Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Worth Watching: Pillow Talk (1959)

Title: Pillow Talk
Director: Michael Gordon
Language: English
Rating: Unrated

Jan Morrow (Doris Day) is an interior decorator who leads an uncomplicated life fending off the advances of a friend and client, Jonathan Forbes (Tony Randall), and preparing hangover remedies for her maid, Alma (Thelma Ritter). The one disturbance in her life is that she doesn't have a private phone line in her home but has to share a party line with a man she's never laid eyes on before: Brad Allen (Rock Hudson), a songwriter who holds up the line sweet-talking a succession of women. Jan and Brad bicker over the phone, with Brad initially writing her off as a prude with bedroom problems, but when he realizes who she is and what she looks like he decides to seduce her. Figuring that she'd reject him out of hand if he reveals his true identity, he masks his voice with what's supposed to be a Texan accent and introduces himself as Rex Stetson. One thing leads to another, the truth comes to light, the lothario loses his heart, and Jan gets her revenge as only an interior decorator can.

Doris Day in Pillow Talk

Rock Hudson's character annoyed me for most of the film with his fake Texan accent and relentless dishonesty, and by the time he gets around to humbling himself a little I still didn't like him.  At least he's lovely to look at and seemed to have fun with his part.

Doris Day plays Jan as a sharp self-possessed woman with a warm smile.  It's not often that she falls in love but when she does her feet get knocked out from under her.  Day delivers her witty lines crisply, and she's overall a good leading lady for this film.

But the film is worth watching most for Tony Randall and Thelma Ritter. Randall gets good screen time as Jonathan Forbes, not only because he's trying to woo Jan but because he's also Brad Allen's best friend.  Jonathan is sly, neurotic, rich, and in his own way quite honest about himself; the film gives him some terrific lines, and he fills the screen with a simmering manic energy.  He's the kind of guy who courts a woman by telling her that his previous three marriages "were just a revolt against my mother" and reacts to his best friend's dishonesty by saying: "I should have listened to my psychiatrist; he told me never to trust anyone but him!"

Then there's Thelma Ritter as Jan's maid, Alma, who reports to work each morning with a hangover (telling the elevator man, after a ride up to her employer's apartment, "you don't have to break the sound barrier").  Even when she's woozy Alma can still see things pretty clearly; she's straightforward, straight-talking, and likes her drinks neat.  I looked forward to Ritter's appearances in the film, just as I did with Randall.  At some point I was even hoping for a bizarre twist where Alma and Jonathan decide to get hitched, with Alma mothering him and Jonathan keeping her supplied with quality liquor.

You know Jan and Brad will get together at the end; even their names sound similar. Enough said about them.  I thought Jonathan and Brad's friendship was a treat.  It's fun to have a friend like Jonathan; he doesn't stay mad at you, and when he's cackling over your downfall he's still courteous enough to fix you a drink.  As for him and Jan, they may have no romantic chemistry, but their banter can be really sweet and funny.

Memorable sights and sounds
Jan is a snappy dresser.  Snappy clothes, snappy dialogue, sharp colors, and a classy Doris Day.

An evening dress worn by Doris Day in Pillow Talk

There's also a memorable interior decorating job towards the end.

Stand-out scenes
At one point Brad figures that in order to win over Jan, he'll need to get to her through Alma.  He doesn't count on Alma drinking him under the table.

Thelma Ritter and Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk

Another good scene features Perry Blackwell, a pianist and singer, performing at a club. She sings "Roly Poly" with Doris Day (which got stuck in my head), and a couple of other songs including one that takes a sly jab at Brad and his lying.

Further thoughts
If this movie were a drink it would be a strawberry kiwi daiquiri with a little turquoise umbrella sticking out the top.

*All images link back to their source (Rotten Tomatoes).