The Notorious Landlady-1962
Director Richard Quine
Starring Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, Fred Astaire
Scott’s Review #1,390
Reviewed August 16, 2023
If viewers can look past the messy nature of The Notorious Landlady (1962) and the schizophrenic pacing that appears intermittently then the film is enjoyable.
It’s not platinum status but a decent enough flick, especially for fans of Kim Novak and Jack Lemmon who were big stars at the time. This is the third and final film that the duo starred in.
Like the film, their chemistry goes in and out but appealing is to see Novak in a comic role whereas the genre is familiar territory for the funny Lemmon.
After her husband mysteriously disappears, Carly Hardwicke (Novak) finds it impossible to rent a room in her lovely London apartment, because everyone assumes she’s responsible.
American diplomat William Gridley (Jack Lemmon), is new to the city and desires a residence with her. It doesn’t hurt matters that Carly is very easy on the eyes. William becomes smitten with her unaware of her troubles.
When his boss, Franklyn Ambruster (Fred Astaire), learns what Gridley has stumbled into, the two men try to clear her name. A series of lies and misunderstandings catapult events into a compelling mystery.
Even though neither William nor Carly are British the foggy locale works well providing foreign mystery. They reside in a courtyard type of home where neighbors can see in or they can see out to other apartments. This comes into greater play towards the end of the film.
This is just one example of an Alfred Hitchcock influence from 1955’s Rear Window which director Richard Quine heftily borrows from. He’s wise to do so since he secured Novak, fresh from her role in Vertigo (1958) two years earlier.
Shit, even the title ‘The Notorious Landlady’ borrows the title of the 1946 Hitchcock masterpiece, ‘Notorious’.
There’s also a secret locked door that Carly references and forbids anyone from entering adding suspense and foreboding.
Despite tepid chemistry between the stars I ultimately enjoy their romance. It’s a hard sell that the gorgeous Carly would fall head over heels for the everyman William but she does.
They win me over during a dramatic scene where an attempted romantic dinner of steaks goes awry and instead, a massive fire erupts. The burgeoning lovers cling together in a sweet embrace that cements their appeal.
The tension is supposed to be about whether Carly murdered her husband and has designs on William. Red herrings like kitchen poisons and the like make an appearance but I was more interested in the impending mystery of said husband than really believing she’d want to kill William.
The last act brings the reemergence of a threatening character, an unexpected villain, and a race to save another character who’s in dangerous peril.
A courtroom scene also adds to the tension.
The central storyline is satisfying, edge of your seat, and suspenseful, just what I assume Quine was going for…..ultimately.
Within the story, The Notorious Landlady shifts genres a whopping three times! The tone of the film is all over the place, first romantic comedy, then suspense and drama, and finally slapstick.
During the finale when Carly and William race to a retirement community and scramble to stop an out-of-control wheelchair, I half expected Laurel & Hardy or The Little Rascals to make a cameo.
Poor Fred Astaire has little to do and struggles to keep up any relevance as measured against Novak and Lemmon’s characters. At times I’d even forgotten he was still in the film.
The Notorious Landlady (1962) is an entertaining vehicle and a must-see for fans of Novak or Lemmon eager to see a largely forgotten film that has something fun to offer.