Monday, August 17, 2020

Doris and Rock Engage in Pillow Talk

Doris Day as Jan.
Interior designer Jan Morrow shares a party line with composer Brad Allen--and that's a problem. You see, Brad (Rock Hudson) is a lothario who uses the telephone to woo his admirers. When Jan (Doris Day) complains to the telephone company, it sends a female representative, who immediately succumbs to the handsome Brad's charms.

Brad is equally frustrated with Jan until he sees the pretty professional at a nightclub. Knowing that she would never give him the time of day, Brad invents a new persona: a naive Texan named Rex Stetson, who is visiting New York City. Sparks fly between Jan and "Rex." She believes she may have found the perfect gentleman. Brad thinks he can make Jan one of his conquests within five days (at most).

Rock Hudson as Brad.
Made in 1959, Pillow Talk is a smart, well-written comedy that benefits from brilliant casting. It was the first of three films made with Doris Day and Rock Hudson. The two were already big stars, but their on-screen chemistry is far greater than the sum of its parts. Hudson, who had made over a dozen dramas during the previous five years, was not known for his comedic skills. However, his funny side blossoms alongside Doris Day. That works to her advantage because she doesn't have to carry the comedy all by herself, as she did in later films with Rod Taylor (The Glass Bottom Boat) and Richard Harris (Caprice).

Brad goes drinking with Alma.
It helps, of course, to have Tony Randall and Thelma Ritter in the supporting cast. The typically delightful Ritter actually has a small role, but it includes a wonderful scene in which Brad unwisely tries to get her drunk. Randall has a field day as a quirky millionaire pursuing Jan while trying to mount a Broadway musical with his good friend Brad. He also gets many of the best one-liners. Upon learning that Brad has been rejected by Jan, he quips: "The great Brad Allen, chopped down to size, floating down the river with the rest of us logs."

Director Michael Gordon injects Pillow Talk with a playful sense of humor. He uses split screens periodically throughout the film to show Jan and Brad talking on the party line. The technique is especially effective in the opening scene in which we see Jan, Brad, and one of Brad's girlfriends all at different locations talking on the phone. In a later split scene, Jan and "Rex" seem to touch feet romantically as they talk on the phone. However, an even more effective technique is allowing the audience to hear the thoughts of Jan and Brad as voiceovers (check out the clip at the end of this review).
Interestingly, Michael Gordon specialized in serious dramas early in his career (e.g., An Act of MurderCyrano de Bergerac). His career was interrupted when he was blacklisted in the early 1950s. Pillow Talk (1959) was his first feature film in eight years. He directed Doris Day again in Move Over, Darling (1963). He was the grandfather of actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3rd Rock from the Sun, 500 Days of Summer).

Pillow Talk earned five Oscar nominations, with its writers winning the award for Best Screenplay. Doris Day was nominated for Best Actress and Thelma Ritter for Best Supporting Actress. Doris, Rock Hudson, and Tony Randall reteamed for two more comedies: Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1964). The best of their three films is the sparkling classic Lover Come Back. But if it's their #1 film, then Pillow Talk is #1a!


  1. Hudson was also supposed to do That Touch of Mink. But Day;s husband/manager didn't want her tied solely to him. Got Cary Grant - who couldn't hide his boredom with her. DAYdreaming of Irene Dunne....

  2. Fine review and it is a joy to see the clip. Classic comedy will continue to work throughout the years.

  3. What a timely review. And typically well done, Rick. Thinking first about the Celluloid Closet and how strange it must have been for Rock to do all of those pure white rom coms. Also, thinking about the late, great Doris Day. When she sadly passed (last year?) there were so many justified tributes of how much more ahead of her time she was as a proto-feminist, or just as a feminist. She's a single woman, who owns her own business, and lives on her own in NYC. And, she's making it work, while, (of that time) looking for a husband. Bravo, Doris!

  4. Hudson was great at light comedy, especially playing off Tony Randall.

  5. When a film is perfectly cast, as this one is, the result is Magic. This film never gets old.

    P.S. Wouldn't you agree Doris Day is the queen of portraying exasperation?