Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Golden Pillow Talk

"If there's anything worse than a woman living alone, it's a woman saying she likes it."

Alma (Thelma Ritter)

The movies have seen countless couples over the years.

Most were manufactured for the big screen; some had the virtue of being real–life couples, but most were thrown together by the forces that combine to make movies.

Once in awhile, if the makers of a movie are really lucky, they strike gold with a couple that seem very natural together. That was the way it was with Doris Day and Rock Hudson. They only made three movies together — "Pillow Talk," "Lover Come Back" and "Send Me No Flowers" — but they always come up when people discuss movie couples.

Fifty–five years ago, the first — and, arguably, the best — of their movies, "Pillow Talk," debuted on America's movie screens.

If you haven't seen it, a word of caution before you watch it. You need to familiarize yourself with the concept of a party line. Those things probably don't exist now — we had one for awhile when I was a kid, but we lived in the country. I never realized until I saw this movie, though, that party lines existed in cities, too.

Well, at least, they did on Oct. 7, 1959. I, however, did not.

Now, you may have heard the words party line used in a political context — as in so–and–so has been "towing the party line" — but, in the context of this movie and my childhood experience, it refers to multiple customers sharing one landline telephone line. Whenever a call came in, the phones rang in the homes of all the customers sharing that line.

In this movie, it meant that Doris Day, playing an interior decorator, and Rock Hudson, playing a songwriter and very socially active bachelor, shared a party line. They didn't know each other except through their telephone calls — and that was Day's problem. In between the calls that came in for Hudson and the time he spent returning those calls, Day couldn't use her phone line for anything — business, personal matters, anything.

And she was frustrated.

Hudson's character spent long periods of time on the phone with his lady friends and crooned a song to each that he claimed to have written especially for her — but, in fact, it was the same song. He only changed the girl's name and, occasionally, the language.

Anyway, after accidentally encountering Day in public and adopting the persona of a country boy from Texas (complete with faux Texas accent), Hudson began to date her — while, simultaneously, predicting to Day (as the playboy) his own attempts to seduce her.

There was a complication for Hudson — his business partner and best friend, played by Tony Randall, who was also one of Day's clients (and was so enamored of her he once tried to give her a car).

Randall found out what Hudson was up to and lowered the boom. Well, he thought he did. He banished Hudson to Randall's country home in Connecticut, where Hudson was supposed to finish his latest musical project — and Hudson double–crossed him, inviting Day to go with him. She accepted his invitation; when Randall found out about it, he was livid.

In some ways, I suppose, the way the story played out was predictable, but that didn't change the fact that Day and Hudson just clicked together.

Apparently, that was no movie illusion. Day and Hudson became lifelong friends.

And, as was so often the case in her movies, co–star Thelma Ritter (a delight in this movie as Day's drunken housekeeper) had many of the best lines.

For example, when discussing single life, Day recited a list of her recent activities and demanded to know, "Well, what am I missing?"

"If you have to ask," Ritter replied, "believe me, you're missing it!"

"Pillow Talk" was nominated for five Oscars — and won for Best Original Screenplay.