How could I describe how I feel about the films that this amazing Hollywood trio made together? Well…
Cupcakes! They are easy, fun, smooth, sweet, old-fashioned, colourful and interesting-looking sweets..eh..films! Just like with cupcakes, you never realise how soon they are over, and you always crave more than one. You enjoy them with a hot brew, and they surely lift your spirits.
The “Doris Day, Rock Hudson and Tony Randall Trilogy”, as I enjoy calling it consists of three delightful, romantic comedies; “Pillow Talk (1959), “Lover Come Back” (1961), and “Send me no Flowers” (1964). In these wonderful, light cinematic creations you can expect to find; phone conversations, antagonism among the sexes, stereotypes, advertising accounts, intoxicating candy, annulled marriages, sexual harassments, divorces, pregnancies, moose photography, product inventions, classy and colourful wardrobes, bromances, funeral arrangements, golf cart malfunctions and many, many more memorable moments.
Pillow Talk (1959)
Brad: Look, I don’t know what’s bothering you, but don’t take your bedroom problems out on me.
Jan: I have no bedroom problems. There’s nothing in my bedroom that bothers me.
Brad: Oh-h-h-h. That’s too bad.
Jan Morrow (Doris Day), an interior decorator, has to share her party line with Brad Allen (Rock Hudson), a womanizing composer with a fetish to make long, romantic calls to his many lovers, to whom he dedicates the same ballad, changing only the lucky lady’s name in the lyrics each time. They are both single, independent and passionate; Jan is serious, hard-working, and composed, whereas Brad is playful, superficial, and afraid of commitment.
Jan can barely get a call through due to Brad’s endless calls and decides to confront him, and so begins their antagonistic relationship. The dialogue is quick and catchy, resembling an enjoyable ping-pong match (the usage of split-screens during their phone conversations were truly unique at the time). Being two strangers who fight over their line, and exchange ironic remarks, they have never actually met. One night, when Brad’s on a date with one of these delightful ladies, discovers that Jan is sitting in the next table. Knowing he stands no chance with her if he reveals his identity, he decides to pretend to be Rex, a Texan rancher who is visiting New York for the first time on business.
Except for the party line, the two protagonists have another thing in common; Jonathan Forbes (Tony Randall). As Brad’s best friend, and Jan’s client and wanna-be boyfriend, Jonathan interferes when he discovers his friend’s deceiving plans, and remains the most comic figure throughout the film (the highlight of which is the scene at the diner with a crying Jan, in my opinion…). Jonathan is a rich, spoilt, sweet, spontaneous and goofy boy who employs a hilarious deep-voice to project the serious image of authority and prestige.
The story is simple and the ending predictable, but sharing a party line serves as a convenient and yet, pretty original storytelling mechanism and won the film the Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay). Rock and Doris are a radiant couple on-screen, as a result of their captivating chemistry that is both visual and intellectual. They are arguably more shiny and sophisticated than the average couple you see on the street but it is as if their real-life friendship Doris and Rock had is transparent through their characters on-screen, making them the coolest and funniest couples in Hollywood comedy.
The film managed to transform Doris’s image from the ‘girl-next-door’ to the ‘classy, independent and sex symbol’ of her era, and the legendary costume designer Jean Louis played a major role in that. Pillow Talk was also Rock’s first break from melodramas, and revealed his potential to do comedy, which is unexpectedly natural and refreshing. Doris’s shocked goggling and Rock’s sweet smirk become their comic signature that spreads laughter. Even after having watched the film several times, Brad’s masquerade still gives me a good laugh, and especially Rock’s imitation of the accent and macho-ways of a Texan man.
Lover Come Back (1961)
Carol Templeton: You kissed me and I was thrilled!
Jerry Webster: A kiss? What does that prove? It’s like finding out you can light a stove. It doesn’t make you a cook.
Jerry Webster (Rock Hudson) and Carol Templeton (Doris Day) are both Account Executives working in rival advertising agencies in Madison Avenue. Jerry’s unethical tactic of winning clients over is relied on partying, drinking and visiting strip clubs with them, which comes in complete contrast with Carol’s work ethic and thus, makes him a despised figure in her eyes.
The main idea behind the film doesn’t differentiate from that of Pillow Talk as mistaken identity works once again as a key plot device. The two characters have never met, and a simple circumstantial accident gives Jerry the chance to masquerade this times as a Nobel Prize-winner chemist, Dr. Linus Tyler who is the inventor of a promising new product for Jerry’s agency. Carol jumps at the opportunity to steal the account by trying everything to please the sensitive, intellectual, and too innocent scientist.
Irene, the Award-nominated costume designer for her work in B.F.’s Daughter (1948) and Midnight Lace (1960), created Carol’s wardrobe as a favour to her close friend Doris Day. Irene was one of the greatest fashion designers of old Hollywood and has dressed Ginger Rogers in Shall We Dance (1937), Constance Bennett in Topper (1937), Carole Lombard in To Be or Not to Be (1941), Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), and Esther Williams in Jupiter’s Daughter (1949), to name a few.
Send Me No Flowers (1964)
Dr: Is it a sharp pain, is it a dull pain, or does it grip like a vice.
George: Yes, yes!
Dr: Nonono, pick one!
George: I guess it’s a sharp pain, hurts like the dickens when I press it.
Dr: Then don’t press it!
In this one, Rock and Doris are no strangers bound by mutual contempt but a happily married couple; George and Judy Kimball. The only problem is that George is a hypochondriac who lives on countless pills, enough to fill an entire bathroom cabinet! George visits his doctor after experiencing chest pains and although he is reassured of his well-being, he overhears a conversation that leaves him convinced he has a terminal disease. After the initial shock, he takes it upon himself to makes sure Judy is taken care of after he is gone, which in the 1960’s naturally meant that she find a new rich and loving husband to replace her late one. So George attempts to find that new husband for Judy so that she doesn’t fall in the wrong hands and in all this he has his loyal friend and neighbour Arnold Nash (Tony Randall) by his side.
The film thrives off of confusion and a chain of amusing misunderstandings that provide a pure and simple avenue for comedy. The two funniest scenes by far are delivered by Paul Lynde who plays Mr. Akins, the operator of the funeral home that George visits to buy a burial plot (another business he had to take care of before his final hour…).