19 December 2014

(1971)

...And this maiden
she lived with no other thought
than to love and be loved by you.

Former television star Clint Eastwood jumpstarted his movie career by going to Europe and filming his famous spaghetti western trilogy for director Sergio Leone.

Starring in such classics as A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), Eastwood emerged an international superstar.

Five years later, and after such fare as Where Eagles Dare (1968) and The Beguiled (1971), he was ready to direct himself in a project all his own.

Play Misty for Me was the start of a prolific second career for the actor. The story of a man pursued by a psychotic woman he's had a fling with...would later be parlayed into the mega hit Fatal Attraction in 1987, startling audiences once again. It wasn't a direct remake but the similarities should not go unnoticed.

Eastwood plays Dave Garver, a DJ for KRML - a radio station based in beautiful Carmel, California. He works the late shift playing music and reading poetry for all the romantics and lonely hearts.

Arriving at work one evening, the smooth-talking Dave takes over from DJ "Sweet" Al Monte (James McEachin). The first call he gets is a request from a woman to play the song "Misty." Al refers to her as the "little Misty chick" and it's apparent the woman has called before.

After work, Dave stops by his favorite bar for a drink. His good pal Murphy the bartender (played by Don Siegel, Eastwood's mentor) serves him a beer. Dave notices an attractive lady sitting nearby. "Uh, uh," Murphy tells him. "She's waiting for somone."

He says that other men have been striking out all night with the woman. A little bar game between Dave and Murphy gets her attention. She comes over and introduces herself. Her name is Evelyn Draper and she soon becomes aware that Dave has won the real competition: having her talk to him.

They go back to her apartment. Evelyn tells him she was stood up by a date, while Dave thinks there is something familiar about her. The truth comes out when Evelyn admits she only went to the bar because Dave talks about it on his program and she wanted to meet him.

Dave quickly realizes that she's the woman who requests "Misty" all the time. He tells her that he's "hung up on a girl" but Evelyn says that's no reason they shouldn't sleep together that night, which they do.

Dave goes home the next morning. In the afternoon, Al stops by and invites his co-worker out to dinner that night. Dave declines, saying he's too busy and doesn't have a date. As Al is leaving, Evelyn appears with several bags of groceries.

Dave is perplexed, as his new friend makes herself at home in his kitchen. He demands to know what's going on. "Don't send me away. I just wanted to surprise you," Evelyn says.

Dave tells her to pick up the phone and call him the next time. Her feelings are hurt but she quickly recovers when Dave accepts her offer to cook dinner for him. She stays the night and as the two say goodbye the next day, their talking awakens a neighbor. The guy complains and Evelyn screams, "How'd you like to go screw yourself" before loudly honking her car horn.

While driving around town, Dave thinks he recognizes an ex-girlfriend because of a sweater she's wearing. It turns out to be the roommate of the girl he's still pining for. Her name is Angelica (Brit Lind) and she leads him to the art studio where Tobie Williams (Donna Mills) is working.

Tobie had been purposely avoiding Dave with the help of her flamboyant friend Jay Jay (Duke Everts). She's been out of town for the past couple of months.

She had been sick and tired of Dave's womanizing and tells him so during a walk on the beach with him. He says he's trying to change his ways and would like to continue their relationship.

Dave goes to the bar again for a drink and Evelyn phones the joint looking for him. Murphy tells her she just missed him - but Evelyn isn't buying it. She's standing across the street and clearly sees Dave's car parked out front.

Leaving the bar, Dave finds Evelyn sitting in his car. She wants to get together with him that night but Dave tells her he's working. "Hey, you're talking to your number one fan. You don't work tonight," she says. Dave still refuses to see her.

Evelyn then takes his keys and runs from the car, giggling. Dave has now lost his patience and the commotion gets the attention of some patrons from the bar. They ask Evelyn if she's having some trouble and Dave tells them to get lost. "Yeah...get lost, assholes!" Evelyn screams. Now Dave is starting to realize this woman is not "all there."

When he arrives home later, he finds a huge stuffed animal outside his door with a note attached. Evelyn is there and she asks to have a Coke with him.

"Not tonight" he tells her and with that, she drops her coat and stands in front of Dave stark naked. He puts the coat over her body and hustles her into his house.

Again, she stays the night (Ah these weak men!). Morning comes and Evelyn offers to cooks for Dave in a couple of days. On his mirror, she scrawls "E.D. luvs D.G." with her lipstick.

At the station, Dave confides in Al...telling him this woman is smothering him. Al is somewhat unsympathetic and says he's always thought Tobie is one of the foxiest chicks on the peninsula.

Dave gets a call from Evelyn...who says she's cooked supper and is waiting for him. He's irritated but tells her he'll be over after work to have a little talk with her. This pleases Evelyn and she ends the conversation by requesting he play "Misty" for her.

Evelyn shows off a new dress she's wearing and presents Dave with a gift: a pair of shoes. He pushes her away and tries to set the record straight. "Are you trying to say you don't love me anymore?" she asks. He tells her she misinterpreted his actions and Evelyn says "it's that other bitch isn't it?"

Having seen a photo of Tobie in his house, she knows he has someone in his life. Dave leaves and she rants about how bad he is in bed and what a bastard he is.

The phone rings as soon as he gets home and walks in the door. It's Evelyn, frantically calling to apologize. She wants to see him and won't take no for an answer. Dave hangs up and she calls again until finally, he disconnects the phone.

While spending the afternoon with Tobie in a park, Evelyn is secretly watching them. Tobie says Anjelica is moving out and that she's getting a new roommate, a woman named Madalyn. Dave invites her to a party the next day.

That night, Evelyn barges into Dave's house insisting that someone is in his bed. There's no one there and Dave gets dressed to take her home. Evelyn has a nervous breakdown but agrees to go. But first she asks to use his bathroom, where she proceeds to cut her wrists. Dave finds the room covered with blood.

He calls his friend Frank (Jack Ging) over to help him clean up and bandage Evelyn's wounds. Dave tells Frank he doesn't want Tobie to find out about the incident in the papers.

Evelyn stays with Dave while she recuperates. She implies that she's ready to blackmail him to get what she wants. Tobie calls to see if they're still on for a date and tells Dave she'd rather spend time alone with him than go to the party.

When Dave gets back to Evelyn, she has just had a nightmare that she was drowning in the ocean as he watched. She finds comfort in his arms and falls asleep.

Night falls and Dave gets ready to meet Tobie. Evelyn tells him to take her home if he has somewhere to go. Dave feels guilty and stays with her instead. His maid Birdie (Clarice Taylor) finds him almost passed out the next morning.

He tells her to come back at another time but Birdie enjoys teasing him, knowing fully well that her boss had a woman in his bed the night before.

The phone rings. It's Madge Brenner (Irene Hervey) who's considering hiring Dave for a job in San Francisco. They make lunch plans for that afternoon. Birdie finds a note from Evelyn saying she's gone shopping and plans to be back. She has also taken Dave's house key to make a copy and borrowed his car.

She returns as Dave is heading out to meet Madge. She follows Dave to the restaurant and humiliates him by ridiculing his prospective employer's age and implying that she's the new woman in his life. Furious, Dave escorts her outside to a cab.

As the taxi pulls away, Evelyn screams, "I did it because I love you!" Dave goes back inside and sees that Madge has left, leaving his audition tape behind.

He finds Tobie on the beach, angry because he stood her up the night before. He explains everything and once again, Evelyn is secretly watching them.

Birdie returns to the house to find it in complete disarray. Everything is torn up and tossed around. The framed photo of Tobie is smashed. The maid hears something in Dave's bedroom. She enters it and finds Evelyn tearing something up behind a screen.

Before she can react, Evelyn attacks her with a huge butcher knife. She tries to get away, but is slashed repeatedly. Dave comes home to find the police and paramedics taking Birdie out. "This is gonna cost you double to clean up this mess," Birdie tells him.

Evelyn has been apprehended and Sergeant McCallum (John Larch) tries to get to the bottom of it. He refers to the woman as Dave's girlfriend and wants to know why she had a key to his house. Evelyn is then booked.

Thinking he's free of her, Dave spends the day with Tobie (to the strains of Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"). They go skinny-dipping and make love in a park.

The couple head to nearby Monterrey with Al and Tobie's roommate Madalyn (Ginna Patterston), to enjoy the Jazz Festival. Dave is told Madalyn is moving out and yet another roommate is taking her place, a woman named Annabel. (The footage at the festival is four and a half minutes long. It really is director Eastwood's only indulgence. As his fans may know, jazz is one of his passions.)

When Dave goes back to work, he receives a call from Evelyn requesting her favorite song. She tells him she's been discharged and is heading out to Hawaii where she has a job lined up. She also recites part of a poem before hanging up. She says, "this maiden she lived with no other thought than to love and be loved by you."

Later that night while in bed, Dave wakes up to see her standing over him holding a knife. He moves away just in time as she plunges it into his pillow. Sergeant McCallum pays him a visit and tells him Evelyn was released on parole a week ago pending further legal action. He advises Dave to change his locks and asks him to try and remember the poem she quoted him.

Dave tells Tobie that Evelyn is back. He says they should stay away from each other for a couple of day to be safe. Sgt. McCallum visits Dave at the station and tells him to stay on the job and wait for a call from his stalker - so it can be traced. Dave is worried about Tobie's safety because her house is isolated and the officer promises to check up on her.

He calls her and she tells him she's alright and that her roommate Annabel is making coffee. When Annabel emerges from the kitchen, we see that it's actually Evelyn! Soon enough, Tobie realizes she's in danger when she sees the scars on Evelyn's wrists. "God you're dumb," Evelyn says, holding a knife.

Looking through a book of Edgar Allen Poe's writings, Dave finds the passage that Evelyn quoted. He realizes Tobie is to be the next target and phones her again. This time, Evelyn answers and says they're waiting for him.

Tobie is bound and gagged and watches as her kidnapper tears up a drawing of Dave with a pair of scissors. She's also helpless as Evelyn butchers her hair.

Sgt. McCallum arrives at the house first. Evelyn surprises him and stabs him in the chest with the scissors. Dave races over and sees the body. He finds Tobie in the bedroom just as Evelyn jumps out at him, brandishing a knife. She cuts him repeatedly before Dave manages to punch her in the face.

The impact sends her out the window and down a cliff to the ocean below. Her corpse floats lifelessly in the water as Dave frees Tobie. The couple now faces a future in which they must try and put all this horror behind them.

Eastwood is quoted as saying that he was unsure of how his directing debut would be received. He disguised himself and went to a theatre showing Play Misty For Me, where he was pleased at the audience's frightened reactions.

With this film, he began a pattern of bringing his pictures in under budget and ahead of schedule.

He directed with considerable skill and in fact, he cast the superb Jessica Walter without ever auditioning her. It was these instincts which would serve him well and eventually win him two Academy Awards, for 1992's The Unforgiven.

Walter's theatrics in Play Misty can make you giddy. She is so high strung and scary...she almost makes you laugh. It's the only way to react to what you're seeing on the screen. An excellent, brave performance.

Eastwood's follow-up to this (his only horror film) would make history. Dirty Harry solidified his reputation and helped make him a legend.

One more interesting fact. The inclusion of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face during Dave and Tobie's lovemaking scene resurrected a song that had been recorded by Roberta Flack for her debut album two years before. Eastwood remembered it and asked her permission to use it in the film.

Upon the movie's release, the song became a massive number one hit (six weeks) and went on to win Grammys for Record and Song of the Year. And if you ask us, there has never been a more sparse and hauntingly beautiful song than Flack's classic recording.


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