The Least is the Funniest

Doris Day and Rock Hudson co-starred in three highly successful comedies:  Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back, and Send Me No Flowers.  The first is generally considered the best.  But is it the funniest?

Pillow Talk (1959)pillow talk tells the tale of a shared telephone line (remember party lines?) on which Jan Morrow (Day) accidentally eavesdrops on the pick-up lines Brad Allen (Hudson) is using on innumerable women.  He eventually learns about his eavesdropper and naturally masquerades as someone else in order to romance her.  Thelma Ritter adds her typical endearing support, and as with the ensuing two films, Tony Randall is an engaging sounding pad and foil.

Lover Come Back (1961) is about advertising “mad men” and a woman.  Jerry Webster (Hudson) competes for accounts with cross-town rival Carol Templeton (Day).  Pretending to be the inventor of the nonexistent VIP, Webster’s ruse falls apart when his boss (Randall) places the seductive Rebel (Edie Adams) in TV commercials for the imaginary product.  A chemist (Jack Kruschen) is hired to come up with something, anything that will prove to the Ad Council that VIP is not a hoax.  The chemist succeeds and Jerry proclaims, “Gentlemen, I give you VIP, a pleasant concoction to be enjoyed by the entire family.”  VIP turns out to be….I won’t give it away.

Send Me No Flowers (1964) features Day and Hudson as a suburban married couple (So much for the myth that she was always the eternal virgin.), Judy and George Kimball.  A hypochondriac, George mistakes for his own a doctor’s chart for another patient and thinks he has a limited time to live.  A noble fellow, he decides to keep Judy in the dark while he hooks her up with an appropriate future husband.  Enter the imposing Clint Walker (of TV’s Cheyenne fame).  send me no flowersSo large of frame is he that he can barely exit his Jaguar.  Hearing of Judy’s travails, he calls her a “brick.”  George retorts, “I’ll tell my wife when she’s a brick!”  When he learns that George is (supposedly) dying, Arnold (Randall) goes on a binge and finds solace in the extreme smoothness of a wooden table top.  George’s weird behavior eventually promotes suspicion in Judy’s mind that he’s having an affair, possibly with Linda Bullard (Patricia Barry).  Arnold tells George to admit his unfaithfulness.  What could go wrong?  Of course it backfires, and in a priceless scene in a train station baggage office Judy grills George, demanding the name of the lady in question. “Dolores,” says he.  She wants a last name, too.   At a loss, George scans the room, his eyes alighting on a park poster of Smokey the Bear.  Thus, “Dolores Yellowstone.”   Send Me No Flowers is a solid mix of sight gags, memorable one-liners, and characters coming to erroneous conclusions.  It benefits from a stable of excellent character actors, including Paul Lynde as a funeral director, Edward Andrews as the doctor, and Hal March as a philanderer.  Chalk up some of its appeal to director Norman Jewison, who the following year helmed The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming.  Credit the writers as well:  Norman Barasch and Carroll Moore, who’d written the play upon which the film is based.

By Kim

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