Saturday, August 8, 2015

TV/Movie Set - The Glass Bottom Boat ( 1966 )

Spy fever was in full heat in the mid-1960s, what with the success of James Bond in the theatres and television shows such as Mission Impossible and The Man from UNCLE. It's no wonder then that even Doris Day was thrust into a spy adventure. In 1966 Universal Pictures cast her and Rod Taylor in a film that took a comedic take on spies in America - The Glass Bottom Boat. Why the screenwriters chose that title is beyond us, for the film has nothing to do with the boat! 

Everett Freeman ( George Washington Slept Here, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty ) penned a wild, but amusing, script surrounding a single woman who is mistaken as a spy when she cryptically dials home to "Vladimir" her dog. Complications ensue when she is given a job as assistant to the handsome boss ( Rod Taylor ) of Spaceways Lab and finds the plans to their top-secret space "GIZMO" in her possession. 

The Glass Bottom Boat featured some marvelous sets designed by art directors Edward C. Carfagno and George W. Davis. Davis had a grand career as an art director lastly nearly thirty years, primarily at MGM and 20th Century Fox studios. We cover some of his work in a little more depth in our set design post on The Courtship of Eddie's Father ( 1963 ), which was one of his projects. 

Rod Taylor's character has the coolest house in the film and we really should be featuring that set with its completely automatic kitchen and vacuum-sucking electronic cleaner ( that resembles an ant-eater ). But it was Doris Day's house that caught our attention the most and so this is the spotlight set of the month. 

The exterior of the house gives the impression that the interior is a spacious ranch, but it is actually quite small ( "cozy" in real estate terms ) and may have only two bedrooms at the most. The garage takes up most of the exterior design. Beautiful landscaping surrounds the property which is perched atop a hill in a typical 1960s squashed suburb.

The front entrance 

Every afternoon Jennifer ( Day ) dials home to Vladimir - her pet pooch - to give the dog some exercise. The ringing of the phone drives him crazy and he runs around the house giving himself a good workout. In this screenshot we can see Jennifer's living room, which is open to the kitchen on the left side and features a large sliding room door on the right. The ceiling is vaulted too. 

The Living Room

Just off the living room is a quaint little corner that has been set up as a radio communications center. Here Jennifer chats with her pop who runs a glass bottom boat touring company in Catalina. Today, this would be the household computer station. 

Carfagno had a long career at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer specializing in period sets working on such prestigious films as Quo Vadis, Julius Caesar and Ben-Hur. He also created a number of great sets for light-hearted pictures like Good News, On an Island with You, and A Ticklish Affair.

The radio center. 

In the later seasons of The Doris Day Show ( when Doris' character suddenly became single ) her apartment was decorated in a style very similar to this house. Perry Ferguson II and James Hassinger ( set decorator ) were the talents behind that show's sets while in this film all these little dining room decors antique rockers were picked out by set decorators Henry Grace and Hugh Hunt. 

Since this was 1966, Jennifer had to have green walls in her bedroom. This shade of green is actually quite nice, especially since it is offset by the white wood paneling and doorways. Also note that the bedroom is carpeted while the living room has beautiful hardwood flooring. 

Unfortunately we don't get a good look at the kitchen from whence comes all those famous banana cream pies. Just to the right of Dom DeLuise is the dining room which for some reason has a table that seats four and a counter with bar-stools.

Spy spoofs never were our favorite genre but this one is entertaining and for our readers who have not seen it, it is worth checking out...for its set design alone! 


  1. I've been wanting to see this!! I'm just starting to take notice of the different writers. I love George Washington Slept Here and Walter Mitty! I'll have to see what other films Freeman wrote!

  2. It doesn't rate with Doris's best 1960s comedies, but I also enjoy the oddly-titled GLASS BOTTOM BOAT. I enjoyed revisiting Doris's house. But now, I want to see CAPRICE again (her other spy spoof!).

  3. Actually, you can see the kitchen in this house in the last part of this movie - when Doris returns from the big party to her home and is being chased by the "CIA" agent, they go right through the kitchen and you can see it in all its orange and yellow glory!

  4. Bars and serving drinks were very popular in the 60's.since this is between the LR and DR I bet it was for cocktails...

  5. Why don't you do a article on the Architectural Plans of the Rod Taylor (Bruce Templeton) house shown in THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT showing pictures from all points of view of this fascinating set(s). Compare the dress makeover of this same set used two years later in THE POWER in 1968. It would be a terrific article for future architects to read and study about.

  6. The scientist's house - at least the main room - my wife says it looks like Moebius' house in Forbidden Planet. Any connections?

    1. No, I don't think so. Cedric Gibbons worked as the art director on Forbidden Planet, while George Davis was the creative man behind The Glass Bottom Boat sets. They both featured sleek designs and an circular center point which may be why they look similar.

  7. A great site for this aspect of moviemaking! I will tell friends to "Make the (Silver) Scene" and visit. - Russ / Orlando

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