The Sex Comedies of Doris Day and Rock Hudson

Lover Come Back 3
Rock Hudson and Doris Day in Love Come Back (1961)

Despite what we know today about Rock Hudson, whenever he paired up with cutie crooner Doris Day, screen magic was always made. Their efforts in creating three witty sex comedies (in partnership with their third-party and always dependable supporting actor Tony Randall) are always a highlight when I think of the fluffy days of the late 50s and early 1960s. Pillow Talk (1959), Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1964) are as charming as ever since its initial release dates.

Most sex comedies are tales about mix ups that usually lead to the battle of the sexes. Hudson, usually playing the strong male misogynist, while Day plays the easily offended but independent working girl. Pillow Talk finds them in New York City, as two individuals who have to share a party line telephone. Day, a successful interior designer always stumbles upon Hudson wooing other woman at the end of her telephone whenever she has to make an important business call. She does everything in her power to embarrass Hudson’s womanizing Brad Allen from scoring any love and sex.

Pillow Talk 1 - Photocourtesy of the Rock Hudson Project
Pillow Talk (1959) found Rock Hudson wooing Doris Day under a false identify, a trademark found in most sex comedies of the day (photo courtesy of the Rock Hudson Project)

Upon learning who this bitter matron is, he strikes revenge. Day finds her Jan Morrow in trouble when a debonair man from Texas (Hudson in a disguise) begins to woo her the exact opposite way Brad is wooing his ladies. Brad has the upper hand as he knows exactly what Jan cannot stand. Not to mention, he would make Jan paranoid with bad advice on love through patronizing phone calls. Things get more complicated as his character begins to fall for hers. The story of deceit reaches a climax when Jan figures out who her charming Texan is. Add Tony Randall’s zany comedic line readings and you’ve got yourself a sex comedy!

Pillow Talk was clearly before its time. Finding the line between sweet and innocent comedy with sexual charges that kept the conventional audiences of heyday widely amused. This film reached worldwide success, becoming a top box office grosser and scoring Day one of her only two Oscar nominations. 2003’s Down with Love staring Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor tried to recreate this magic. Though critically unsuccessful, Down with Love is under appreciated and a worthy tribute to the genre.

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Pillow Talk (1959) – Jan Morrows is unfamiliar that her handsome suitor from Texas is actually the man she hates.

The two followed it up with the less-successful flicks Lover Come Back and Send Me No Flowers. Flowers being the superior film of the two, though Love Come Back has its hilarious moments in comedy writing and acting. Day and Hudson play executives in opposing advertising firms fighting for the same account. Hudson taking disguise as the inventor of an uninvited product called VIP, whom Day tries to woo in order to get the account.

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Comedian Tony Randall in Send Me No Flowers (1964) – Randall played a large part in the success of the Doris Day / Rock Hudson sex comedies

In Send Me No Flowers, Day and Hudson’s send-off film, places them in the suburbs, and the only film where they start off married. Hudson plays an intense hypochondria whose mix up with his doctor allows him to believe he is dying. This results to him searching for a new husband for his wife whom he does not believe can survive in the world without him. However, his suspicious behavior makes her believe that he is having an affair. You may also recognize a popular GIF making the rounds on the internet today where a pretty blonde lady slaps a sleeping man, only to comfort him as soon as he awakens. Yes, that unforgettable piece of comedy is from this film.

The genre of the sex comedy is basically an invention of three star-powered actors (honestly, Tony Randall is so hilarious that he’s played a big role in the success of these films) and their gracious pals of contributors. You don’t need to be an extensive film scholar to see that these films have played a large role in the influence of modern day romantic comedies. Though Flowers and Lover pale in comparison to the genius of Pillow Talk, they are far superior then most rom-coms produced today. When you have star power of this magnitude, it’s no surprise that you can make anything better then it seems. A good soundtrack and bizarre plot helps too!


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