I'm referring to George Roy Hill's dismal "Thoroughly Modern Millie," the 1967 pseudo-musical which Turner Classic Movies has disinterred and will air @ 11 p.m. on Monday, September 8th.
But, no, this disturbing curiosity has decidedly not improved with age.
In fact, it's now much worse, particularly considering that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, an outfit known for throwing away Oscars, once saw fit to hand it seven - count 'em - seven nominations, including one for Carol Channing's amateurish supporting turn. (There's a reason why some stage performers never make it as movie personalities.)
Aside from being a prime example of.•:*¨¨*:••:*¨¨*:•.forced fun•:*¨¨*:••:*¨¨*:•."Thoroughly Modern Millie" remains jaw-dropping in its blatant racism.
The presentation of Asians here, as personified by the wince-producing performances of Jack Soo and Pat Morita, is unconscionable - almost as unwatchable as Mickey Rooney's notorious Oriental schtick in Blake Edwards' irrationally overrated "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961).
Of course, this brand of racist entertainment had been tossed off as innocent fun by Hollywood for years. Consider the shameful and demoralizing "blackface" production numbers that mar both MGM's "Babes in Arms" (1939) and Warner Bros.' "My Wild Irish Rose" (1947).
Of course, it was a different culture 60-70 years ago when "Babes" and "Rose" were produced, but times had supposedly changed by the time "Thoroughly Modern Millie" was made.
What's disconcerting is that "Millie" was produced by Ross Hunter who presented Asians in such a fabulous light six year earlier in Henry Koster's film of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Flower Drum Song" (1961), a movie musical whose entire cast (except for one Caucasian in a brief supporting role - Herman Rudin, who played the vagrant who robs Benson Fong) is composed of Asian performers exclusively, Soo among them.
In "Flower Drum Song," Hunter and Koster nudged the talented Soo towards a winning performance that's best described as Martinesque (as in Dean Martin). One can only guess why Hunter and Hill elected to diminish Soo (and Morita) in such a cruel way in "Millie." It remains unacceptable.
Anyway, it's still a lousy movie and its brand of casual racism simply exacerbates matters. And the same goes for "Babes in Arms" and "My Wild Irish Rose."