'Pillow Talk': THR's 1959 Review

Pillow Talk - H - 1959
A brightly ingenious example of stimulating cinematic know-how in all departments.

On Oct. 6, 1959, Rock Hudson and Doris Day's Pillow Talk premiered in New York theaters. The film went on to be nominated for five Oscars at the 32nd Academy Awards, winning for its screenplay. The Hollywood Reporter's original review, headlined "'Pillow Talk' Hilarious, Sophisticated, Surefire," is below.

Pillow Talk is U-I's hilarious moonshot for top box office grosses and, to judge by the uproarious reaction of preview audiences, it is sure to hit the target of high grosses. This Ross Hunter and Martin Melcher production is a brightly ingenious example of stimulating cinematic know-how in all departments. The most exciting thing about it is that, under the surprisingly sophisticated direction of Michael Gordon, Rock Hudson undergoes the metamorphosis from stock leading man to one of the best light comedians in the business. He has acquired a playfulness reminiscent of Cary Grant with a puckish ability to handle droll double entendre gags equal to Gable's. He provoked almost continuous squeals of delight from the feminine portion of the audience. Already a major box office star, his new found light touch should keep him at the top for years to come.

The laughs in the outstanding screenplay by Stanley Shapiro and Maurice Richlin (based on a funny story by Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene) are founded on character and situation, which makes them harder to repeat than the usual joke book yuks that are dished up in many movie houses. The basic situation deals with an amiable wolf (Hudson) who is so adept at telephone buildups for his conquests that the interior decorator (Doris Day) who shares a party line with him seldom gets to use the phone. When she butts in on his conversations, he accuses her of having "bedroom troubles" that are making her neurotic. A fine healthy career woman, who has so far fought off the passes of many men, Doris now begins to be kept awake by the primary urge. After one of those "Cut it out now!" wrestling matches in a tiny sports car with an over-ambitious Harvard boy (Nick Adams), she meets Hudson, who assumes a phony name and an overboard Texas accent and proceeds to represent himself as a yokel Gallahad with a heart of gold. Doris, falling for this like a shooting gallery duck, begins to yearn to surrender to him. Hudson, in his own character (on the party line), begins to warn her that the mythical hayseed will get her into his hotel room and, when this results in nothing but seemly behavior, suggests that the rustic is swish.

Miss Day is absolutely tops in her combination of sophistication and naivete. She is assisted by a stunning Jean Louis wardrobe and by Larry Germain's hair styles that citify Doris without abandoning the home town bloom. Almost every known movie device is employed to help the story along. Miss Day's voice on the soundtrack sings a melting song (by Joe Lubin and I.J. Roth) anticipating complete surrender as she quietly cuddles next to Hudson, who looks knowingly smug Leslie Carey's and Robert Pritchard's sound effects achieve a house shaking yell when he indicates that the girl has got wise to the hero's deception with the bong of an offstage gong. Double and sometimes triple split-screen effects, in Eastman Color, are used by film editor Milton Carruth to let the laughs in the phone sequences top each other. 

Tony Randall is quite wonderful as the much-monied, much-married jerk who, unwittingly, is the girl's suitor and the boy's employer and who winds up playing the patsy to everyone. And Thelma Ritter is one continuous laugh as the cleaning woman who always arrives at work completely stoned and who spends her days dreamily listening to Hudson on the phone.

Set decorators Russell A. Gausman and Ruby R. Levitt have a field day when Hudson hires Miss Day to redecorate his apartment "in a manner to match his character" and she turns it into a montage of all the cat-houses in history. They also introduce an electrical switch that lowers the lights, turns on romantic music, and bolts the door at one flick of a finger. Julia Meade is cute as the willing red-headed victim of these electronics. 

Gordon's direction, though always lighthearted, is meticulously thorough in laying the ground work for his effects. To explain why a cat follows the lovers through the streets, he lures it on with the dangling cord of an electric blanket. When Hudson asks a telephone inspector (brilliantly played by Karen Norris) what she wants to inspect, her lips form "you" before she hastens to give a more conventional answer. Gordon gets by with a running gag which has Hudson repeatedly popping in and out of an obstetrician's office. He stretches this into an epilogue which, while still funny, may be an anticlimax to a farce that has, up until then, aroused much human sympathy. — Jack Moffitt, originally published on Aug. 12, 1959