Doris Day, Rock Hudson and Tony Randall acted together in three films: Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back, and Send Me No Flowers. Since I’d already reviewed the other two, I decided it was time to complete the trio with a re-view and a review of Pillow Talk, the first of the Day-Hudson-Randall films.
New York is a big, busy and crowded city—so crowded that there aren’t enough telephone connections to go around. Interior decorator Jan Morrow (Doris Day) therefore ends up having to share a phone connection—a party line, as it’s called—with a songwriter called Brad Allen (Rock Hudson). They’ve never met, but they’re already thoroughly in hate with each other.
What really irks Jan about the womanising Brad is that he’s constantly on the phone with one of his myriad girlfriends. Either they come over to his place and take the phone off the hook (thus disconnecting Jan’s phone line too) while they listen to him sing…
…or they phone him and stay on the line for hours, while he sings to them (and his song is always the same: You’re my inspiration [girl’s name]).
As a result, Jan, who does a lot of her work at home, is never able to get through to clients—and vice-versa.
She tries interrupting and ticking Brad off now and then, but all it does is get his back up. Finally, after Brad cosies up to the telephone company’s female inspector (who comes to investigate Jan’s complaint), Jan phones to let him know that now he will use the phone only from the hour to the half-hour every hour, and she’ll use the phone only the rest of the time.
Also part of the picture are Jan’s perpetually hung-over (when she isn’t drinking, that is) housekeeper Alma (the brilliant Thelma Ritter), who listens in on Brad’s singing and is quite enamoured of him:
And the very wealthy, thrice-divorced Jonathan Forbes (Tony Randall), a client of Jan’s. He’s commissioned Jan to redecorate his office, and in the process has fallen in love with her—so deeply that he tries to gift her a car to show his appreciation.
What Jan doesn’t know is that Jonathan’s best friend and business associate is Brad Allen himself. Their friendship dates back to when they were in college together, and while Jonathan now produces shows, he hires Brad to write songs for those shows. Jonathan is envious of Brad’s easy charm and immense success with women, and one day confesses to Brad that he, Jonathan, is in love with the beautiful Jan.
This comes as a bit of a revelation for Brad, who’d mentally slotted his unseen but nasty party line party pooper as a dowdy old woman, definitely not the chic and vivacious damsel Jonathan describes her as.
One evening, Jan is invited to a villa for a housewarming: she’s the one who’s done the interiors for the villa, and the lady of the house is very grateful. The party will probably go on till very late, so Jan says goodbye and is headed out when her hostess insists on having her college-going son Tony (Nick Adams) drive Jan home. On the way home, Tony starts getting amorous and though Jan tries to throw him off, he finally agrees to keep his hands off and take her home only if she’ll accompany him for a drink before that.
So Jan ends up at a bar and restaurant, having a drink with Tony (and trying to fend him off). And who should be sitting at the next table, with his back to Jan, close enough to overhear Tony address her by given name and last name?
When Tony badgers Jan into dancing with him, Brad sneaks a peek and decides Jan looks definitely worth getting to know better. Shortly after, Tony presents Brad with an opportunity: he collapses on the dance floor (he’s completely sozzled by now), and Brad moves forward to help pick him up, put him in a cab, and assure Jan that everything will be all right. Of course, since they’ve exchanged ‘unpleasantries’ on the phone so often, Jan would probably recognise Brad Allen’s voice—so he disguises it by assuming a Texan drawl and, by extension, telling Jan that he’s Rex Stetson, a Texan who’s visiting New York.
And since he’s really Brad Allen, who knows just which buttons to press, and since he’s figured out what sort of man Jan would like, Brad becomes just that man: kind, sweet, naive, ‘new to the city’ gawkish. He takes her up to his hotel room—just to show her the view from there—and is all that Jan could expect from a gentleman. (On the other hand, as Brad Allen, he phones her every now and then to try and convince her that ‘Rex Stetson’ is just like any other man, self-serving, selfish and wanting only sex).
Brad’s attempts to put Jan off Rex Stetson don’t work, since Rex is so utterly wonderful. Very soon, Jan realises that she’s fallen for this handsome Texan who’s walked into her life.
The next time she visits Jonathan’s office (and Jonathan, as usual, proposes to her), Jan lets him know that she’s in love with someone else. She even tells him the name of his successful rival.
Jonathan may not be a lady-killer like Brad, but he’s not letting go of Jan this easily. He therefore hires a private detective to find out who Rex Stetson is, what he does, etc. And, when the PI brings along the results of his work, Jonathan discovers who Rex Stetson is. Brad! His old college chum, his current songwriter, his rival for Jan’s love. The interloper! The cad! The backstabbing, black-hearted bamboozler!
And thus we launch into a mad charade, as Brad tries to keep a step ahead of:
(a) Jonathan, who (as Brad imagines, since he doesn’t know the cat’s already out of the bag) mustn’t find out that Brad is Rex
(b) Jan, who mustn’t find out that Rex is Brad
(c) Brad himself, who mustn’t fall in love with a girl he just wants to have a fling with
(a) has already happened; but will Brad be able to prevent (b) and (c)?
Watch. There’s lots of fun in store, with more twists and turns, including an amusing side plot as an obstetrician ends up thinking Brad Allen is a medical wonder—a man who’s pregnant—and Alma decides to help Jan’s love life, while Jonathan does all he can to throw the competition out of the window.
What I liked about this film:
It’s a good, fluffy romantic comedy. There’s peppy dialogue, funny situations, and of course the famous Day-Hudson chemistry, which is absolutely fabulous here. If for nothing else, watch it for them: they’re a treat!
And, a very special mention: Thelma Ritter, as Alma. She is a superb actress, and matchless as the hard-drinking, die-hard romantic.
What I didn’t like:
Some moments of slapstick, which could have been cut out. And there’s the fact that, all said and done, Pillow Talk is really rather sexist. Jan Morrow is supposed to be a hard-headed career woman who doesn’t want to fall for the wrong man, but that’s exactly what she does—after he’s duped her into thinking he’s someone totally different. Also, Brad’s phoning Jan and trying to put her off Rex Stetson doesn’t appear to have much motive, especially when he tries the trick the second time…
Still, that’s a minor price to pay for all the goodness that otherwise reigns in this film: Doris Day’s glorious singing, her lovely dresses, the whacky Thelma Ritter, and the gorgeous, gorgeous Rock Hudson. What more could one want out of 90 minutes of good old cinema?