Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
In a few weeks, I’m hosting a “Pillow Talk” pizza party for three couples who have not seen this classic Doris Day/Rock Hudson romp.
Whenever I show or recommend this film from 1959, the response is always enthusiastic. My sister-in-law proclaimed it her new favorite movie upon seeing it several years ago.
You would think a sex comedy made during the censorship years featuring America’s favorite squeaky-clean actress would be an impossible task. But somehow it all works, starting with a script that is creatively risqué without being crass. It also helps that Day and Hudson have oodles of chemistry, a sense of playful fun and great looks that complement each other. This is the first of their three films together – and most people think they made many more, a testament to their popularity. It would also begin Day’s reign as the biggest box office star in the country.
She plays interior designer Jan Morrow, who lives in a chic Manhattan apartment and desperately wants her own phone. Until that happens, she’s forced to share a party line with amorous songwriter Brad Allen. (For those who don’t know what a party line is, it’s when two or more unrelated customers share the same telephone line.) Unfortunately, Jan rarely gets a chance to use her line as Brad is on it all the time. It doesn’t help that Jan disapproves of cad Brad, who is continually cooing to different women each time he’s on the phone.
But fate steps in when Jan ends up at a nightclub with Tony (Nick Adams), the intoxicated son of a client, whom she is trying to fend off with no luck. Brad happens to be in the next booth and overhears her name, knowing her to be the shrew on the other end of his party line. But when he turns to look at her, he likes what he sees. However, knowing she would probably slap his face if she knew his identity, he assumes a Texas accent and comes to her rescue as Rex Stetson, disposing of Tony and escorting Jan home.
The genius of “Pillow Talk” comes in many forms, starting with the original, Oscar-winning script from Stanley Shapiro, Maurice Richlin, Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene. The story breathlessly moves from one situation to another, the jokes work and the characters are fleshed out. The mistaken-identity plot is nothing new and while improbable, it is believable enough.
I love how you can hear Jan and Brad’s inner thoughts at times, often her being dreamy about him and he comically worried about keeping up the deception. There’s also the hilarious double entendre-laden diner conversation late in the film between Jan and friend Jonathan (the glorious Tony Randall), in which other patrons mistakenly race to defend her.
Another genius is that supporting cast. Randall appears in all three Day/Hudson films and here his character knows both parties, with Tony increasingly jealous of a Rex Stetson he has not met, unaware that Brad is Rex. The marvelous Thelma Ritter plays Alma, Jan’s soused housekeeper, who milks comic gold out of her relatively small and stereotypical “funny drunk” part. Her encounter with Brad late in the film is hilarious, and she earned Oscar nomination number five for her efforts.
The plush late-‘50s sets and costumes are a visual treat today, and the innovative use of split screens results in now-classic scenes such as the leads talking on the phone while each is taking a bath, leg up on the wall and feet seeming touching. This is why the film MUST be viewed in its wide-screen format; otherwise, the split screen technique cannot be fully appreciated.
Throw in a few songs sung by Day, and “Pillow Talk” maintains every laugh today. The plot was so popular that it’s essentially recycled in “Lover Come Back,” the second Day/Hudson film that’s even more outrageous that this one. But “Pillow Talk” is the best of the three. And in a few weeks, I will convert six more people into “Pillow Talk” fans.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Hi all! The Classic Movie Blog Association is going to make 'em laugh with is Comedy Classics Blogathon that begins tomorrow. Rather than have 40 blog posts over three days, CMBA is stretching it out to six days, meaning it will be easier to keep up with all the great entries.
I will be posting about one of my favs "Pillow Talk" on Tuesday. Looking forward to reading everyone's entries and I hope you stop back on Tuesday!
Here's a link to the participating blogs.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
In my intermittent look at Humphrey Bogart’s early career, here’s the intriguing “The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse” from 1938.
At first glance, this seems like one of Warner Brothers’ biopics of the 1930s, like “The Story of Louis Pasteur” or “The Life of Emile Zola.” As the credits roll, the opening reveals a research lab with things boiling, which is reminiscent of Universal’s monster movies.
But Dr. Clitterhouse is not a mad scientist nor a prominent figure. He’s a doctor who is also a criminal in order to research and write about the medical aspects of the criminal mind. Edward G. Robinson plays the good doctor, with Bogart as one of the criminals. The story opens with Clitterhouse and a jewel robbery; he’s calm, cool and collected as he manages to leave the scene of the crime undetected. He then asks his nurse to keep an eye on his bag and meets with Inspector Lane (Donald Crisp), who tells the doctor that he “mustn’t forget his bag of tricks” without knowing the jewels are in that bag.
Dr. Clitterhouse eventually sets up a criminal clinic in London with a group of thieves that includes Jo Keller (Claire Trevor), Rocks Valentine (Bogart) and Tug (Ward Bond). Of Rocks it is observed that his “entire personality is distorted.” Dr. Clitterhouse gains the trust of everyone except Rocks, who believes he should be in charge and begins to plot against Dr. Clitterhouse.
One of the screenwriters is John Huston, and there are some elements – particularly in a tense showdown between Dr. Clitterhouse and Rocks toward the end – that feel like a Huston film because of the wordplay between the two.
However, there’s not much to say about this film except that it’s surprisingly entertaining with a good cast, led by a cool Robinson who’s filled with charm and guile as Dr. Clitterhouse.
As for Bogart, in watching the progression of his career during the 1930s, it would be easy to wave your hand at yet another tough guy role. But he’s growing as an actor. These portrayals have similar elements but I really liked how Bogart handled his showdown with Dr. Clitterhouse with a coiled intensity rather than an expected flashpoint explosion of anger.
Unfortunately, the film’s climax is odd, going for a broadly comic tone that doesn’t fit with the rest of the story and jarringly ends the film.
Several radio broadcasts of “Dr. Clitterhouse” aired during the 1940s with Robinson reprising his role, a testament to the popularity of the piece. It’s still an enjoyable film today and one I would recommend.
Friday, January 6, 2012
The Lady Eve is hosting an in-depth blogathon during the month of January examining the Alfred Hitchcock classic "Vertigo."
Later this month, I will contribute a piece on Jimmy Stewart to the blogathon, but please read all of the excellent posts. I am a big admirer of The Lady Eve and am honored to be participating.
Check out The Lady Eve's Reel Life!