Honey Pot, The (aka The Honeypot) (1967): Mankiewicz’ Tedious Crime Serio-Comedy, Starring Rex Harrison, Susan Hayward, Cliff Robertson, Capucine, Maggie Smith

Joseph L. Mankiewicz wrote and directed The Honey Pot (aka The Honeypot), a crime serio-comedy, starring Rex Harrison, Susan Hayward, Cliff Robertson, Capucine, Edie Adams, and Maggie Smith.

Despite the glorious cast, The Honey Pot was both a critical and commercial flop, not least due to its excessive running time (in either version, see below, and detached, rather uninvolving narrative)

Grade: C+ (*1/2* out of *****)

The Honey Pot
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Original poster by Howard Terpning

The film was based on various literary sources: the play “Mr. Fox of Venice” by Frederick Knott, the novel “The Evil of the Day” by Thomas Sterling, and also on the infamous Ben Jonson play Volpone, written in 1606.

Cliff Robertson (a year before winning the Best Actor Oscar, for Charly) plays the struggling actor William McFly, who is hired by wealthy Cecil Fox (Rex Harrison) to play his personal secretary for some kind of a practical joke.

Pretending to be on his deathbed, Fox invites three of his former lovers to his Venetian palazzo for a presumably final visit.

They are the penniless Princess Dominique (Capucine), the fading movie star Merle McGill (Edie Adams), and the rich Texan Mrs. Lone Star Crockett Sheridan (Susan Hayward). Accompanying Mrs. Sheridan is her nurse, Sarah Watkins (Maggie Smith).

Whether by chance or not, each of the women brings Fox a timepiece as a present.

Sarah asks McFly to write her in the will as the heir of Fox’s worthless estate, with Rizzi signing as witness. McFly complies, which leads the amused Rizzi to compliment him for his “generosity.”

After a strange turn of events, Mrs. Sheridan’s estate is so vast that it seems Sarah would still emerge a wealthy woman.

In the ironic ending, Mrs. Sheridan informs McFly that, after their marriage, she plans to hand over all of the money once he resumes his law studies.

Anne Bancroft originally was offered the role of Merle McGill, but she chose instead to star in Michael Cacoyannis’ Broadway staging of John Whiting’s The Devils. The role then was cast with Edie Adams, who made a strong impression.

The movie turned out to be the last vehicles of then then declining movie star Susan Hayward, who here gives one of her toughest and least appealing performances (she might have been miscast or misdirected).

Cast
Rex Harrison as Cecil Sheridan Fox
Susan Hayward as Mrs. Lone Star Crockett Sheridan
Cliff Robertson as William McFly
Capucine as Princess Dominique
Edie Adams as Merle McGill
Maggie Smith as Sarah Watkins
Adolfo Celi as Inspector Rizzi
Hugh Manning as Volpone
David Dodimead as Mosca

Credits:

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Screenplay by Mankiewicz, based on “Mr. Fox of Venice” by Frederick Knott, “The Evil of the Day” by Thomas Sterling, and “Volpone” by Ben Jonson
Produced by Charles K. Feldman
Cinematography Gianni di Venanzo
Edited by David Bretherton
Music by John Addison

Production company: Famous Artists Productions

Distributed by United Artists

Release dates: March 21, 1967 (UK); May 22, 1967 (U.S.)

Running time: 150 minutes (UK); 132 minutes (US)