Darling Of The Day – 1968
Darling Of The Day is set in the England of 1905 – Edwardian and elegant – and it’s the story of a great and painfully shy painter named Priam Farll (Vincent Price) who is summoned back to England, after twenty years as a virtual recluse in the South Seas, to be knighted by his king. Farll arrives in London, accompanied by his valet, Henry Leek (Charles Welch), and is immediately appalled by the snobbishness, sycophancy and phoniness of the big city – particularly the art world. Typical of the genre is gallery owner Oxford (Peter Woodthorpe) who has been peddling Farll’s oils for an incredibly high sum to Lady Vale (Brenda Forbes), a moneyed art collector. Oxford calls Priam Farll “the darling of the day” – “He’s a Genius”. Moments after Farll and valet Leek move into a house in Belgravia Square to await the knighting ceremony, Leek has a heart attack and dies. A doctor is summoned; he mistakes the dead man for Priam Farll and Priam Farll for Henry Leek, A wild idea for a great adventure seizes Farll. Why not assume the identity of his valet – abandon the frets, follies and frivolities of high society and thus be able “To Get Out of This World Alive”? The great impersonation develops, Britain’s top notables, including King Edward VII, visit the bier of “Priam Farll” while “Henry Leek” stands by delightedly acting like a butler. A new complication enters Farll’s life as he impersonates his late butler. Leek had been corresponding through a marriage bureau with a young widow named Alice Challice (Patricia Routledge), who lives in lower middle-class serenity in Putney-on-Thames. Priam finds he’s expected to rendezvous with Alice “outside the Empire Music Hall Saturday evening at eight.” Anticipating the meeting in a Putney pub, surrounded by her affectionate neighbors, Alice explains that single life is a lonely life and “It’s Enough To Make a Lady Fall in Love”. Farll has a momentary pang of conscience about his impostor role. He blurts out the truth to his cousin Duncan (whom he hasn’t seen in forty-five years), but Duncan (Mitchell Jason) doesn’t believe him. There is a near-riot, capped by a song in which a group of bystanders, including Alice, reaffirm the necessity for butlers in British society – “A Gentleman’s Gentleman”. Farll visits Alice in her charming Putney cottage. They express admiration for each other. They sing and dance a waltz number, “Let’s See What Happens”. What happens is that they decide to get married and settle down in Putney. Of course, Farll’s paintings are even more valuable now that he is supposed dead. Oxford explains to Lady Vale, his most important client and the world’s greatest collector of Farll’s works, the advantages of “Panache”. Farll, blissfully happy with Alice and Putney, paints away. While sketching a landscape on the riverside, he explains to assorted neighbors the joys of his craft. He can go anywhere, do anything with a brush and a dab – “I’ve Got a Rainbow Working for Me”. Neighbors Alf, Bert and Sydney (Teddy Green, Marc Jordan and Reid Klein) realize that paintings also represent “Money, Money, Money”. A crisis saddens the Leek household when the brewery in which Alice owns shares goes bankrupt. Priam tries to comfort her by telling her the truth about himself and the true value of his paintings. But she thinks he’s mad and refuses to believe him, saying, “I’ll always take care of you, love. I’ll never let them take you away!” She describes why her love for him is more important than money – “That Something Extra Special”. Learning about her financial problems, Alice’s Putney neighbors induce her to let them try to sell her husband’s paintings for whatever they can get for them from a local art dealer. One of Farll’s paintings eventually makes its way to the posh London Gallery of dealer Oxford, who notifies Lady Vale that he’s located a heretofore undiscovered masterpiece by her favorite artist. Ecstatically, she puts her white-gloved fingertips on the canvas and the paint comes off on her gloves. There is stunned silence. She castigates Oxford as a blackguard and a seller of fakes and institutes a lawsuit. Oxford realizes that Farll must be alive somewhere. He tracks Farll down to Paradise Villa in Putney, interrupting a blissful domestic celebration of the couple’s second wedding anniversary – “What Makes A Marriage Merry”. He confronts Priam Farll, who stubbornly insists he is Henry Leek. “See you in the courtroom,” counters Oxford. When Alice realizes she is really Lady Farll, she vows, after a couple of beers in the local pub, that she will never forsake her old friends nor her accustomed ways – “Not on Your Nellie”. Priam realizes the jig will be up when the truth comes out in court, but reaffirms his love to Alice in a tribute to mature romance – “Sunset Tree”. In an uproarious courtroom scene the imposture is confirmed by the revelation that Priam Farll had moles on his neck, as does the alleged Henry Leek. But Priam warns that when word gets out that there’s a Butler in the Abbey, the social structure of Britain will be shaken. The judge hastily rules that discretion supersedes valor, and that Leek, therefore, must remain Leek. Oxford and Lady Vale decide that, henceforth, they will make peace with each other and collect canvases by that great painter, Henry Leek.
Oxford: Peter Woodthorpe Priam Farll: Vincent Price Henry Leek: Charles Welch Old Gentleman: Carl Nicholas Lady Vale: Brenda Forbes Cabby: Ross Miles Doctor: Leo Leyden Alice Challice: Patricia Routledge Daphne: Joy Nichols Alf: Teddy Green Bert: Marc Jordan Rosalind: Beth Howland Sydney: Reid Klein Attendant: Larry Brucker Frame Maker: Paul Eichel Duncan: Mitchell Jason Equerry: John Aman The King: Charles Gerald Constable: John Aman Mrs. Leek: Camila Ashland Curates: Herb Wilson, Fred Siretta Pennington: Michael Lewis Judge: Leo Leyden Singers: Marian Haraldson, Kay Oslin, Jeannette Seibert, Maggie Task, Maggie Worth, John Aman, Larry Brucker, Paul Eichel, Reid Klein, Carl Nicholas, Albert Zimmerman.