captured in a silhouette style with Bill chasing after her. Winwood, who was already seventy-nine at the time, hams it up perfectly as the daffy old woman.  Of course all this comes much too late to really help the picture, or story, but at least it saves the film from being a complete bore, which it otherwise would have been.

Novak gives a surprisingly strong performance and a convincing British accent that I wish she had spoken in for the entire duration.  She was always a stunner, but here she may look her all-time best. One scene taken with her in the bathtub was highly risqué at the time and doesn’t leave much to the imagination. British character actor Lionel Jeffries is engaging as the inspector, but Fred Astaire is essentially wasted as Bill’s boss. The production values are decent, but the results are middling.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: July 26, 1962

Runtime: 2Hours 3Minutes

Rated: NR (Not Rated)

Director: Richard Quine

Studio: Columbia

Available: VHS, DVD (Region 1 & 2)

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