1. Doris Day displaying how good she is at absolutely everything. Is there anything this multi-talented lady can’t do? I’ve loved Doris Day’s music and movies since I was a little girl. She was pretty, perky and funny, could sing, dance and act, and was so warm and loveable onscreen.
Miss Day has starred in more movies I love than just about anyone with the exception of Cary Grant: Romance on the High Seas, Young at Heart, Calamity Jane, Love Me or Leave Me, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Teacher’s Pet, Pillow Talk, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, Midnight Lace, Lover Come Back, That Touch of Mink, The Thrill of It All!, Move Over Darling, Send Me No Flowers, The Glass Bottom Boat, With Six You Get Eggroll. I simply adore her!
Pillow Talk is my favorite of her performances. She’s incredibly funny as Jan Morrow, an interior decorator driven to distraction by the obnoxious, womanizing other end of her party line. Doris Day’s blend of primness and sexiness is irresistible. She’s a lot like Jean Arthur in that way, now that I think of it.
2. Rock Hudson debuting his not inconsiderable comedic abilities. Prior to playing Brad Allen (a/k/a Rex Stetson) in 1959’s Pillow Talk, Rock Hudson was known for his roles in dramas like Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows and Giant. He was nervous about taking on the comedic role, but he did a fantastic job. Here’s one of my favorite scenes. The way he switches back and forth between Brad and Rex is so funny. Poor Jan. He just reels her right in. “Like a potbellied stove on a frosty morning.”
Hudson always gave Doris Day credit for teaching him how to play in onscreen comedies. I’m sure he did learn a lot from her, but given the results it seems like it all came to him pretty easily. He was such a natural that it’s hard to believe this was his first comedy. He did many more after Pillow Talk, including two more with Doris Day. He’s especially hilarious in Send Me No Flowers, as a hypochondriac who tries to find his wife a new husband when he mistakenly thinks he’s going to die.
3. Tony Randall. Talk about funny! Tony Randall’s turn as Jonathan Forbes, Brad’s wealthy best friend and Jan’s luckless suitor, is a huge part of why Pillow Talk comes together so perfectly. Randall had especially great chemistry with Rock Hudson. Their scenes together work so well, with Randall as the neurotic little guy always talking about his inferiority complex and Rock as the cool, successful playboy.
It’s no wonder Randall starred in the other Day/Hudson movies – he was just as necessary to their collaborations’ successes as Rock and Doris were themselves. I can’t imagine those movies without him. All you need to do to see what a difference it makes to have the real Tony Randall in the “Tony Randall part” is watch Gig Young as Cary Grant’s assistant in That Touch of Mink. When it comes to bedroom farce sidekicks, accept no substitutions!
4. Thelma Ritter. Thelma Ritter is one of those character actresses whose presence improves everything she’s in. She’s wry and smart as Jan’s hard-drinking maid, Alma, whose biggest thrill is listening to Brad Allen woo his many ladies on the telephone. She’s such a hoot! Just watch her drink Brad under the table, all while giving him some very sage advice. What a great actress she was.
5. Costumes by Jean Louis. Doris Day’s clothes in this movie are to die for! All her coats, hats, suits and evening gowns are unbelievably glamorous. Jan Morrow is the most elegant career girl I’ve ever seen in a movie. Even the pajamas and robes she wears while swanning around the house are beautiful, and nicer than what most people wear out in public these days.
6. Party lines, rotary phones, supper clubs, elevator operators, and other deliciously Let’s Bring Back style items that don’t exist today. To a die-hard nostalgist like me, Pillow Talk is a treasure trove of lovely, old-fashioned things to ogle and long for.
7. The music. For a movie that isn’t a musical, Pillow Talk contains quite a few memorable songs. Doris Day had to have a chance to sing, after all, even if only over the opening credits (“Pillow Talk”) and in her head, while driving in a convertible with Rock (“Possess Me”). Rock Hudson even gets in on the singing, serenading his girlfriends with “You Are My Inspiration…[insert lady’s name here]”.
My favorite song is “Roly Poly,” sung by Doris and a marvelous nightclub singer named Perry Blackwell. Blackwell steals the scene later, singing “You Lied” to a duplicitous Rock Hudson with a very knowing look in her eyes.
Also great is the movie’s score by Frank De Vol. His music punctuates the happenings in the movie in a humorous, over-the-top way.
8. Jan Morrow’s apartment. Huge, pink, with magnificent views of a very fake New York City, Jan’s apartment is the perfect Hollywood dream of what a 1950s career girl’s apartment should look like.
9. The naughtiness that seems so sweet today. For all its double entendres, talk of “bedroom problems” and choruses of “Possess Me,” Pillow Talk is amusingly tame by today’s standards. Sometimes a little ‘50s-style sexual repression is just what the doctor ordered.
10. It’s just plain fun from beginning to end! I don’t know how many times I’ve seen Pillow Talk, but it’s an embarrassingly high number. It’s one of my go-to movies when I want to watch something funny and light that’s sure to make me laugh.