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Evening Primrose (1966)

A man becomes part of a secret society of people who live in a department store and quickly falls in love with their leader's young maid.



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Complete credited cast:
Dorothy Stickney ...
Margaret Bannerman ...
Store Person
Margaret Barker ...
Store Person
Leonard Elliott ...
Store Person
Mike Meola ...
The Guard
Dorothy Sands ...
Store Person
Margaretta Warwick ...
Store Person


A young poet gets the brilliant idea to live in a department store, hiding by day, and courting his muse by night where it's quiet, and he can have all his needs met. But, to his surprise, he learns his brilliant idea's not exactly original; there are other residents who dodge the night watchmen, and who keep their existence secret at all costs. And one of them is a young woman who wants to leave, but is to frightened to go. And Charles finds that he wants to show her the larger world outside. Written by Kathy Li

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A musical play about a mystical night society. See more »


Not Rated




Release Date:

16 November 1966 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The movie was originally supposed to be filmed at Macy's Department Store in New York City. Rehearsals were held there and footage of star Anthony Perkins was shot outside of Macy's on September 25, 1966 (available as an extra on the Entertainment One DVD release), but ultimately permission to film in the store was denied. Production then moved to the (now defunct) Stern Brothers department store in Manhattan. See more »


As Charles and Ella escape to the loading dock, Charles closes the door behind. At the very end of the shot, star Anthony Perkins breaks character and grins. See more »


Ella Harkins: They don't feed me. When they're through, I get what's left. They're skinny but they eat like elephants. I saw an elephant once when I was little and I know what elephants can eat!
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Referenced in The Nutcracker (2008) See more »


Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Performed by Charmian Carr & Anthony Perkins
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User Reviews

Fascinating early Sondheim mini-musical
9 April 2002 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

The 1966 TV special "Evening Primrose" still attracts interest because of its score by Stephen Sondheim and its leading performance by Sondheim's long-time friend and collaborator Anthony Perkins. I viewed a kinescope of "Evening Primrose" at the Museum of Television & Radio in New York City, where the curator told me that they receive frequent requests to view this show.

"Evening Primrose" is based on a short story of the same name, by English author John Collier. In the original story, a sensitive young man retreats from the cruel world by moving into a department store. He plans to hide in the daytime when the store is open, coming out only after closing hours at night, helping himself to food and clothing and writing materials from the store's merchandise. Then he learns that the store is populated by a Morlock-like group of subterraneans with the same idea but different motives, who spend their daylight hours hiding in plain sight, disguised as department-store mannequins. Among the living mannequins is a beautiful girl who was abandoned in the store as an infant and who has lived among the subterraneans for her entire life. The young man falls in love with her and tries to rescue her. But then danger looms...

John Collier's story "Evening Primrose" is a classic of horror fiction, widely anthologised. But the TV special "Evening Primrose" dispels nearly all the eerie atmosphere of its source material. Anthony Perkins, cast as the sensitive young man, is too neurotic - too Norman Bates-ish - for the role to succeed. He's meant to be playing a normal guy among the weirdos; instead, Perkins manages to seem weirder than the (very normal and dull) actors who play the subterraneans.

This project suffers from a small budget. "Evening Primrose" takes place in a luxury department store, but we're obviously on a tiny soundstage with a few props. When we first see the store's mannequins, we're meant to assume that they're REAL (plaster) mannequins, but they're obviously played by live actors trying to stand motionless. This gives us the impression that the producers were just too skint to obtain actual dummies, so they hired bit-part actors and paid them minimum scale (less expensive than renting real dummies) to stand still and pretend to be plaster dummies. Later, when we learn that the "plaster" mannequins really are flesh-and-blood denizens of this nocturnal realm, the surprise has been blunted by the clumsy early scenes. A well-known "Twilight Zone" episode ("The After-Hours") handled a similar idea in a much better way: use plaster dummies (with the facial features of real actors) to play inanimate mannequins, then bring on the real actors when the mannequins come to life.

"Evening Primrose" features some weird effects that are baffling rather than eerie. When Perkins first enters the department store, we hear a loud heartbeat: is it HIS heart? Somebody else's? Why are we hearing it? We never find out.

Due to the short length of this musical (less than an hour), there are only a few songs ... but the Sondheim score is excellent. The best song is the poignant ballad "I Remember Sky", sung by the beautiful girl (who has lived in the store from early childhood) as she tries to recall her brief existence in the living world. This girl (the "evening primrose" of the title) is played by Charmian Carr, who gives a much better performance here than she did as Liesl von Trapp in "The Sound of Music". Make every possible effort to view "Evening Primrose". I wish it were available on commercial video: maybe this review will start some demand for it to be issued.

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