That touch of mistaken identity

In the comedy That Touch of Mink (1962), a rich business man (Cary Grant) and a young woman (Doris Day) begin a relationship — but she wants marriage while he wants only an affair. In one hilarious scene, Grant and his friend (Gig Young) break into a motel room in order to find Day, but they end up interrupting a romantic tryst between a librarian and a would-be lover.

The reel librarian appearance does not connect significantly to the plot; it is played strictly for laughs. And for such a short scene, it packs in as many punchlines as possible, joining the Class III category of reel librarian films.

When I first was taking notes for this film, back in my undergrad days, I initially thought that John Fiedler was playing the librarian; Fiedler was a character actor best known for Juror #2 in Twelve Angry Men and as the voice of Piglet. (He also hails from Platteville, Wisconsin, where I used to live and work!) Here’s a screenshot of my original notes — I’ve crossed out several phrases relating to Fielder’s character, including meek. I’m pretty sure I was thinking along the lines of the “Male Librarian as a Failure” type here.

And here’s a close-up of John Fiedler as meek Mr. Smith:

But that’s what I get for assuming.

The librarian is actually the woman (played by Barbara Collentine, in an uncredited role) who has checked into this motel with the mild-mannered Mr. Smith. And she turns out to be a Comic Relief type, but again, it’s because the audience is laughing more at her rather than with her.

Toward the end of the film, a little over an hour and a half in, Philip Shayne (Grant) charges into the motel manager’s office, asking for a couple who registered from New York, a “blonde about so high.” The bewildered hotel manager answers in the affirmative, a Mr. and Mrs. Smith who are in the bridal suite. So in this first scene of mistaken identity (and remember, he’s thinking the blonde in the room is Cathy, the character played by Doris Day), Philip interrupts Mr. Smith uncorking a bottle of champagne. Ah, symbolism.

Mr. Smith:  What right have you got barging in here?

Philip:  Every right. At least I had the decency to take her to a hotel, not a rabbit hutch.

Mr. Smith:  She went to a hotel? With you?

Philip:  I think her hobby is collecting hotel keys. [knocks on bedroom door] Are you coming out? [barges into the bedroom]

Immediately realizing his mistake, Philip comes right back out and congratulates Mr. Smith on having “a great little girl there.”

Mr. Smith looks dumbstruck. As does the reel librarian, who comes out, clutching her robe (see below).

Mrs. Smith:  Who was that man?

Mr. Smith:  You librarians live it up pretty good!

You librarians live it up pretty good!

That punchline is so good it made one of my “Quotable Librarian” posts!

But we’re not done yet… In Round 2, Philip’s sidekick Roger (Young) enters stage left, seeking the “blonde about so high.” But before he barges in on the not-so-happy-anymore couple, we get to see this reel librarian shushing Mr. Smith while perching on his lap, as seen below. (And sorry folks, that’s NOT how we do reference at the library. 😉 )

Mr. Smith: But what was I to think when —

Mrs. Smith:  You do believe I never cared for another man until you walked in the library?

Mr. Smith:  Of course.

Mrs. Smith:  I won’t be long.

Another kind of shushing for this reel librarian

Blowing him a kiss, she retires to the bedroom.

But poor Mr. Smith doesn’t get much time to look mighty pleased with himself, because then Roger stumbles in, throwing out another insult during the second case of mistaken identity (“You’re even more repulsive than she said. No wonder she begged me to come here with her!”).

The phone rings, and Mr. Smith has had enough. Let’s listen in one last time:

Hello? Mother? You were right about women. Yes, Mama, I’ll wait outside. Come and get me.

So we’ll never know the possible happy future that could have been for this reel librarian and her mama’s-boy beau.

I find it interesting that they kept the bun — which looks quite elaborately pinned and braided, no? — even while she’s dressed down in a robe. I’m sure the glasses were the first thing to come off. 😉


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