“ Genre: Comedy / Theatrical Release: 1959 / Director: Michael Gordon / Actors: Doris Day, Rock Hudson ... / DVD released 02 October, 2006 at Universal Pictures UK / Features of the DVD: PAL „
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It won't have escaped the notice of anyone who reads my reviews that I have something of a penchant for the romantic and that also extends to the world of film as I'm a sucker for a good rom-com. Back in the dim and distant days of my childhood, the star of many a hit romantic comedy was Doris Day who could be said to have been the Jennifer Anniston or Katherine Heigl of her generation. This was the first pairing of Doris Day and Rock Hudson and of the three romantic comedy films they made together, Pillow Talk, to my mind, is the best.
Jan Morrow (Doris Day) is an interior designer who shares a party line with womanising, song writer Brad Allen (Rock Hudson). Brad is on the telephone all hours of the day and night whilst wooing his many lady friends and though they've never met Jan and Brad begin their relationship over the phone and it's a frosty one to say the least. When Brad discovers that Jan is a young and attractive woman, he sets out to seduce her, too, but as she knows his name, he pretends to be a visiting Texan rancher, Rex Stetson, and Jan falls hook, line and sinker for his masquerade.
Pillow Talk is up there in my top ten favourite films of all time and although its setting of the late 1950s means the mores and morals seem very dated by today's standards, not to mention the fashion, it still stands up as one of the most stylish and witty takes on the game of love.
The plot of this film is a fairly simple one and the characters are, in the main, mid-twentieth century stereotypes but despite that, it succeeds in being both witty and romantic. The script, which won the Oscar for Best Story and Screenplay, was written by Stanley Shapiro and Maurice Richlin, and was directed by Michael Gordon. I'm not a film buff, so know absolutely nothing about these men, other than that with Pillow Talk they hit the jackpot.
I should perhaps explain about party lines for those aged under about 40. Telephone party lines were a fairly common thing on both sides of the Atlantic during the 1950s and early 1960s, the reason being that the demand for telephone lines far outstripped the telephone company's ability to provide them. Of course, with the advent of the digital age, party lines are now a thing of the past.
The early part of the film is taken up with setting the scene so we're witness to the effect Brad's constant telephone wooing is having on Jan. Every time she picks up the phone it seems Brad is on the other end singing a cheesy song, 'You Are My Inspiration' to his many girlfriends. The song's always the same, only the name gets changed. Understandably, this is causing Jan to lose her cool and their telephone relationship develops into one of constant sniping: she at his womanising and he at her prudish attitude.
Brad: '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, that's too bad'
Much of this scene setting is done using a split screen technique so that we can see just how each reacts to the other and it's a device which works very well throughout the film in fact.
Brad's old college friend, Jonathan, knows Jan as she recently decorated his office and although she rejected his offer of marriage, he still carries a torch for her. When Brad stumbles across Jan in the flesh and sees that she's a young and attractive woman, he's determined to seduce her himself but as she already knows his name, he pretends to be Rex Stetson, an out-of-towner, visiting the big city from Texas - another stereotype, I'm afraid, but this is a comedy and I for one wasn't looking for any great realism. There's an excellent scene where Brad plays both himself and Rex Stetson and warns Jan that her Western cowboy lover is a phoney and he goes on to explain how their date will play out and of course, it goes almost exactly as he's described.
Doris Day was the Hollywood darling of the Fifties and early Sixties, and her chirpy, blonde, girl-next-door persona appealed to young and old alike. She excelled at playing the young, somewhat virginal, career girl, on top of which she displays a good feel for comedy, having more or less cornered the market in ditsy blondes. Pillow Talk was her first pairing with Rock Hudson and they became good friends off screen as well as going on to make two more highly successful romantic comedies. This real life friendship translates into some great on-screen chemistry and they play off each other beautifully.
Rock Hudson was another Hollywood favourite of the Fifties and Sixties and at that time, a sure fire box office draw. Although his character as the philandering Brad Allen is very much a stereotype of the single, thirty-something man about town, and though he maybe lacks the immaculate comic timing of a Cary Grant, he nonetheless plays comedy to great effect and doesn't disgrace himself by any means.
Although most of the screen time is taken up by Day and Hudson, they are ably supported by some excellent secondary cast members. The wonderful Thelma Ritter plays Jan's maid, Alma, in what must be one of her best screen performances. Alma is a slightly ascerbic lady with something of a drink problem who we see arrive daily at the apartment via the lift, hurl an insult at the liftman as she exits, before heading for her hangover cure waiting for her in Jan's kitchen.
Jonathan Forbes (Tony Randall), a much married millionare is the link between Jan and Brad, having employed Jan to decorate his office and fallen for her in the process and though she's turned down his offer of marriage, he still lives in hope. He and Brad are old college friends and Jonathan's bankrolling the show for which Brad is supposed to be writing the songs, if only he could get his mind off the ladies and get down to some work. Tony Randall plays the part of the neurotic and wealthy best friend to perfection, a role for which he was destined to become typecast over time: always the sidekick, never the lead.
Though the split screen technique works really well and allows the viewer to see the interplay between the two principal characters, what doesn't work quite so well is the musical interlude half way through the film. Doris Day, of course, was not just a film actress but also a singer with a number of hits to her name and during the courtship of Jan and Rex, there is a rather contrived scene in a club where Jan is encouraged to sing. However, this slight sin is forgivable as the scene does move the action forward and ends with the nightclub pianist accompanying Jan and Brad's exit from the club with a rendition of 'You lied, you dog'. Doris Day also sings the title song and another song, 'Possess Me', which is played over the action taking place on screen rather than her actually singing.
Pillow Talk is a thoroughly enjoyable film delivered in a light and frothy style with a very satisfying, if rather predictable end. It's played for laughs all the way through and there are several highly entertaining set pieces involving not only Doris Day and Rock Hudson but also giving the secondary players their own opportunity to shine.
I know this isn't likely to be the first choice of film for most men and it probably isn't a film for ardent feminists either, as Miss Day is eternally virginal and although she's promoted here as a career girl, it's pretty obvious from the off that she's in the market for a husband. I'm also fairly confident she must be the only woman in the history of film to sleep in polo-necked pyjamas!
There is much to enjoy about this film and it certainly ticks all the boxes for a great rom-com, having an excellent script which tells an enjoyable and engaging story, some witty repartee between actors who are skilled in the art of playing comedy and some great set pieces. If you can suspend your 21st century cynicism and step back fifty years or so to a more innocent time there is no better way to pass an hour and a half than by watching Pillow Talk. If it isn't already regarded as a film comedy classic, it darn well should be.
This film doesn't really come with much in the way of additional material other than the original film trailer.
Price and availability:
This film is often sold as part of a boxed set but can be picked up as an individual title for around £1.50. It's a small price to pay for a five star romantic comedy.
Pillow Talk is a wonderful romantic comedy which has hardly aged a bit in the decades since its release. Remade a couple of years ago into the excellent Down With Love, this one can still hold its head up high (and though I personally still like the latter film more, I know that many prefer the original.)
Jan Morrow (Doris Day) is a highly successful career woman, who is unfortunate in that she has to share a party phone line with playboy Brad Allen (Rock Hudson). The phone company is working hard to give everybody their own individual lines, but no-nobody other than Jan herself considers his constant wooing of different women over the phone to be a problem. The phone company do actually send over an inspector after Jan makes a complaint, but since the inspector is a woman well, she doesn't see any problem with him whatsoever!
Jan's work as an interior designer sees her brush shoulders with many rich and influential men, including Jonathon Forbes (Tony Randall)- who's been married several times before so thinks he should be good at it by now, and so wants Jan to marry him - and he's also friends with Brad. So when Brad works out that his party line opponent is actually quite a babe, he adopts a persona to start dating her, without her knowing who he is and without Jonathon knowing what's going on - predictably a recipe for disaster. Add into the mix Alma (Thelma Ritter), and elderly friend and housemaid of Jan's who thinks Brad (over the phone) is adorable (and thinks the lift operator is too fast due to her constant hangover), a very judgemental jazz singer / pianist, and a few other inconsequential oddballs, and you have a really big disaster waiting to happen.
All in all, Pillow Talk is an extremely enjoyable film thanks to a witty script and an enthusiastic cast. Hudson and Day are terrific whether sparring or wooing, and their phone encounters contain some sparkling dialogue. Tony Randall as the rich wannabe husband who can't understand is very funny, particularly when taking great delight in Brad's failures (though he does turn out to be sort of a good friend in the end!) His performance is not all that dissimilar to David Hyde Pierce's in Down With Love, though the characters are very different. Thelma Ritter is great in her role, and none of the supporting cast disappoint. The musical score works well and though there's not really much in the way of special effects (apart from the split-screen effects so popular in the fifties!), this doesn't detract from the film and some of the sets are wonderful. Some are not so wonderful, but that's intentional - watch the film and you'll see what I mean!
There's really not much wrong with any aspect of the film, but in a few scenes I did feel it slowed down too much, and thus had quite long gaps without any real laughs. Altogether though hugely enjoyable, very funny, and probably one of the few romantic comedies that even people who don't like romcoms will enjoy. It is also, (unlike Down With Love with has rather a lot of innuendo) real family viewing.
Director: Michael Gordon
Screenplay: Stanley Shapiro and Maurice Richlin
Year of release: 1959
Runtime: 98 minutes
Jan: Officer, arrest this man - he's taking me up to his apartment!
Police Officer: Well, I can't say that I blame him, miss.
Brad Allen: 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 Allen: Oh-h-h-h. That's too bad.
(Ok so there is some innuendo!)
[Jan and Brad are on the phone discussing a phone schedule.]
Jan: We're just going to have to live with each other...
[Jan pauses, waiting for a response]
Brad Allen: Well?
Jan: I was waiting for you to say some off-color remark.
Brad Allen: Is that all you have on your mind?
Jan: Never mind my mind! You just stick to your half hour and I'll stick to mine!
[Trying to convince Alma she loves living alone.]
Jan: Well, what am I missing?
Alma: If you have to ask, you're missing it!
These are a little thin on the ground for those that like such things - you just have the original theatrical trailer. Languages are quite well supported though - the soundtrack is available in English, French, German, Italian, or Spanish (Castellano), with subtitles also being available in those languages and Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, and Turkish. The menu screen is available in 8 languages - English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, Portuguese, and Russian. The film is presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen format and is good quality, very clear for such an old film.
While I'm rating it 5 stars because really it's only the film that I'm interested and I didn't pay a lot for it, take a star off the rating if you like lots of extra featurettes.
I got my copy from Aldi for the princely sum of £4.99. Amazon have it for £6.97 and Play.com for £5.99
(Also, thanks to the Dooyoo team for adding this product to the database with such alarming pace!!)
The first Rock Hudson/Doris Day movie tells the story of an odd couple who share a party line, eventually falling in love in spite of themselves. He's a womanizing cad, and she's a perky career gal with uncompromising moral standards and fine home furnishings. Academy Award Nominations: 5, including Best Actress: Doris Day.