Monday, September 30, 2019

The Honey Pot

Another of the movies that I recently watched to get off of my DVR is The Honey Pot, which is available on DVD courtesy of MGM/UA's MOD scheme.

Rex Harrison plays Cecil Fox, a wealthy man living in Venice, Italy, watching a staging of the early 17th century Ben Jonson play Volpone. Fox goes back to his palatial villa, where he meets with William McFly (Cliff Robertson). McFly is responding to an ad Fox put out looking for a personal secretary, although McFly realizes something is up and that Fox doesn't really want a secretary, but some other sort of help.

McFly would be right. Fox had relationships with a couple of women in his life that went sour, and he's looking to get back at them by playing an elaborate practical joke on them. Fox is going to tell them he's dying, and that they need to come to Venice for the reading of the will when he dies, at which point they'll find he's left everything to McFly. Except of course that he won't actually be dead, if any of this makes sense.

As for the women, there's French Princess Dominique (Capucine), now married to another man; fading actress Merle McGill (Edie Adams); and Texan business magnate Sheridan (Susan Hayward), a hypochondriac traveling with her personal nurse Sarah Watkins (Maggie Smith). Sheridan, being a hypochondriac herself, immediately takes it upon herself to arrange medical care for Fox in a hospital, even though he doesn't need it since he's not dying. He refuses for the understandable reason, and it's revealed that if power of attorney were a thing in 1960s Italy, Sheridan would have it as she could be considered Fox's common-law wife.

But a strange thing happens. Sheridan is found in her bed the next morning, quite dead. Sarah suspects murder largely because, knowing about her employer's hypochondria, Sarah always had a bottle of placebo sleeping pills nearby. There's no way she would have overdosed them. Sarah also suspects things are not quite on the level with Fox and McFly.

The Honey Pot is another of those movies that has a good premise but doesn't quite add up. I found myself thinking of another Harrison movie, A Flea in Her Ear. That one is set in belle époque Paris, and while this one is set in contemporary times, it has an old-fashioned feel in part because of the presence of the play Volpone and in part because it was released in a turbulent time when Hollywood was changing. The Honey Pot has a really hidebound feel to it.

It also doesn't help that there's a lot of the "comedy of lies" as I like to call it here, and that's something that's never been my cup of tea. Everybody comes across as mildly irritating as they're trying to put one over on one or another of the other characters. Still, the actors all do their best with the material they're given, and the movie is always nice to look at.

So you may want to give The Honey Pot a try yourself as you'll possibly have a rather better view of it than I do.

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