Directed by Michael Gordon
October 6, 1959 (New York)
A successful interior decorator and a playboy songwriter share a party line.
First I feel I must explain the main element of this film, that which gets all rolling and that is the party line. Some of you may not be aware of what one is because you have never encountered one because you are not that old or are the child of someone who is that old. In short, a party line was a local telephone circuit that was shared by multiple telephone service subscribers. You could pick up your phone and not be able to make a call because somebody else was on the phone in their house.
Rock Hudson and Doris Day were a great romcom couple. They had the chemistry to do it repeatedly. This was their first onscreen pairing which was followed by Lover Come Back in 1961 and Send Me No Flowers in 1964. This film transformed the images and careers of both Hudson and Day. Day went from a girl next door to a classy sex symbol and Hudson did his first comedy following a series of dramas.
Rock Hudson stars as horndog songwriter Brad Allen who has multiple women around town and his need romance them ties up the line. He is charming and dashing and can sweep any woman off their feet with a few words and his good looks. Things get going when Brad encounters Doris Day’s character, whom he knows only from their terse phone interactions, at a local club and begins faking a Texas accent and remaking himself as Texas millionaire Rex Stetson.
Doris Day is uptight career woman Jan Morrow who does not have love in her life but is destined to fall head over heels for Brad even though she does not want to. If this sounds like the plot of a Lifetime movie that is probably because it is. They just slap in lesser stars into the roles these days that Hudson and Day would have played.
Joining them in the film is Tony Randall here as Brad’s millionaire best friend Jonathan Forbes. Jonathan throws a great deal of work Jan’s way while also unsuccessfully throwing himself at her. He tries to give her an amazing car in the beginning of the movie and NOTHING! Jonathan is the monkey wrench that screws up Brad’s plans as his jealousy over his playboy buddy trying to steal the woman he is after causes him to go a bit overboard. Not that Jonathan was ever a serious threat to Brad. The guy is a bit of a sad sack and he looks a lot like Tony Randall while Brad looks a lot like Rock Hudson. Just saying. Who would you pick?
We have a smattering of familiar faces here. We have classic character actress Thelma Ritter showing up as Doris Day’s alcoholic housekeeper (?) Alma. Truth be told I am not entirely sure what she did other than provide comic relief. Ritter, who gets a shout out in the trailer, was in such films as Miracle on 34th Street, All About Eve, Rear Window, The Misfits, Birdman of Alcatraz among many others. That there is a pretty good resume alone.
We also get Hayden Rorke, best known as Col. Dr. Alfred Bellows on I Dream of Jeannie, in a brief role as Mr. Conrad who is the individual at the telephone company that Doris Day begs to help her get a private line so that she no longer must deal with the local lothario hogging up the phone all the time as he seduces woman after woman.
Nick Adams shows up as Tony Walters who is a young college age man that puts his hands all over Jan and gets her to the club where Brad finally sees and falls for her. Nick Adams is best known for the series The Rebel and his friendships with Elvis and James Dean. He was a very talented actor that we lost far too soon.
The banter is funny and entertaining and the acting is fine. My major issue with this is Brad’s super sh**ty Texas accent. Hudson was really putting a halfhearted effort into that. A fake accent does not have to be anything fantastic in a comedy but it should not be as tepid as it was here. I am not sure though if he would not or could not do something a little stronger. Even Helen Keller would pick up that it was the same guy. Why the character of Jan could not I do not know.
There is a point in the film where Brad after hearing Jan brag about his Rex implies that Rex’s interest in effeminate things shows he might be gay. It is no secret these days that Hudson was gay. Reportedly in his life he was tactful with his relationships. Many knew but it was not out in the public. I was left with the impression this bit was a swipe at him.
The script is bouncy and does not take itself too seriously. We have plenty of funny moments such as when Brad ducks into an obstetrics office just to avoid Jan while delivering completed work to Jonathan. It was pretty common in lighter movies back in the day you got one at the minimum one song. Here you get a few performed largely by Doris Day with one where Rock Hudson offers a little help. They are good and catchy.
I personally enjoyed the end with the apartment and how gawdy it was. In a bid to win her back or just talk to her Brad manipulates things so that she decorates his apartment and as any spurned woman would she uses it as a chance to f**k him over. It is by far one of the tackiest things I have ever seen on film. Not just film tacky but genuinely tacky.
The closing scene involves a resolution to the comical mix-up at the obstetrics office. The original one was for Jan to use Brad’s trick switch to lock the door and then turn off the lights. Then she was to say, “All apartments look alike in the dark.” I think this open-ended ending is more effective but was perhaps too risqué for the times. Instead it was switched to the more conventional ending involving the obstetrics office showing that Jan and Brad were married and expecting a child.
Pillow Talk is a classic romcom. You will get some smiles, you will get some laughs, and you will thoroughly enjoy yourself. Watch it!