Directed by Delbert Mann
December 20, 1961 (Los Angeles)
A series of misunderstandings starts an ad campaign for a product that does not exist and now an advertising executive must scramble to come up with a product while romancing his rival.
I need to preface this by saying that Doris Day and Rock Hudson had great screen chemistry. They were a great cinematic couple. They played well off each other and had a repertoire that made the material no matter how ludicrous go down easy.
My issue with Lover Come Back comes from it being essentially a retread of Pillow Talk. There are so many elements in this film that feel as if it were just that. What gets the ball rolling between our two leads is a case of mistaken identity. Jerry Webster (Rock Hudson) is well aware of what Carol Templeton (Doris Day) looks like but Carol is unaware of what Jerry actually looks like. And his charm and general con artist ways keep her from finding out. His lies, which should be easy to see through, easily fool her until the answer falls in her lap. And the film ends with the two of them in love and married and the baby on the way in this case practically popping out.
And we even have Tony Randall along for the ride yet again. And here he plays the somewhat spineless good friend/boss Pete Ramsey to Jerry much like he had in Pillow Talk. This was done in the days before you could marathon several movies in your own home over a weekend so doing this then was not nearly as risky as it is now.
In a supporting role we have great character actors Jack Kruschen as Doctor Linus Tyler who is the man hired by Pete and Jerry’s firm to come up with something-ANYTHING-to sell. This is also the individual that Carol mistakes Jerry for. Joe Flynn, best known as Captain Wallace “Wally” Burton Binghamton (also known as “Old Leadbottom”) on ABC’s McHale’s Navy among many Disney and classic television appearances, plays Hadley whom Pete tries to get to take the fall for everything in increasingly darkly comic ways should their attempts to develop something fail. Jack Albertson, best known from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory as the deadbeat Grandpa, shows up as Fred. Donna Douglas of Beverly Hillbillies fame plays Pete’s secretary Deborah. Ann B. Davis of The Brady Bunch shows up as Carol’s Secretary Millie.
The bulk of the film is Jerry’s con of Carol. It is a ludicrous yet entertaining bit. But it is a bit that belongs in a sitcom. I am thinking Three’s Company for some reason. Maybe I feel this way because this plot was done previously in Pillow Talk and has been copied for decades since either film came out. Jerry is there meeting with Dr. Tyler and Carol mistakes Jerry for Tyler.
The whole story is started when Carol tries to expose Jerry to the Ad Council after he secures a lucrative account for his firm following a wild party thus taking an account Carol hoped to secure for her company. In an effort to keep one of his girls (Edie Adams) from dumping him and testifying against him before the Ad Council, Jerry films a set of fake commercials with no plans to release them starring her for a product he calls VIP. A product that does not exist at all.
A sitcom level misunderstanding occurs when Pete, wanting to actually exercise some control and decision making in his own advertising firm, has them released when asked what to do with them by Hadley and now he and Jerry must come up with a product-any product-or face ruin for selling something that does not exist.
Lover Come Back is nothing too special. It is enjoyable but ultimately forgettable. Its saving grace is the pairing of the legendary Rock Hudson and multitalented Doris Day. Together they were a great screen couple.
I will say Doris Day’s performance is not as good here as it was in Pillow Talk. Her character of Carol Templeton was not as independent or forceful as her character in their previous film. And she just felt a little flat. However I think Rock Hudson’s performance as Jerry is better here than what he did in Pillow Talk. He learned something. She forgot something. It does not make it a totally bad film but if they both brought their “A” game this time I think it would have improved the overall movie.
They do have a few good jokes with my favorite being when Jerry and Pete are out on a lake and Pete keeps using a moose call to bring a moose around so he can take its picture and Jerry says “If a moose comes 20 miles, he’s not coming to have his picture taken.” We all know what he was referring to and capping off the scene is a moose in the distance swimming up to the boat. I laughed pretty hard.
The story is capped off with the unveiling of VIP before the Ad Council as Carol forces another hearing. With the help of Dr. Tyler, Jerry is able to present the Ad Council with what appears to be a simple mint wafer. It turns out that each waiver has the same intoxicating effect as a triple martini. Not realizing this, everyone begins to consume one after another. Carol, who has a low tolerance for alcohol, wakes up with Jerry in a motel in Maryland married.
Carol gets the marriage annulled and Jerry leaves New York to go to the company’s San Francisco branch but gets called back nine months later to re-marry Carol in a hospital maternity ward as the baby is popping out. A very similar ending to Pillow Talk in my opinion. And it felt history cobble together.
Originally Carol and Jerry were to just wind up in bed, but Doris Day insisted that it be rewritten to have them get married first before heading to bed. In the context of the time, it was a much more acceptable scenario and I don’t think either way really would’ve change the impact.
Lover Come Back is an okay film. It is not great and it is not a total disappointment. It will lend itself to at least one viewing. I give this an if you want.