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From the Vaults: 'Pillow Talk' (1959)

December 6, 2010 |  2:49 am

Pillowposter "I love you."

"I know."

You know what movie that's from, right? WRONG! Years before Han Solo (and hey, RIP Irvin Kershner), his possibly-most-famous line gets drawled by Rock Hudson, playing a womanizing songwriter in "Pillow Talk." Hudson tosses it off almost before the credits are over; when another woman says, "Let me come over and fix you dinner," he replies, "Well, I guess that'd be all right." Hmm... unlike scruffy-sweet Han, this guy is a real jerk!

"Pillow Talk" is, of course, the first of several snappy, innuendo-filled comedies starring Hudson with the radiantly snub-nosed, impeccably tanned Doris Day. And I'm reviewing it on the recommendation of my mom. Hi, Mom! You were right, of course: This movie is hilarious -- it's a blast to watch Hudson's character gradually get his comeuppance. And Doris' fashions are just incredible. I didn't think it was possible for me to covet a teal-blue suit jacket with a giant collar, but I want one.

Hudson and Day play total strangers who happen to share a phone line, since this is back in the days of party lines. He woos women over the phone, while she's a businesswoman who needs the phone for her interior-design clients. Before they've even met, they're at each other's throats: She tries to get his access to the line shut off; he calls her and accuses her of jealousy and "bedroom problems." My goodness! But then he gets a look at her and falls madly in lust. Rather than reveal he's the man she hates, he concocts a goofy Texan alter ego, and the fun begins.

Pillowtub Actually, the fun's pretty much underway from the beginning, starting with the irresistibly catchy title song performed by Day herself. It will get lodged in your brain for a week (at least; I'll keep you all posted) but that's not so bad. The movie's not so much about emotional vulnerability or authenticity, it's just a show, performed by likable people who are clearly having a great time. It's a hoot to watch. And the phone-call gimmick provides a setup for the best split-screen scenes outside "Carrie."

It's also interesting for the single woman in 2010 to observe her idealized cinematic counterpart from 50 years ago. Doris Day swans around Manhattan surrounded by suitors, particularly Tony Randall, who tries to buy her a car. Her life is full of dates and parties and dinners with clients. The modern girl, watching the DVD at home in her pajamas, cannot hope to compare.

But -- whenever Doris needs a ride anywhere, she needs a man to drive her (even in the elevator!). Her boss is a man. She's constantly fighting off unwanted advances from clients or their relatives. The only other working woman she seems to know is her long-suffering maid (the fantastic Thelma Ritter). There's also Rock Hudson's sexuality, which was an open secret at the time and is the subject of a sort-of-funny string of jokes about men who like recipes and talk to their mothers. Modern times seem pretty good, I must say.

Still, it'd be fun to sit in a bubble bath talking to a tall, dark cutie on a rotary princess phone. Or telling off a tall, dark cutie with fabulous lines like, "This may come as a surprise to you, but there are some men who don't end every sentence with a proposition!" And I would not mind one of those teal suits, or maybe a dashing furry hat. (Hm; Christmas is coming, Mom...)


Oh, and a hint for the modern ladies: If a nightclub singer (perhaps played by Perry Blackwell) starts belting out a song called "You Lied" while glaring at your date, it's time to catch a cab home. Better yet, take your own dang car!

-- Anne Elisabeth Dillon

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