Review: Carol Channing Enchants in 'Thoroughly Modern Millie'

by Frank J. Avella

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday August 28, 2021

Review: Carol Channing Enchants in 'Thoroughly Modern Millie'

The long-awaited Blu-ray debut of George Roy Hill's fabulously lavish and looney musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie" is given the Special Roadshow treatment, complete with Overture, Intermission and Exit Music, as well as a new 4K Technicolor restoration. The film looks and sounds fantastic, and is a total treat for fans as well as any newbies out there who sharpened their musical theatre teeth on the Sutton Foster musical and want to see what the original source material was all about. And while the Broadway show was terrific (mostly because Foster was such a powerhouse), nothing beats the madcap antics in Hill's film (with a wildly wicked script by Richard Morris and a terrific score by Elmer Bernstein).

Nominated for seven 1967 Oscars, "Millie" stars the delightful Julie Andrews as the titular character, a small-town gal bent on finding a rich husband — preferably her boss, the handsome Trevor Graydon (John Gavin, perfectly gorgeous). Millie is staying at the Priscilla Hotel for Women, where she meets the bubble-headed but sweet Miss Dorothy (Mary Tyler Moore, who adopts a strange little-girl affect but still manages to be engaging), who happens to be an orphan. The hotel is run by the dastardly Mrs. Meers (devilish Beatrice Lillie) who, unbeknownst to the gals, is really selling many of them into white slavery (yes, you read that correctly, and yes, it is a musical-comedy).

Millie meets and falls for a wacky paper-clip salesman (with a secret), Jimmy Smith (James Fox, having a blast), but she must stay her rich man course. Jimmy introduces Millie to his "friend," Muzzy Van Hossmere (Carol Channing), a whimsical free spirit. Meanwhile, Mrs. Meers goes after Miss Dorothy, and all hell breaks loose in Chinatown.

Andrews is a true treat. Coming off "Mary Poppins" and "The Sound of Music," this was her third musical and her third hit. (She made a few dramas in the mix, as well). She manages to imbue Millie with all the irony and peculiarities necessary for a modern-wannabe.

Channing literally swoops in and steals every scene she is in. She enchants to such a degree that she landed a Supporting Actress Oscar nomination and won the Golden Globe. She was already a Broadway star thanks to "Hello, Dolly!" But one wonders what kind of movie career she might have had if filmmakers knew what to do with her unique talents. Her only other significant feature besides "Millie" was Otto Preminger's much-maligned "Skidoo."

The film is an homage to silent films and the Roaring Twenties, capturing the look and jazzy sound of the period to perfection with Russell Metty's lush cinematography, which is a standout (and, ironically, was not Oscar-nominated). Bernstein won his only Academy Award for Scoring "Millie."

Hill, who would go on to helm "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and then win the Best Director Oscar for "The Sting," does a fine job here.

FYI: future TV stars Jack Soo and Pat Morita (the latter Oscar-nominated for "The Karate Kid") play Chinese laundrymen, although they were both Japanese.

A chatty audio commentary is provided by film historian Lee Gambin and art historian Ian McAnally.

While the film owes a lot to the musical "The Boy Friend," which Andrews starred in on stage and would be made as a film a few years later by Ken Russell with Twiggy, "Millie" has its own charms and is definitely work a look on this dazzling new Blu-ray.

Blu-ray Extras Include:

  • Roadshow Edition - Newly Restored in 4K by Universal Pictures
  • New Audio Commentary by Author/Film Historian Lee Gambin and Art Historian Ian McAnally
  • Theatrical Trailer

    "Thoroughly Modern Millie" is currently available on Blu-ray.

    Frank J. Avella is a film and theatre journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He also contributes to Awards Daily and is the GALECA East Coast Rep. Frank is a recipient of a 2019 International Writers Retreat Residency at Arte Studio Ginestrelle (Assisi, Italy), a 2018 Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, a 2016 Helene Wurlitzer Residency Grant and a 2015 NJ State Arts Council Fellowship Award. He is an award-winning screenwriter and playwright (CONSENT, LURED, SCREW THE COW, FIG JAM, VATICAN FALLS) and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.