Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Under the Yum Yum Tree


You expect a bit of a cultural gap when you watch movies from the ‘30s and ‘40s, but seeing one from my own youth and realizing how long-gone—and unlamented—those days were is a bit of a shock. Think of It Happened One Night, with Clark Gable erecting “The Walls of Jericho” (a blanket on a rope stretched across the room) when he’s spending the night with Claudette Colbert, who he is not married to. Thirty years later, it was still scandalous for an unmarried man and woman to spend the night together, whether or not they actually do anything. Ten years after that, who the fuck cared?

I haven’t watched any of those no-doubt awful Rock Hudson/Doris Day movies recently, and don’t intend to, but this one is amazing enough. I recall I thought it was damn good at the time. I was a sophomore in high school, and Jack Lemmon as a womanizing apartment building owner was a role any boy that age would have aspired to, I guess. Very naughty for its time, too: Carol Lynley and Dean Jones agree (at her insistence) to “test their compatibility” by renting an apartment and living together but not sleeping together. She is, basically, an idiot when it comes to human relations, to men in general. She never suspects that the landlord across the hall is doing everything in his power to sabotage the relationship and get into her pants. Naturally, Lynley’s virtue is intact at the end of the movie.

Around the time this film was made it looked like Carol Lynley was going to be a major romantic star, but it somehow faded. She has continued to work, but mostly in television. The delight here is, of course, Jack Lemmon, as is the case in pretty much every movie I’ve seen him in, though Paul Lynde and Imogene Coca are also good. His character, Hogan, has an apartment furnished like a Turkish bordello, wears red socks and ascot ties. (Me and a couple friends liked him so much we started wearing ascots ourselves, the only ones in school who did. We took a pass on the red socks.) This is a guy that you just know reads his new issue of Playboy from cover to cover the day it arrives, looking for new ways to be a cool bachelor. We did that, too.

Interesting trivia: Lemmon hated this movie, but was contractually obligated to make it. It was very successful, probably because guys like me took their dates to see it.

He also insisted that his friend Edie Adams not only get a part, but had it expanded. She was in financial straits after the death of her husband, the great Ernie Kovacs.

He drives a car that, after some research, I am pretty sure is a Ford Cougar Concept car. It had gull-wing doors, and looked like this.