Every now and then, I come across a film that makes me wish there were more like it. This is one of those: full of laughs, very enjoyable and utterly repeatable.
Doris Day and Rock Hudson had already starred in two fabulous romantic comedies—Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back—before they worked together for the last time in Send Me No Flowers. Unlike the two earlier films (which had very similar plots: girl falls for a guy who’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing), this one isn’t a romantic comedy per se; more an out-and-out comedy. But yes, there’s plenty of love and affection, and Hudson and Day look gorgeous together!
George Kimball (Hudson) is a HYPOCHONDRIAC. Yes, I’d have left it with just the capital H, but this guy takes the cake. He’s obsessed.
His wife Judy (Day) is part resigned, part indulgent, and part just plain miffed. She spends her time replacing his sleeping pills with placebos and trying to get George to eat something other than just a handful of pills for breakfast.
George has recently been through a complete physical examination (and has received a clean bill of health), but he has his doubts. His doctor, Ralph Morrisey (Edward Andrews) is unsympathetic, and flatly tells George that the chest pain he’s complaining of is indigestion. George is sceptical, but obediently takes the pills Ralph gives him. He goes off into the adjoining bathroom for a glass of water to wash down the pills.
While George is in the bathroom, Ralph receives a phone call from another doctor. They begin discussing the case of an elderly patient, and it emerges that the man doesn’t have more than a few weeks to live. Ralph tells the other doctor, “No, no, I’m not gonna tell him; I think he’s better off not knowing about it.”
George overhears this, and jumps to the obvious conclusion: it’s him with a mere matter of weeks to live. He tries to winkle the truth out of Ralph, but Ralph is adamant: there’s nothing wrong with George. But yes, Ralph does admit that he wouldn’t tell a man death was imminent if he knew that the man’s affairs were in order—as he knows George’s are.
George is devastated, and confides in his best friend and neighbour Arnold Nash (Tony Randall). Arnold takes it very hard, and hits the bottle even harder. Over the next couple of days, he offers to help George anyway he can—he even begins drafting a eulogy, so that George can listen to a dry run while he’s still alive.
But George’s biggest worry isn’t the eulogy; it’s Judy. What’ll happen to her? She’s completely dependent on George to handle all her finances, her insurance, even to keep track of how much she’s spending on groceries—and when George tries to persuade her to go to night school to learn basic accounting, she laughs it off. George decides there’s only one thing for it: Judy must remarry. But of course, being so concerned about Judy, he doesn’t tell her that he’s going to cop it soon.
Meanwhile, George also has to attend to the more practical side of dying. He goes off to buy a cemetery plot at a place called Green Hills, and meets the macabre Mr Akins (Paul Lynde), who takes delight in selling `great views’ and presumably high premium final resting places. A thousand dollars down payment, and George can literally rest easy.
Back to equally serious work: finding a suitable second husband for Judy. While Judy goes golfing, Arnold and George make a list of eligible bachelors in the neighbourhood, and start doing their homework. The man must be able to provide for Judy; he must be a decent, honest sort, and good-looking (I can understand that: if I had a husband who looked like Rock Hudson, I don’t think I’d settle for a Mickey Rooney sequel).
Judy is blissfully unaware of these shenanigans as she tees off. Shortly after, she runs into a serious bit of trouble: her golf cart runs away with her, and she careens all across the course before a rider on a horse scoops her up. It turns out Judy’s knight in shining armour is Bert Power (Clint Walker), Judy’s old college sweetheart. George, Judy, Bert and Arnold get together for lunch, and in the course of the conversation, it turns out Bert’s an oil baron—and a bachelor.
Arnold pounces on the obvious: Bert is the man Judy must marry once poor George has kicked the bucket. A little bit of convincing, and George is rooting for the idea as well—so much so that he invites Bert to join them for dance and dinner at the club. That evening, he makes it a point to ensure Judy dances only with Bert (who, by the way, has two left feet). Not surprisingly, Judy’s pretty annoyed by this, and puzzled too.
At the club, George runs into Linda Bullard (Patricia Barry), a neighbour who’s headed for a divorce. Linda’s out on a date with the sleazy Winston Burr (Hal March), a lecher who preys on women in shaky marriages. George knows what a slimeball Winston is, so he takes it upon himself to warn Linda. Linda’s very grateful—so grateful, in fact, that she kisses George. And guess who comes by right then?
Now Judy thinks she knows why George has been pushing her in Bert’s direction all evening: because he wants the field clear for himself. He’s having an affair. Judy sees red, and—but that would be telling. Let me just leave it at this: the film goes on a roller coaster ride of absolutely hilarious twists and turns, with one mad scene after the other. By the end of it, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably want to see it all over again from the beginning.
What I liked about this film:
Everything. But, very especially, Tony Randall. Of the three Hudson-Day-Randall comedies, I think this is the one that gives Randall the meatiest role. He has some great lines, and that spaced-out, completely intoxicated look can crack me up any time!
Rock Hudson and Doris Day. They are sooo good together. Maybe they don’t look as picture-perfect here as they did in the two earlier films, but they still look awesome, and their acting is super.
What I didn’t like:
If I were to actually write something here, it would be the result of nitpicking, which I’m not going to do. So let’s just say there’s nothing I didn’t like about Send Me No Flowers. Yes, Bert was a duffer and Winston Burr was despicable and Mr Akins was a pain in the you-know-where, but that’s what those characters were; the film wouldn’t have been what it was without them.
Highly recommended. This is part of my `Counter the Blues’ collection.