Scotland Yard suspects a landlady of being a female Bluebeard. They ask her tenant to become an informant. Kim Novak and Jack Lemmon star in this morbid comedy, The Notorious Landlady (1962).
Though a comedy onscreen, there was drama behind the scenes. Neither of the two leads seem to have enjoyed making the film. According to Lemmon: A Biography by Don Widener, Lemmon said that the plot of this film,
"...had so many twists and turns I couldn't follow it. A couple of years ago it came on television and I sat though it again and still couldn't get a handle on it. I delivered lines in that picture with absolute conviction- and I haven't the faintest idea to this day what they meant."
Further, his father, John Lemmon was ill with cancer. The elder Lemmon visited his son on location in Carmel and was given a small nonspeaking part. See the two above with Novak and her mother on location in a picture for the Associated Press.
Novak also seems disenchanted with the film.
In a 2014 interview with The Telegraph, Kim Novak says,
" I pour all I have into my work. That’s who I am. I give everything I’ve got when I’m doing something that means something to me."
Although the actress is credited with designing her own wardrobe for The Notorious Landlady, this input into the film was not enough. Whenever Novak cannot put her own ideas into the story, the film means less to her; the star feels as if she's wasting her life. The star reveals in the interview that it was movies like The Notorious Landlady which encouraged her walk away from films.
"Forgettable, salacious films like Boys’ Night Out and The Notorious Landlady became her bread and butter and Novak withdrew from acting. 'I might’ve stayed around and said, ‘I’m going to find a good vehicle for myself.’ But I’m not that kind of person. I’m all about expressing myself [although] I don’t really care what happens after I do. So when they suddenly started finding only sex-symbol roles, rather than say, ‘I’m going to fight for something,’ I left. I just walked away.'"
Novak has not bothered with a film since 1991's Liebestraum,
" a film by the director Mike Figgis,[where Novak] found, once again, another director reluctant to discuss and engage in the process with her. “I said, ‘Ah, same old Hollywood. I don’t need this.’"
The confusion and disenchantment off screen must have effected performance. The critics were out for blood with this one.
LIFE Magazine (July 20, 1962) gives a short summary of the film, calling it "Grade B Hitchock" and giving all praise to Lemmon as the only one who saves the film from complete disaster. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times says basically the same thing.
The Notorious Landlady has an interesting and weird theme for a comedy; you can call it a Gothic comedy. You can watch it for the (non-musical) performance by Fred Astaire as Lemmon's boss. Recommended for Jack Lemmon fans.
What did you think of The Notorious Landlady?