Lover Come Back (1961)

Though Pillow Talk’s the best known of the Hudson-Day-Randall films, this is my personal favourite. It’s funny and cute; it has Rock Hudson at his gorgeous best (well, he looked equally awesome in Pillow Talk, but what the heck. Still a reason); and it’s about an industry I’ve worked in, loved and hated: advertising.

I wasn’t on Madison Avenue, but our suave, lady’s man hero—Jerry Webster (Rock Hudson)—and our efficient, good-girl heroine Carol Templeton (Doris Day) are. They’re employed with rival agencies, and their styles of working, um, differ. Prior to a pitch, Carol asks for the rundown on a potential client: “…his packaging setup, distribution setup, sales volume, and strong and weak market areas.”

the worker in the beehive...

Jerry asks for a rundown: “…his family background, will his wife be with him, what brand of liquor does he drink, what kind of girls does he like.”

And Jerry Webster, the drone.

With Jerry bombarding the client with bourbon, tales from back home, and scantily clad girls, it’s no surprise he wins the account. Jerry’s neurotic, weak-kneed boss Peter Ramsey (Tony Randall), however, is convinced this will get them into trouble with the Advertising Council. Peter’s heard rumours that Carol Templeton has begun making a noise.

Peter Ramsey takes Jerry to task

As it happens, the person who gets into trouble is Jerry. Rebel Davis (Edie Adams), leading light at Jerry’s last client party, is cheesed off at Jerry, who’d promised her two years ago that he’d get her on TV. Jerry, trying to keep Rebel on his side, swiftly promises her fame—as the face of a brand new product. He’s thinking on his feet, and a newspaper headline suggests a name for the product: Vip. So Vip it is, and Jerry gets a bunch of commercials shot with Rebel in them. He surreptitiously tells the film company to shelve the films.

the Vip girl

Meanwhile, Carol manages to get the Ad Council to meet to discuss Jerry’s questionable practices. Her prime witness—Rebel—however comes duly coached by Jerry. By the end of it, Carol is madder than a wet hen, and ready to murder Jerry, whom (by the way) she’s never seen.

Ready to go on the warpath

All this while, Peter’s been undergoing therapy and is trying to assert himself. Since he’s president of the company, he decides to take some big decisions behind de facto boss Webster’s back. His first big decision is to run a saturation campaign of the Vip commercials.
Around the same time, Peter takes Jerry with him on a canoeing-camping trip up in Canada (with a chauffeur-driven car following close behind).

Peter and Jerry canoeing in Canada

While they’re paddling along, Peter mentions that the Vip commercials are on. This gives Jerry a shock, but he rallies around—and turns the canoe round. Back to New York!
Back in town, Jerry goes off to meet Dr Linus Tyler (Jack Kruschen), a Nobel Prize-winning chemist. Jerry bribes him into accepting to develop a product—any product—that Jerry can pass off as Vip. As long as the Ad Council doesn’t cotton on to the fact that Jerry’s agency has been advertising a product that doesn’t exist.

Jerry goes off to enlist Dr Tyler

Meanwhile, Carol’s hired a private eye to do some snooping, and he informs her that Jerry Webster has gone to meet Dr Linus Tyler. So Carol goes to Dr Tyler’s, and enters his lab just as Tyler himself has gone off to his storeroom. A bearded man in an apron is standing at the sink, and Carol, guessing he’s Dr Tyler, introduces herself.

Carol introduces herself to `Dr Tyler'

Jerry knows Carol can’t bear him, so he goes along with the charade—and works things his way. He tells Carol that Jerry Webster is using every trick in the book (hotel suite, dinner at a fancy restaurant, new wardrobe—the works) to get Tyler to give Jerry the Vip account. Carol, of course, will do anything to ensure it’s her agency that gets the account. By extension, she’ll do anything for `Dr Tyler’: wine and dine him…

Carol feeds up `Dr Tyler'

Take him to a burlesque show; buy him a new wardrobe and a new look; teach him dancing, golf and swimming…

Teaches him golf

She’ll even teach her `sweet, innocent darling’ to kiss.

And kisses him...

But while Carol’s getting all misty-eyed about this fine, honourable gentleman, Jerry’s gently manipulating her into much more… and, all the while, the real Tyler is busy creating Vip. What will he emerge with? What’ll happen when Carol discovers who her darling Linus really is? And how deep is Jerry getting in, really?

What I liked about this film:
Everything—I loved it! The biggest plus is that it left me smiling: I like movies like that. It’s got great dialogue, with lots of wit. Here’s a gem:
Jerry: “As my father, the philosopher, used to say, `Knock at my door, and I shall take you in’.”
Carol: “Dr Tyler, I’m knocking.”
Jerry: “Miss Templeton, I’m taking you in.”
The supporting cast. Tony Randall is perfect, and so are the rest—especially the two guys who keep spotting Jerry in one happy situation after the other, and get the idea this is one man with helluva sex life.
Rock Hudson and Doris Day. Wow-ee! The chemistry between them is fabulous, and you can see they’re having fun doing this movie.

What I didn’t like:
Can’t think of much. But yes, Doris Day does wear some very weird hats. Who thought these up?



6 thoughts on “Lover Come Back (1961)

  1. I love their movies together (isnt Rock Hudson just divine? and Doris Day is always good) but my favorite is Send Me No Flowers. This one strikes me as a tad too male chauvinist – no matter how hard she tries, the man is always better! :-( Have you seen Down With Love? Its like they remade Rock Hudson-Doris Day comedies but with way better gender relations (sadly without either of my favorite leads though!).

    And here’s another chemistry lab with colored liquids and plentiful glassware to add to my collection!


  2. Ooo yess! Rock Hudson is completely divine! (which is why he features on my blog header too ;-)) And when it comes to colored liquids and lotsa glassware in the chemistry lab, how ’bout the multicolored explosions? Red? Orange? Purple? Wowie.

    Yes, I have seen Down With Love – in fact, I got around to seeing it just last week, after a surfeit of the Hudson-Day comedies. Good stuff, and I liked the twist in the tale. Very well done!


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