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In 1959, Rock Hudson, Doris Day, and Tony Randall starred together in Pillow Talk, the first of three successful films for the trio. Initially, Rock Hudson was hesitant to appear in the film because he had never made a comedy before and he didn't like the first plot synopsis. After reading the final script however, he changed his mind; the clever, witty dialogue impressed him. Director Michael Gordon also helped relieve some concerns by advising Hudson to play the role straight, saying, "No matter how absurd the situations may appear to the viewer, to the people involved, it's a matter of life and death. Comedy is no laughing matter."
In Pillow Talk, Doris Day plays Jan Morrow, a successful interior decorator who shares a party line on her home phone with Brad Allen (Rock Hudson), a songwriter. The latter spends most of his time on the phone singing to his various girlfriends, which becomes an ongoing annoyance for Jan who needs to use the phone for business. Soon the two are locked in an escalating feud even though they've never actually met each other. Meanwhile, Brad learns that his friend, Jonathan Forbes (Tony Randall), is dating Jan. When Brad finally comes face to face with her in a nightclub, he's surprised to discover how attractive Jan is and decides to introduce himself as Rex Stetson from Texas, using a Southern accent. Eventually, Brad succeeds in making Jan fall in love with him though she doesn't learn his true identity until much later, adding a new wrinkle to the plot.
Pillow Talk was the first time Rock Hudson and Doris Day worked together and the couple quickly hit it off, which is evident in their on-screen chemistry. In Rock Hudson: His Story by Rock Hudson and Sara Davidson, the actor stated, "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." Rock called Doris "Eunice Blotter" because it made him laugh and she called him "Roy Harold" (Hudson was born Roy Harold Scherer, Jr.).
When asked what he thought made a movie team, Rock Hudson replied, "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." This particular team also worked well because they made a handsome couple. Doris Day once commented, "I was aware of the chemistry between us. We looked good together, we looked like a couple should look." Davidson states in Rock Hudson: His Story, "No two stars were more suited to play the contenders in the American sexual battle than Rock Hudson and Doris Day. Sparks flew - you could feel the charge between them. She was so blond, he was so dark, and both were such clean, wholesome products of the heartland." Nevertheless, some people, including Rock Hudson, were concerned that Pillow Talk might be too racy. But audiences weren't offended. According to producer Marty Melcher, Doris Day's husband, Pillow Talk was perceived as "a clean sex comedy" and audiences and critics loved it.
Pillow Talk went on to earn over $7.5 million in the United States alone. According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Rock Hudson undergoes the metamorphosis from stock leading man to one of the best light comedians in the business." Doris Day was nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award, Thelma Ritter received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress and Pillow Talk won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Considering the success of Pillow Talk and how much fun they had making it, Doris Day recalls, "Right away, we said, we have to do another one." Day, Hudson, and Randall followed their first box office hit with Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1964).
Director: Michael Gordon
Producer: Ross Hunter, Martin Melcher
Screenplay: Stanley Shapiro, Maurice Richlin. Based on a story by Russell Rouse, Clarence Greene.
Cinematography: Arthur E. Arling
Art Direction: Richard Riedel
Music: Frank De Vol
Cast: Rock Hudson (Brad Allen), Doris Day (Jan Morrow), Tony Randall (Jonathan Forbes), Thelma Ritter (Alma), Nick Adams (Tony Walters), Allen Jenkins (Harry), Marcel Dalio (Pierot), Julia Meade (Marie), Hayden Rorke (Mr. Conrad), William Schallert (Hotel Clerk).
C-103m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
By Deborah L. Johnson