Play Misty for Me is a 1971 American psychological thriller film, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, in his directorial debut. Jessica Walter and Donna Mills co-star. The original music score was composed by Dee Barton.
Dave Garver (Clint Eastwood) is a KRML radio jockey who broadcasts nightly from a studio in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, often incorporating poetry into his program. At his favorite bar, seemingly by coincidence, he encounters a woman named Evelyn Draper ([[Jessica Walter]]). Dave drives Evelyn home, where she reveals that their meeting was not coincidental; she deliberately sought him out after hearing the bar mentioned on his radio show. He guesses correctly that she is a frequent caller who always requests the jazz standard "Misty", then he and Evelyn make love.
From this point on, Evelyn displays her borderline personality disorder. She begins by showing up at Dave's house uninvited. She also disrupts a business meeting, mistakenly accusing Dave's lunch companion of being a date.
Despite his efforts to let Evelyn down easily, she alternately feels abandoned, lonely and angry. She attempts suicide in his home. Then, after Dave rejects her one time too many, Evelyn breaks into his home, where his housekeeper finds her maniacally vandalizing his possessions. Evelyn viciously attacks the woman with a knife and is subsequently committed to a psychiatric hospital.
Dave rekindles a relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Tobie Williams ([[Donna Mills]]), and for a while, all is well. Evelyn is nowhere to be seen. One night, Evelyn calls the studio to request "Misty," but mainly to let him know that she has been released and is moving to Hawaii. She quotes from an Edgar Allan Poe poem, "Annabel Lee". That night, while Dave is asleep, she tries to kill him with a butcher knife. Evelyn flees and Dave contacts the police.
Tobie is told all the gory details about Evelyn and is cautioned to stay away from Dave until the woman is caught. She plays it safe and spends time at home with a girl who answered her ad for a roommate. The girl's name is Annabel. She doesn't realize that Annabel is Evelyn in disguise until she notices the scars from Evelyn's suicide attempt. Before she can get away, Tobie is taken hostage. Evelyn also murders McCallum (John Larch), a police detective who had come to check on Tobie.
At the radio station, Dave makes the connection between Tobie's roommate and the quote from "Annabel Lee." When he calls Tobie to warn her, Evelyn answers and says she and Tobie are waiting for him.
Dave switches from a live show to taped music and rushes to the house, where he finds Tobie bound and gagged. Evelyn attacks again with the butcher knife. Unable to take it from her, he punches Evelyn, knocking her out a window and down a cliff. Dave and Tobie look down at Evelyn's battered body as Dave's voice on the taped radio show dedicates "Misty" to Evelyn one final time.
- Clint Eastwood as Dave Garver
- Jessica Walter as Evelyn Draper
- Donna Mills as Tobie Williams
- John Larch as Sgt. McCallum
- Jack Ging as Frank
- Irene Hervey as Madge
- James McEachin as Al Monte
- Clarice Taylor as Birdie
- Don Siegel as Murphy (as Donald Siegel)
Before Malpaso Productions co-founder Irving Leonard died, he and Eastwood discussed a final film, one giving Eastwood the artistic control he desired by making his directorial debut. The film was Play Misty for Me. Eastwood reflected on his new role:
- "After seventeen years of bouncing my head against the wall, hanging around sets, maybe influencing certain camera set-ups with my own opinions, watching actors go through all kinds of hell without any help, and working with both good directors and bad ones, I'm at the point where I'm ready to make my own pictures. I stored away all the mistakes I made and saved up all the good things I learned, and now I know enough to control my own projects and get what I want out of actors."
The script was originally conceived by Jo Heims, a former model and dancer turned secretary, and was polished by Dean Riesner. The idea of another love interest, with a level-headed girlfriend Tobie added to the plot, was a suggestion by Sonia Chernus, an editor who had been with Eastwood when he was initially spotted for Rawhide.
The film paved the way for many later stalker films (such as Fatal Attraction), particularly those with a psychotic female antagonist, and also those where the villain made an unexpected return. The TV series Starsky and Hutch copied almost all of the plot for their Season 3 story "Fatal Charm".
The story-line was originally set in Los Angeles, but at Eastwood's insistence, the film was shot in the more comfortable surroundings of the actual Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, where he could shoot scenes at the local radio station, bars, and restaurants and at friends' houses. Eastwood has also long made Carmel his home, and was elected mayor there in 1986.
Filming commenced in Monterey, California in September 1970, and although this was Eastwood's debut as film director, Don Siegel stood by to help and also had an acting role in the film as a bartender. Frequent collaborators of Siegel's, such as cinematographer Bruce Surtees, editor Carl Pingitore and composer Dee Barton, made up part of the filming team.
Additional scenes were shot at the Monterey Jazz Festival in September 1970, featuring jazz greats Johnny Otis, Cannonball Adderley, and future Weather Report founder Joe Zawinul. (The commentator mentions: "That was the Cannonball Adderley group. They are playing at the Monterey Jazz Festival with Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Joe Williams and many others. Now we are gonna hear from 'The Gator Creek Organization' and 'Feeling Fine'...".)
"The Sardine Factory" is a real restaurant, still at the same location as in the film, at Prescott and Wave Street, just one block up from Cannery Row in Monterey. The radio station, KRML, was an actual jazz station in Carmel, whose studios were relocated to the Eastwood Building at San Carlos and 5th, in the same building as the Hog's Breath Inn (a restaurant that Eastwood owned). After a brief dark period in 2010, the radio station returned to the air in 2011.
The rights to the song "Misty" were obtained after Eastwood saw Errol Garner perform at the Concord Music Festival in 1970. Eastwood also paid $2,000 for the use of the song "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" by Roberta Flack.Meticulous planning and efficient directorship by Eastwood enabled the film to be made nearly $50,000 short of its $1 million budget, and it was completed four or five days ahead of schedule.
The film features a romantic montage (views of Garver and Tobie peacefully roaming by the seaside and through the woods), backed by Flack's recording, an Ewan MacColl torch song. Flack's version (after staying at Number 1 for six weeks during the spring) became the 1972 Billboard Hot 100 top single of the year. The film's title can be seen on a cinema marquee in the beginning sequence of Siegel's later film starring Eastwood, Dirty Harry.
The film has been given mostly positive reviews, with an 83% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In his 1971 review of the film, Roger Ebert wrote, "Play Misty for Me is not the artistic equal of Psycho, but in the business of collecting an audience into the palm of its hand and then squeezing hard, it is supreme." Critics such as Jay Cocks in Time, Andrew Sarris in the Village Voice, and Archer Winsten in the New York Post all praised Eastwood's directorial skills and the film, including his performance in the scenes with Walter.
Play Misty for Me was number 26 on Bravo!'s "30 Even Scarier Movie Moments."