Doris Day in "Pillow Talk."
'Pillow Talk' is one smooth operator
- Article by: DAVE KEHR
- New York Times
- May 16, 2012 - 3:37 PM
In the 1959 movie "Pillow Talk," which Universal has just reissued as a digitally enhanced Blu-ray as part of its studio's 100th-anniversary home video promotion, Doris Day and Rock Hudson play prosperous Manhattanites -- she's an interior decorator, he's a Broadway songwriter -- who meet by means of a shared telephone line. As a plot device, party lines were pretty hoary even then, but "Pillow Talk" remains a richly suggestive combination of old and new. It seems to move the conversation forward while clinging in many ways to the past.
That combination often is a recipe for success, and it certainly was in this case. "Pillow Talk" was a hit that redefined Day -- a musical star whose genre was dying out from under her -- as the proto-feminist heroine of a series of romantic comedies, including two more (1961's "Lover Come Back" and 1964's "Send Me No Flowers") with Hudson.
By the standards of 1959, when "Anatomy of a Murder" included a frank discussion of rape and Jack Lemmon was discovering the joys of cross-dressing in "Some Like It Hot," there is nothing particularly audacious about "Pillow Talk" apart from its tacit acknowledgment that sometimes people have sex for reasons other than romantic love. Maybe that was enough.
"Pillow Talk," directed with no distinguishing marks by Michael Gordon, is a staple of gender studies programs. Here is a vivid illustration of sexuality as performance, given an extra dimension today by Hudson's AIDS-related death in 1985: In a much-discussed sequence, Hudson's character suggests to Jan that he might be gay, or at least the kind of man who "collects recipes and little bits of gossip." This prompts Jan to go on the offensive. He hasn't made any moves on her, so she'll make one on him.
By such convoluted routes do we arrive at Hollywood's long-delayed rediscovery of female sexuality. When Jan offers to accompany him for an unchaperoned weekend in the Connecticut countryside, a distant sound of breaking barriers can be heard.
Universal has given "Pillow Talk" a thorough going-over for this new release ($40), using digital techniques to intensify the hues in what had become a badly faded Eastman Color negative.
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