FILMS… Pillow Talk (1959)



A surprising undercover romantic has a day…


Sparks fly in all directions when Jan Morrow and Brad Allen share a party phone line, they “meet” after her voice rings a bell.


Pillow Talk Official Trailer #1 – Rock Hudson Movie (1959) HD, Movieclips Classic Trailers and photos © Universal Pictures


If you’ve ever been on a date and he suddenly makes you want to sing – in your head – then this is the film for you.  I’m reviewing Doris Day in what seems like a one-woman yearly quest to review her with all her leading men.

This year, I watched her with Rock Hudson in the 1950s romantic comedy, Pillow Talk (1959). This is a feel-good romantic comedy from the fifties which ticks all the boxes with romance, split screens, comedy, innuendo, montages and a fun musical duet. (For starters).

The film opens with an opening chirpy shoo-wop, toe-tapping and you’re clapping type tune. Setting the scene with the credits in the middle of a split-screen of two separate nightwear clad people in separate beds throwing pillows at each other.

Then this Doris Day song and those titles lead to that Oscar-winning film script. The storyline is the perfect material for one of the best of Doris Day’s performances and one that she was nominated for as Best Actress.

In this comic, romantic and at times racy (for that time and place) film Doris shines brightly as a comedienne. This is thanks to her undeniable on-screen rapport with Rock Hudson. This is the first – and luckily for us – not their last comedic film outings together.

Making three more a pleasure than a crowd, this pair sharing their screen time with support from Tony Randall. Randall appearing much later in homage to these three films in Down With Love (2003). 

The film tells of an interior decorator, Jan (Doris Day) who shares a phone party line with a man about town, confirmed bachelor Brad Allen (Rock Hudson). He’s also not of the marrying kind – like those recently reviewed Cary Grant characters -and just as chiselled and good looking.

As Broadway composer Allen, he hogs the phone to juggle his love life from early in the morning. She, however, works from home for the most part and needs the phone for work. Leading to a few clashes between the two when they both need the phone.

He’s a bit of a smooth operator as he often gets his girls cooing over him from early in the morning. This character, of course, made much more convincing as he’s played by the lovely Rock Hudson (the Jon Hamm of his day). Allen’s signature move to get the girls is to woo them with a song that he changes as often as his bed partners. 

This simply by changing the name of the girl he sings about accordingly.. or in some cases the language. He also has a flat hooked up with that automatic seduction setting with music, dimmed lights and a sofa bed that folds down and all at the flick of a switch.

Jan lives in a sunny, practical apartment with a live-out housekeeper. Jan is getting exasperated with Brad’s constant use of the phone. She complains to her phone company and to Alma, her often hungover housekeeper (an Oscar-nominated, Thelma Ritter). Her phone company sends a woman round to investigate the situation. This woman faltering in her mission after meeting the charming Brad.

Alma often listens in to him wooing the ladies and thinks he sounds a bit of a catch. Both these women have fallen under his spell and who can blame them, he really is a honey. Hudson has a voice that could melt butter and that song (sigh)…

Anyway, Jan suggests that Brad and she use alternate times to use the phone. She is single, yet fighting off the charms of serial ex-husband and self-confessed millionaire Jonathan (Tony Randall).

In a wee (convenient) twist, Jonathan’s old college friends with Allen and financing him to compose for his latest Broadway project. What are the chances in New York? (not much, if you are in a movie…). Especially when he mentions all about his unrequited love with Jan to Allen.

Jan attends a customer’s housewarming and is given a lift home by her client’s young son (Nick Adams). He’s drunk, a bit of a lech. and has a bit of a thing for older women. He makes unwanted moves on Jan on their return home. 

To fend him off, she suggests going dancing where her unwanted suitor collapses from too much drink. Allen, who – had been sitting near this couple –  has overheard their conversation and deduced that this attractive woman is Jan, who shares a party line with him.

So after some quick thinking, he ditches his date and pretends to be a Southerner, Rex Stetson. “Stetson” saves Jane from her date from hell, then offers to take her home. Brad – knowing full well to introduce himself would not be a good thing – also adopts a (splendid) Texan drawl that wouldn’t look out of place in Dallas (1978-91).

Stetson and Jan hit it off in a good way, and he asks her out on a date. He’s very eloquent with those pickup lines – as a Broadway lyricist would be – and his modesty charms her. Stetson’s apparent naivety, gentlemanly ways and charming personality are a winning combination. Jan falling hook, line and sinker for this charming Southerner as the pair start to date.

However, after hearing about the Stetson from a lovelorn Jan, a jealous Jonathan sets some private detectives on Stetson’s trail. However, seeing their incriminating photos knows exactly who he is. He seeks out and confronts Allen.  Allen, however, has got himself into a corner, as he’s just discovered he’s fallen in love with Jan…

On watching this movie I was surprised to learn this was the first of Rock Hudson’s comic roles. He gives a natural performance in his duel performance. Convincing us in this story as both the soft-spoken cad, Allen and the Texan charmer, Stetson.

He juggles both these roles with ease and you can tell he’s having fun in both his roles. This dual performance is seen at his best in one scene where he switches between both his characters on the phone to Jan.

His comic reactions to those awkward situations are perfectly timed. He gives it his all with his obvious strong rapport and relationship with Doris Day. I loved Hudson’s believable Texan accent made me smile.  His on-screen bromance with Randall was a joy to watch.

In one scene, Hudson and Randall bounced off each other in a fun comic volley, where Allen compares himself to a tree and this theme is elaborated on to comic heights. Hudson’s joy in this role was also felt as he showed off his singing talents especially in his impromptu duet with Day.

The film in a nice touch had Hudson as the musical one, but a film which also showcased Day’s singing talents. These musical numbers are seen in two unexpected – and delightful – singing numbers. Both were seen while Jan is on dates with Hudson’s Stetson.

I loved Day’s most unpredictable romantic moment as Jan sang in her head on a way to a weekend away with her new love. This I’m sure maybe a few of us have done.. or is it just me (and possibly Doris?). 

I also liked the other uses for music with this couple.. some of which I won’t mention for spoiler sake. Although one use was possibly the most contrived way of getting Doris to sing in a non-musical movie. It was a lovely touch, as it made clear (as Day) how much fun Hudson and Day were having. This is seen in their eye contact and warmth between them in that musical duet. 

This film was one where the producer Ross Hunter and Day’s then-husband Martin Melcher changed the public perception of Day. She easily made this transition from the nice girl next door type to a sex symbol. This was reinforced with some implied sexual moments with the pair in their own bed or in their own bath but in family-friendly split screens.

These innuendo filmed scenes were more outrageously homaged by Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor in Down With Love. These subtle yet more daring split-screen moments were considered daring for the time and mirrored the opening credits.

Montages were added which also reminded me of movies of this time. These beautifully filmed montages reminding me of moments in La La Land (2016). I also loved when we were privy to their characters contrasting thoughts on a situation.

Day showed herself as a fabulous versatile actress with her expressive facial reactions. Jan’s exasperation shown so comically towards Allen, I expected steam to come out her ears. I loved watching her eyes narrow, and see her stomp about and complain bitterly about him in an over-exaggerated comic way to her housekeeper. Likewise, I adored how her eyes filled with love for Stetson which contrasted starkly with that animosity with Allen. 

With her encouragement and support for Rock in his first comic role, you could tell this pair were both having fun in their roles and they had a great off-screen friendship. This on-screen romantic coupling leading the way for some fabulous and inspiring montages and split-screen moments. Day also wears a fabulously flattering on-screen wardrobe for this film designed by the much Oscar-nominated Jean Louis.   

This film was nominated for five Oscars and rightly so after its unique and then daring casting and their delivery of this sparkling script. This was the first of three movies with Rock Hudson and Doris Day in an on-screen romance. With the audiences clamouring for more movies between these two firm acting friends. They didn’t have long to wait with Doris making our Day with Hudson answering her call for an on-screen Lover Come Back in 1961…

Weeper Rating:   😦 😦 😦 😦😦 😦/10

Handsqueeze Rating 🙂 🙂🙂🙂🙂🙂/10

Hulk Rating: ‎  ‎ ‎mrgreen  ‎  ‎mrgreen   ‎mrgreen   /10


DD banner - RockThe Fourth Doris Day Blogathon 2020 No 8

This blog post was added to Love Letters to Old Hollywood‘s Fourth Doris Day Blogathon. Other films with this cast include Doris Day in Move Over Darling With Six You Get Egg Roll, The Thrill of it All and Young at Heart. I also wrote a tribute on her HERE when she passed away.  Rock Hudson also stars in McMillan and Wife, McMillan, Dynasty and in Avalanche. Thelma Ritter in Move Over Darling and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Tony Randall in Down with Love and Happy Days.  Nick Adams starred in Teacher’s Pet


9 thoughts on “FILMS… Pillow Talk (1959)

  1. Great article on the first great pairing of one of the all time screen couples! They did have perfect chemistry and remained lifelong friends. Yes, Doris is finally glamorous and sexy and sophisticated in this one, after too many years of period pieces and girl next door roles. She deserved the Best Actress nomination for this one. But might have actually won one if she had taken the role she was offered but turned down a few years later—Mrs. Robinson opposite Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate.

  2. I just love this film to pieces. I couldn’t agree with your fabulous review any more if I tried. Funny, I somehow never noticed the irony of Rock being the musical one in the film career-wise. It’s always great to revisit a film and discover something new!

    Thanks for contributing to my blogathon!

  3. Pillow Talk is a well packaged time capsule, both delightful and, as you say, somewhat risqué for the time. I think it’s great fun and I’d like to write about this film myself some time in the future. I see lots of parallels between Doris and Rock, Hanks and Meg Ryan, Clooney and Pfeiffer, from the chemistry and dialogue, right down to the use of split-screens. There’s no reason why any mid-century modern movie enthusiast shouldn’t know and love this film. Thanks again for the well written post!

    • I did see this as a Meg Ryan movie. But more with Dennis Quaid.. and set in the sixties. But of course still to see One FIne Day so will get back to you on this pairing when I do.. but have a feeling that you will be right.

Love your thoughts... but only if they are spoiler free!

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