Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

Pillow Talk (1959)

Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

via: http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/4363/Pillow-Talk/#tcmarcp-1008398-1008399  Unless otherwise noted, all images are my own.

Pillow Talk was the first of three films starring Rock Hudson, Doris Day, and Tony Randall. It was also one of the earliest “sex comedies,” a genre that would flourish in the 1960s.

The story had been floating around Hollywood for almost two decades. RKO had bought the script by Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene was back in 1942, though the authors bought it back when the studio didn’t produce it. The same thing happened in 1947 when they tried to sell it as a play.

But they finally had some luck in 1958 with Arwin Productions. Producer Martin Melcher had formed the company with his wife, Doris Day, to whom he had been married since 1951. He knew a good property for Day when he saw one; in fact, all but one of Arwin’s films starred Day.

Arwin and Universal produced the film despite some worries that it was a little too risqué. Those concerns led to a change in title from “Pillow Talk” to “Any Way the Wind Blows,” though the original title was brought back for its release.

Doris Day was set to star with Rock Hudson as the male lead. Although it’s a no brainer in hindsight, this casting was a bit of a gamble because Pillow Talk was Hudson’s first comedy. He’d risen to stardom making westerns, war films, and dramas such as All That Heaven Allows (1955) and Giant (1956), so he was originally hesitant to branch out. Fortunately for us, he went for it and gave us one of the most delightful screen teams of the era. And fortunately for Day and Hudson, they became fast friends who loved working together, which made their subsequent films a treat.

Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

You can watch the fun title sequence with Day singing “Pillow Talk” here.

To the film! Lovely Jan Morrow (Doris Day) awakes in her lovely apartment looking lovelier than anyone should in the morning. She reaches for her bedside phone to make what one assumes would be a lovely telephone call. But that’s where the loveliness ends because her line is busy. As usual.

Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

Jan shares a party line with a playboy named Brad Allen (Rock Hudson), and he’s always on the phone flirting with ladies. Jan can rarely get a call out, which is a problem since she is an interior decorator and does some of her business at home.

Brad’s monopoly of the line is especially infuriating because he’s a real dog and uses the phone to romance his vast collection of women. Indeed, in the time it takes Jan to put on a matching robe and walk to the kitchen, Brad has gotten a different lady on the line! And it’s only 9AM.

Unsurprisingly, Jan thinks that Brad is a “sex maniac” because she constantly hears him make the same declarations of love and sing “You’re My Inspiration, [Insert Name Here]” to many different women. (He’s a songwriter and pretends to write each of his girlfriends a special song, though it’s the same one with a name change.) And he thinks she’s a nosy old maid who’s jealous of his love life and takes pleasure in breaking into his conversations to demand the phone. Fun fact: in some clever costuming, the two women romancing with Brad are sprawled seductively in much sexier lingerie than Jan is wearing. Jan doesn’t know this, of course, but it’s a great way to signal Jan as the “prude” in this telephone triangle.

But why do Jan and Brad share a phone line at all? Party lines were single phone lines shared between several subscribers. It’s similar to how today one house might have three different phones on the same phone line. A party line is like that, but instead of multiple phones in the same household, it linked multiple phones in different homes.

Although they seem foreign now, party lines used to be the norm. In fact, the majority of phone customers in the first half of the 20th century used party lines. This was especially true during WWII when there were shortages and private phone lines weren’t a priority. Plus, party lines were cheaper, because you shared the cost of the service between several subscribers. But, as Pillow Talk demonstrates, a party line didn’t offer privacy because a person could simply pick up the phone and listen (or contribute to!) their fellow subscriber’s conversations.

Duchess of Idaho (1950)

Esther Williams on the phone in Duchess of Idaho (1950)

Party lines shared between two and about a dozen subscribers were especially common in rural or less populated areas, but they could be found almost anywhere until the demand for private lines and the technology to support them ended the practice. But the transition could be slow, as Jan finds out when she talks to the phone company. (For more on vintage telephony, visit my History Through Hollywood: Telephones.)

After her frustrating morning, Jan visits the phone company to request a private line. The employee apologizes but explains that unless she has extenuating circumstances (basically, if she was pregnant), he can’t move her to the front of the queue. Everyone wants private lines now, and it will be several weeks before the company can get around to installing hers. But he offers to send an inspector to speak with Brad and see if they can resolve the issue. You can watch the scene here.

When Jan arrives at work, Jonathan Forbes (Tony Randall) surprises her with the extravagant gift of a silvery-blue convertible with a red interior. It’s quite a color combination! Jan says that she can’t possibly accept it, which makes little Jonathan frown. He’s in love with Jan and can’t understand why she won’t accept his proposal. But she isn’t in love with him, and instead sees him as a client and a good friend. (They met when he hired her to redecorate his office.) Let’s pause and appreciate their hats for a moment. Maybe Jonathan moonlights as an Alpine sheep herder?

Pillow Talk: Tony Randall and Doris Day

Tony Randall is so good at playing “nice guys” with plenty of neuroses, psychoanalysts, and an unrequited love for leading ladies, which is why he played them so often!

Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

Jan finally gets to work in her strikingly on trend studio. I swear I see that kelly green color everywhere now. Replace the dark table with a Lucite one, throw a sheepskin on the back of a chair, and you’ve got instagram gold. (The interiors by art director Richard Riedel are amazing. I’ve compiled images of Jan’s apartment at the end of the post.)

The next day, Jan gets an angry letter from the phone company criticizing her “false report” about Brad. She’s confused until she discovers that the company sent a female inspector, whom Brad entranced and manipulated immediately. There really aren’t a lot of smart women in this film besides Jan…

Jan complains about the situation to her perpetually hungover housekeeper, Alma (Thelma Ritter). But Alma isn’t terribly sympathetic because she likes to listen in on Brad’s romantic calls as a sort of audio soap opera. It’s her guilty pleasure, so she’s not clamoring for a change.


As they talk, Jan makes coffee in a Chemex! That staple of the modern hipster and coffee connoisseur was invented in 1941, so it had been around for a while. In fact, the year before this movie was released, the Chemex coffeemaker was named as one of the 100 “best-designed products of modern times” by the Illinois Institute of Technology. It’s even part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York!

Pillow Talk: Thelma Ritter and Doris Day

But Jan doesn’t get to drink her special cup of coffee because Brad calls. (The inspector gave him a code that lets him dial the other end of the party line.) He is angry that Jan complained to the phone company, and accuses her of “telling on him” because she is “sex-deprived” and has “bedroom problems,” which is why she fixates on Brad’s busy love life.

Jan’s frustration with the party line can’t possibly stem from her need to make work calls, right? It must be because she is a sad, prudish spinster. But Brad’s serial, deceptive dating is an adorable instance of “boys will be boys” and doesn’t suggest anything about his maturity or healthy emotional state.

Jan barely keeps her temper long enough to suggest a phone schedule splitting each hour in half: he gets the phone from the hour to the half-hour and she gets it for the next thirty minutes. Naturally, both will use common sense and tolerance when it comes to emergencies. You can watch the scene here.

Major Minor Rogers phone

Ginger Rogers takes over the switchboard in The Major and the Minor (1942)

In reality, not every party line had a schedule, but there were “best practices.” Party line etiquette dictated that subscribers keep their calls as short as possible and refrain from eavesdropping. But people don’t always follow the rules.

Usually hogging the line just caused frustration as it does for Jan, but there were laws passed that required a person on a party line to end their call immediately if another subscriber needed it for an emergency. People were actually charged for ignoring these statutes: for example, in 1955 a woman was indicted after her refusal to end her call delayed another subscriber’s report of a fire. There were also laws penalizing people for faking emergencies in order to gain access to the line. Yikes!

Back to the film! Jan complains to Alma about Brad’s description of her as a lonely, unhappy woman. She’s got a great job, a beautiful apartment, nice men to date, and she goes to the best places. But Alma sort of agrees with Brad; Jan would be happier with a man in her life and in her bed. It’s the old “you can have everything but who will keep you warm at night?” routine. I don’t know, but I think Jan could afford some great blankets…

Pillow Talk: Doris Day

That day, Jan brings a painting to Jonathan’s office in a very chic and hyper-matched outfit. Note that the red lining of her coat matches her hat! Universal borrowed Jean Louis, Columbia’s costume designer, to craft the looks for this movie, and he does a brilliant job. His use of color is especially breathtaking. You can read more about Jean Louis and his costumes for this film on the excellent GlamAmor site.

Poor neurotic Jonathan proposes yet again, and Jan refuses, yet again. In need of comfort, Jonathan goes to Brad’s apartment because–shock!–he and Brad have been besties since college. And now Jonathan has invested in Brad’s new Broadway show.

Jonathan has no idea that Jan’s party line nuisance is his buddy Brad, and Brad doesn’t know that the woman who repeatedly refuses Jonathan’s proposals is his party line spinster. But when Jonathan finally mentions Jan’s name, the pieces fall into place. Brad can’t quite believe that his sex-deprived nemesis has managed to capture his friend’s heart, but he is intrigued. He doesn’t tell Jonathan that Jan is his party line bore, though. You can watch the scene here.

Pillow Talk: Rock Hudson

Hudson and Meade in Screenland Plus TV-Land, September 1959
via: http://lantern.mediahist.org/catalog/screenlandplustv61unse_0100

Then the men have a lengthy and illuminating discussion about marriage. Jonathan is for it (he’s been married and divorced three times) and desperately wants Jan to be his fourth wife. Brad is against it; he thinks of men as trees spreading their branches, and he can’t understand why any man would get married and “have his branches cut off.” Subtle.

That evening, Brad spreads his branches with a woman named Marie (Julia Meade) who is a Southern gal who performs at a nightclub. When Brad plays the song he “wrote for her” (“You’re my Inspiration, Marie”), she practically swoons. They snuggle quite provocatively on his couch. Fortunately, the back of the couch contains switches that dim the lights, starts a romantic record, and locks the front door. Clever boy. Also, creepy boy.

Fun fact: When they filmed this movie, Julia Meade was doing a live commercial in New York every Sunday night on The Ed Sullivan Show. So she had to fly coast to coast during production of this movie so she could appear in the film in Los Angeles and in the commercials in New York every weekend. You can see her in a commercial for Lincoln on the show here:

As Brad and Marie enjoy some smooching, Jan is getting some of her own, though she doesn’t want it. She attended a client’s housewarming party, and accepted the client’s son’s offer of a ride back to the city. Tony (Nick Adams) is a student at Harvard and appears to be a nice boy. But he’s not.

Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

He pulls the car over and forces himself on Jan in a way that is supposed to be amusing, but comes off as really awful. Jan is barely able to push him off, and when she warns him that she will tell his mother, he says, “It’s your word against mine” as he lunges at her again. No no no!

He finally stops when she promises to get a drink with him. But the one drink inevitably turns into several…Meanwhile, Brad and Marie head to the Copa del Rio where Marie performs. Guess where Tony and Jan decided to get their cocktails?

Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

Brad realizes it’s Jan, the Jan, but she has no idea that she is sitting near Brad Allen. He is pleasantly surprised to see how pretty Jan is. She’s certainly not the frigid old prude he’d been expecting! This movie uses voiceover to express character’s inner thoughts, and Brad has a good one as he watches Jan dance in that tight dress.

Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

Costume appreciation break. Day wears an absolutely stunning long white gown with a matching fur bolero. The color, impeccable spotlessness of the ensemble, and even the tight column skirt that could be called restrictive suggest some not-so-subtle symbolism about Jan’s character and sex life.

Pillow Talk: Doris Day

Once Brad’s southern belle (who reminds me of Dixie Bell Lee in The Awful Truth (1937)) leaves to prepare for her show, Brad focuses on Jan. He wants to seduce her to prove he can and to humiliate her, but he knows she will immediately hate him if he admits who he is. So, inspired by Marie’s accent, he crafts a new persona of Rex Stetson, wealthy Texas rancher with a slow drawl and plenty of homespun expressions.

Then he swoops in just when Jan could use some help. Tony has imbibed way too much and passes out on the dance floor. But don’t worry–Rex is here! He carries Tony to a cab and then tries to drive Tony’s car back to Jan’s apartment, but big ol’ Rex just won’t fit in that little bitty vehicle!

Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

Like the respectful, guileless gentlemen he is pretending to be, Brad walks Jan to her door and wishes her a chaste good night. She is quite taken with him, though if she’d known what he was thinking as he left her, she might change her mind:

Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

Jan clearly has terrible instincts about men. Or her intuition is easily fooled when confronted by tall, handsome and charming fellas, in which case it’s no use at all.

Rex calls when Jan is in bed and asks her out for dinner the following evening. She very happily accepts. Also, A+ for the split screen placement.

Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

You may remember a movie called Down With Love (2003) that lovingly spoofed the late 1950s and ’60s “sex comedies.”  It used split screens even more overtly than Pillow Talk does, but I’m always surprised at how far this 1959 movie takes them. It’s very “wink, wink, nudge, nudge.”

Rex and Jan are enjoying their telephone pillow talk when Brad “jumps on” the line to scold her for using it during “his” half hour. She yells at him to get off and then finishes her call with Rex. But Brad calls back to warn her about guys who use the “yokel act.” He predicts that after Rex takes her to dinner, he will make up some excuse to “stop by” his hotel room. Then the gentleman act will dissolve.

Jan protests that not all men are as depraved as Brad, but his warning does stick with her. Also, he’s such a jerk to toy with her this way! It’s funny but cruel.

Dinner goes beautifully, but afterwards Rex suggests they stop by his hotel room to “pick up his coat.” It’s just as Brad predicted. Jan’s dreams are crushed and her guard is up as Rex brings her over by the bed–but hurray–he only wanted to show her the lovely view of Central Park from the window! Then he grabs his coat and escorts her back outside without any attempt at seduction. Now Jan is even more into Rex because he has “proven” himself to be a good guy. She doesn’t realize that Brad is completely manipulating her.


Here they are filming the scene:

And here is her stunning emerald green evening coat and chiffon dress with gorgeous turquoise and diamond jewels. I would wear any of her clothes (and the jewelry!) from this movie. They’re 1960s but in a classic way that doesn’t look too mod or dated. So elegant and clean! You can read more about her costumes and the various couture trends they draw upon in this great article from ClothesOnFilm.com. I love the observation that the green in this first date with Rex could be read as symbolizing Jan’s “green” character, as in naive and gullible.

Pillow Talk: Doris Day

Jean Louis designed Day’s costumes, but the jewelry was loaned to the production by Laykin et Cie, a firm founded in Hollywood in 1932. According to a 1959 article, the jewelers lent the production half a million dollars worth of items!

Pillow Talk

After the hotel stop, Rex takes Jan for a ride in a horse-drawn carriage. We get some more delightful inner thoughts:

Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

The real driver sits in the back watching the pair with concern. He knows immediately that Rex has no idea how to handle a horse, so he suspects that something is not quite right. We hear his inner monologue, too: “I’m glad she’s not my daughter…” It always surprises me how funny this movie is! I expect it to be more dated, but the dialogue is still clever and fresh, and the situations have a tongue-in-cheek quality so they remain amusing even though the sexual conventions have changed.

Jan and Rex spend the next several days together, and soon she is in love. They even chat when they’re in the bathtub. Their own individual tubs, of course. It is still a racy scene, though, especially for the time.

Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

After a series of wonderful dates with Rex, Jan tells Jonathan that she might like to marry her new beau. Paranoid Jonathan promptly hires a private detective to research this Rex Stetson character.

Pillow Talk: Tony Randall and Doris Day

I like this green ensemble, particularly the coral necklace, though I could do without the cabbage hat.

Pillow Talk: Doris Day

Just as Jan is leaving Jonathan’s office, Brad arrives for a meeting about their show. He sees Jan and hides in a OB-GYN clinic down the hall. But he doesn’t realize what kind of doctor it is, so he asks for an appointment while he stalls for time. The nurse and doctor think that he thinks he’s pregnant, but he disappears before they can examine him. It’s an odd subplot.

Once Jan leaves, Brad and Jonathan have a chat. Jonathan vents to Brad about how Jan wants to marry another man, and he admits to hiring a private eye to check up on the rival. You’d think that Brad would kill his Rex persona, or at least cool it for a while since he knows that a detective is checking up on him, but he doesn’t. You’d also hope that he would fade out of Jan’s life knowing that she has really fallen for him, but he doesn’t do that, either.

Instead, he calls Jan and taunts her about her yokel boyfriend who is such a gentleman that he never even tries to get fresh. That’s not normal, he says, and wonders if Rex is one of those men who is “devoted to his mother;” you know, the type who collects recipes and loves to exchange bits of gossip. That’s all code for homosexual.

My heart breaks a little in this scene for Rock Hudson because he’s playing a super-straight character essentially making fun of gay men, and he was gay. Hudson’s sexuality was kept from the public but it was an open-ish secret in Hollywood. So you can also think of this scene as a joke on the audience, the majority of whom never could have dreamed that Hudson was homosexual. So hopefully Hudson had some fun with it.

That evening, Rex and Jan go to a piano bar where the singer, Perry (Perry Blackwell), knows Jan. She asks Jan to sing “Roly Poly,” a song about loving a fat man. You knew Doris had to sing at some point!

Meanwhile, thanks to Brad’s “warning,” Jan is now worried that Rex has been so “respectful”  because he’s not interested in her like that. So just to play with her a little, Brad/Rex drops all sorts of “gay hints:” he muses at how nice it must be to work with all the “colors and fabrics” in Jan’s job, he drinks with his pinky up, and he says that he wants the restaurant’s dip recipe to make for his mom.

Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

Jan silently freaks out. Finally, she asks Rex why he has been so gentlemanly. Doesn’t he want to kiss her? Why yes, he does.

He grabs her and plants a kiss so incredible that she gets woozy. During the smooch, Perry sings about a “trip to the moon” which is an awfully convenient reference to the last time Jonathan proposed to Jan. She refused him because she wants a “love that sends her to the moon.” Well, she’s found it! And her worries about Rex’s sexuality disappear. You can watch the scene here:

After the kiss, Jan leaves to fix her lipstick so she isn’t with Brad when Jonathan rushes in. His detective quickly discovered that Brad is Rex, and Jonathan is furious, both for his sake and for Jan’s.

Pillow Talk: Perry Blackwell, Tony Randall, and Rock Hudson

He tells Brad that if he doesn’t disappear from Jan’s life that night and spend the next few weeks at Jonathan’s house in Connecticut, he will tell Jan everything. Perry listens to the whole conversation with fascination…

Brad agrees, and Jonathan skedaddles. But when Jan gets back to the table, Brad cleverly gets Jan to invite herself to Connecticut for the weekend! She says things like, “Oh, Rex, I trust you!” when he brings up concerns about them spending the weekend together. Perry sums up our feelings when she sings, “You lied, you dog!” directly to Brad as he and Jan leave.

As she packs for her weekend away, Jan calls Brad to gloat about how her boyfriend isn’t gay after all. Smug Brad loves every minute. He hasn’t just seduced his buttoned-up party line partner, he actually got her to chase him!

Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

Rex and Jan snuggle in his convertible all the way to Connecticut. Meanwhile, Jonathan goes to Jan’s apartment and finds out that she has gone to Connecticut. So he hurries off to rescue Jan from that scoundrel.

But she doesn’t want to be rescued. She is having a tremendous time making out with Rex in front of a cheerful fire.

Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

You know that this idyll will end soon, though. We are roaring towards the big realization, and it comes when Rex goes outside to fetch firewood. Jan finds some sheet music he tried to hide, and she starts picking out the tune on the piano. She realizes it’s “You’re My Inspiration, [Insert Name Here]” just as Rex returns to the house.

Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

Then Jonathan bursts in yelling that “Rex” is Brad! Jan and Jonathan leave at once. Brad doesn’t have a chance to explain–but what could he say?

Poor Jan weeps nonstop in the car. She really thought Rex was her future husband, and she’s facing some pretty awful humiliation on top of the heartbreak. They stop at a roadside diner, where Jan sobs and says things like “I thought we were going to get married!” and “I’m so ashamed.” Jonathan tries to comfort her with “You don’t have to go to pieces over it,” and “There has to be a first time.” He means a first time for heartbreak, but that’s not how two men at the counter understand it…

Pillow Talk: Tony Randall and Doris Day

They assume that Jonathan tricked this distraught woman into losing her virtue. When Jonathan slaps Jan in an attempt to end her hysterics, the men spring into action and punch poor Jonathan right in the jaw. He slides under the table, unconscious, but the shock finally makes Jan stop crying. It’s hilarious.

Fun fact: when they shot this scene , the actor who was supposed to fake-punch Randall misjudged and really socked him in the jaw. Randall was knocked out, but the take looked so good (because it was real!) that they put it in the movie.

Back in New York, Brad has a stunning epiphany–he realizes that he is in love with Jan, and, even crazier, wants to marry her. But she refuses to speak to him. So he ambushes her in Jonathan’s office. Jonathan has forgiven Brad for the whole situation, though he is taking a lot of pleasure in Jan’s burning hatred for his friend.

Pillow Talk: Doris Day, Tony Randall and Rock Hudson

Jan runs out of the office when she sees Brad, so he has to come up with a new plan. Let’s pause to admire the red coat with leopard accessories. It’s quite similar to a Givenchy ensemble Audrey Hepburn wears in Charade (1963).

Brad asks Alma out for a drink to discuss the situation. Naturally, she drinks him into oblivion, but they come up with an plan: Brad will hire Jan to redecorate his apartment. She has to talk to him if he is a client, right?

Pillow Talk: Thelma Ritter and Rock Hudson

Brad hires Jan’s company, and she agrees to do it when her boss, Mr. Pierot (Marcel Dalio), claims he is too busy. Jan doesn’t know that Mr. Pierot is secretly in cahoots with Brad and made sure only Jan could take the project.

Pillow Talk: Marcel Dalio and Doris Day

Fun fact: you may recognize Dalio as the croupier in Casablanca (1942), or one of a dozen other small roles in Hollywood films like Lovely to Look At (1952), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and How to Steal A Million. Before WWII, Dalio had been a top actor in his native France. Dalio was Jewish, and he and his wife fled to the U.S. in 1940.

Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

Anyway, Jan is pure professionalism in her black and white suit when she visits Brad’s apartment for the initial consultation.

He tells Jan that he loves her, that he’s done with his bachelor lifestyle, and that he wants her to turn his apartment into a place where she would feel comfortable.

Unfortunately, she finds the switches on the sofa. She rolls her eyes when the first one dims the lights, locks the door, and puts on sexy music, but she is horrified when the second one transforms a section of the sofa into a bed!

That shocking discovery undercuts Brad’s sweet words. But she still takes the job with two unorthodox conditions: one, Brad must stay out of the apartment until she is finished, and two, she will do the entire redecoration herself without consulting with him. He agrees, and repeats his wish that she re-make his apartment to her taste.

Jan goes to work, though curiously she buys the fabric, furniture, and decor at shops she doesn’t usually frequent. As she transforms his home, Brad calls all of the ladies in his black book and tells them that he is getting married and can’t see them anymore. As you might imagine, this task takes a while.

When the apartment is finished, Brad and Jonathan hurry over but are horrified by what they find. Jan has created a tacky love den complete with a pink organ that plays “You’re My Inspiration.” It’s an assault on the senses and a clear way of telling Brad what Jan thinks of him.

Pillow Talk: Tony Randall and Rock Hudson

After Jan turns his home into a nauseating combination of Arabian nights/western saloon, Brad is done being sweet. He goes directly to Jan’s apartment, and when she refuses to get out of bed, he grabs her, blanket and all, and carries her across town to his terrible abode.


Fun fact: Hudson had to carry Day for a long time when they were shooting these scenes, and his muscles got fatigued. So they rigged up a hidden “shelf” that held Day and fastened over Hudson’s shoulders. The contraption helped distribute the weight so that Hudson could continue “carrying” Day even when his arms were exhausted.

Brad’s extreme action and his determination to marry Jan despite his awful apartment convinces Jan that he really does love her. So they kiss and get married.

Pillow Talk: Doris Day and Rock Hudson

Also, of course Jan was sleeping in long sleeve, turtleneck pajamas.

Cut to three months later. Brad strides down the hallway to Jonathan’s office. He can’t wait to tell his friend that Jan is pregnant! (No bedroom problems here…) But the doctor and nurse from the OB-GYN office drag him into their office. This time they’re not going to let this “pregnant man” get away. The end!

Pillow Talk was in production in February through mid-April 1959, and premiered that October. It was a hit, and audiences loved Day, Hudson, and Randall together.

It was such a success that the trio starred in two more films, Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1964). As Day recalled, since the movie was a hit and they had fun filming it, “Right away, we said, we have to do another one.”

Day and Hudson were particular pals, and Hudson thought that their real-life rapport was the foundation for their onscreen chemistry. He talked about their affection for each other when asked what makes a good screen duo:

First of all, the two people have to truly like each other, as Doris and I did, for that shines through. Then, too, both parties have to be strong personalities – very important to comedy – so that there’s a tug-of-war over who’s going to put it over on the other, who’s going to get the last word, a fencing match between two adroit opponents of the opposite sex who in the end are going to fall into bed together.

He added in his autobiography, “The trouble we had was trying not to laugh. Doris and I couldn’t look at each other. You know, that sweet agony of laughing when you’re not supposed to? That’s what we had.” They even used nicknames for each other: she called him “Roy Harold,” a reference to Hudson’s birth name of Roy Harold Scherer, Jr., and he called her “Eunice Blotter” just because he found it funny.

Bosley Crowther at The New York Times wrote that Pillow Talk “must be cheerfully acknowledged one of the most lively and up-to-date comedy-romances of the year.” He applauded the script, noting that

It is really the clever, witty screen play that Stanley Shapiro and Maurice Richlin have prepared from a story by Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene that accounts for much of the sparkle in this film. Their devices are crisp, their dialogue funny and their cinema mechanics are neat. Frequent clever use of a split screen make for fresh and appropriate drolleries. With a CinemaScope screen to play on, they and director Michael Gordon have much fun. And this fun is transmitted to the audience in an easy and generous flow of ingeniously graphic situations and nimble repartee.

He also complimented Day’s performance, writing that Jan is “played fiercely and smartly by Miss Day, who has a delightful way of taking the romantic offensive against a man. Her dudgeons are as chic and spectacular as her nifty Jean Louis clothes, and her fall for Mr. Hudson’s deceptions is as graceful as a ski-run down a hill.”

The Academy took note of Day’s performance, too. This movie garnered five Oscar nominations including Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress for Thelma Ritter, Music Scoring, Art Direction, and Screenplay, though it only brought home an award in the last category.

Day and Hudson were already popular, but this film boosted their box office records and helped them win Golden Globe awards for the most popular actors of 1959. As I mentioned, this was Hudson’s first comedy, but he was obviously a natural and would star in several more comedies. As The Hollywood Reporter wrote, in Pillow Talk, “Rock Hudson undergoes the metamorphosis from stock leading man to one of the best light comedians in the business.”

This movie was extremely formative for Day, too. She wrote in her autobiography that it helped craft her image as “a new kind of sex symbol—the woman men wanted to go to bed with, but not until they married her.” She would make several more sex comedies such as That Touch of Mink (1962) and The Thrill of it All (1963), as well as the two films with Hudson.

Here’s the trailer–enjoy! For more, follow me on TwittertumblrpinterestInstagram, and Facebook. You can buy this movie here. Enjoy the fantastic interiors from the film, and as always, thanks for reading!


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  1. Great review! I wish more people would talk about the film’s technical elements — cinematography, editing, costumes, etc. You did a pretty awesome job in illustrating the film’s excellent visual design. 🙂

  2. I just dug out and washed my Chemex coffee pot—loved it and used it for years. Also, Rock and Doris were
    certainly the stylish couple of films beautiful and handsome combo with fun scripts to interrupt . I also remember the headlines the day it was announced that Rock Hudson was gay—quite the story of the times. The fashions of the movie are so well designed and tailored plus coordinated which unfortunately is not in
    style today. Thank you Miss Blonde!

    • Thank you for this comment! I wish the tailored, coordinated look was more common today! I don’t necessarily want to wear hats and gloves everywhere, but a little more elegance would be lovely! Thanks for reading and enjoy your Chemex!

  3. Thanks for the review! I love this film, and the costumes and set design are stunning. Don’t know about you, but I found “Down with Love” very disappointing. I felt it was not really an appreciative tribute but more of a spoof. The split screen technique was crudely suggestive, and Renee Zellwegger minced around with this odd walk.
    Doris Day is very underappreciated. Among other things, she was a wonderful singer.

    • I haven’t seen it in years, but I remember thinking that Down With Love went too far with the spoofing and made films like Pillow Talk seem ridiculous. I agree–Day was an incredible singer!

  4. Hi there! First time commenter speaking. I found this blog a few weeks ago.

    The costumes and set design are, yes, terrific. In style this film isn’t far off from another Doris Day vehicle, Midnight Lace (I still have to finish watching that one). I’m not normally a Doris Day kind of person; my main reasons for watching Midnight Lace were and are Rex Harrison and the David Webb jewelry Day wears throughout the film. That said, I’m certainly willing to give Pillow Talk a try. Great post!

      • You’re welcome. Fair warning: Midnight Lace is a Hitchcock-style thriller, although Hitchcock wasn’t on hand to direct this one. It’s a similar plot to that of Gaslight–young woman gets married to suave older man, starts seeing and experiencing strange things, and the husband is much too calm about it. As I said, I still need to finish watching it. I will say that Doris Day has a terrific coat in the opening sequence!

  5. I absolutely love this film. All three of the Doris/Rock films are terrific, but Pillow Talk is a classic. Thank you as always for such a terrific article.

  6. Hi Cameron. Just stumbled across your blog, and I think it’s fantastic! I really enjoy your reviews. I love Pillow Talk, it’s my favourite from the films Rock and Doris made together. Romantic, funny and featuring one of the best title songs and title sequences in film history. Before seeing this I had no idea there actually were such things as party lines, how annoying would it be to have actually had one of those? Always arguing over whose turn it was to use the phone, very weird all round really. I guess it cut down on one persons phone bill, but still…

    • Hi Maddy! Thanks for your kind words! I’m glad you enjoy my blog! I agree about the party lines. The first time I saw Pillow Talk as a kid I was so confused and I had no idea they were so common until I started researching them for my blog. PS. You’ve got a great blog!

      • Hi Cameron. It’s such a weird concept, but they must have worked for some people, otherwise how could they caught on so much? Thank you so much for saying that. I’m very new to blogging and have only recently set this up; I found it a bit daunting at first but I’m really enjoying it now. It’s great to come into contact with so many other people who share my love for the classics. See you around.

  7. Hi Cameron – Always enjoy your fun & informed reviews, particularly this one on the terrific “Pillow Talk”.

    Regarding the comments about Doris/Jan’s (fabulous) white outfit:

    “Costume appreciation break. Day wears an absolutely stunning long white gown with a matching fur bolero. The color, impeccable spotlessness of the ensemble, and even the tight column skirt that could be called restrictive suggest some not-so-subtle symbolism about Jan’s character and sex life.”

    I agree 100%, but might I add that when she turns around & (surprise!) it’s virtually backless, that could be to suggest that underneath all that “restriction” there is some genuine fire in Doris/Jan.

    Keep up the excellent work. Thanks. Jim

  8. Just watched it for the first time, fun movie. I heard the voice of “Kelly” the cop at the end & it sounded to me like “Keenan Wynn,” the “Winter Warlock, from, “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” Any way to check that? It’s an uncredited role from what I can see.

  9. I have always loved the movie pillow talk and watch it every time it’s on television day and Hudson we’re absolutely wonderful in this motion picture.

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