To celebrate Doris Day's 80th birthday, Universal and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment have released a collection of 6 of her most memorable romantic comedies. Made during the Fifties and Sixties and starring some of Hollywood's top leading men of the day, all of these movies have a beautifully quaint appeal, some more than others. I'll run through them in chronological order with the earliest being Young At Heart made in 1954 and starring Frank Sinatra alongside Doris.
YOUNG AT HEART tells the story of the Tuttles, a family with a love for music. The father plays the flute and his three daughters play the harp, the violin and Laurie Tuttle (Day) plays the piano and sings. When Laurie meets Alex Burke, a handsome young composer (Gig Young) a romance blossoms much to the envy of her two sisters who also have eyes for him. Alex is working on a musical comedy and calls upon the services of his friend Barney Sloan (Sinatra) who works as both a musical score arranger and a barroom singer/pianist.
Sloan has a massive chip on his shoulder and believes life will always deal him a rough hand. His sarcasm, embitterment, self pity and rudeness draws interest from Laurie who sees him a challenge but also with a brilliant natural talent if only he could realise it too. Slowly Laurie's feelings begin to grow stronger for Barney and she has to decide whether to marry Alex Burke or elope with the wild at heart Barney Sloane.
Young At Heart features some wonderful music composed by Cole Porter and Ira Gershwin and delivered impeccably by Mr Sinatra but this has to be the weakest of all the stories in this collection. It is by no means terrible, but it does lack the sparkle and the comedy of some of the others. The Sinatra / Day partnership doesn't really work and Sinatra's character struggles to win sympathy from the viewer which is intricate to the success of the story. Great music but comes in last place for an endearing story award.
The second movie is the first of her collaborations with Rock Hudson and is the 1959 movie PILLOW TALK.
Pillow Talk is probably my favourite of all the movies in this collection and whereas Sinatra / Day didn't quite gel, Hudson / Day works perfectly. Pillow Talk is about two people, Jan Morrow (Day) who is an Interior Designer and Brad Allen (Hudson), a songwriter and notorious playboy. They both live in the same apartment block and share a telephone party line over which they develop an intense dislike for one another as Brad is always on the phone to one of his many female friends and Jan can never make a call.
When Brad finally puts a face to Jan's voice, he finds himself up against his most difficult female conquest challenge to date. Pillow Talk works on so many fronts. The comedy is wonderful and the Hudson's tongue in cheek approach works perfectly alongside Day's irate character. I say this is a partnership, but actually this is really a trio as the comedy sidekick role is supplied by Tony Randall who will support these two in a few more releases to come. This movie is like the original 'You've Got Mail' and if you enjoyed that then you'll love this. Rock Hudson has a presence onscreen that has yet to be bettered. Long before he came 'out', this movie cements his status as a Hollywood heartthrob and places him up there with Cary Grant, Errol Flynn and Clark Gable as one of the all time greats. The perfect movie for those wintry Sunday afternoons wrapped up under the duvet with a hot mug of cocoa!
The third movie is LOVER COME BACK and is Doris Day's second partnership with Rock Hudson and Tony Randall.
Lover Come Back revolves around two Madison Avenue advertising rivals played by Day and Hudson. Account executive Hudson uses unethical means of securing accounts while Day lures clients with her charm and knowledge. But when he steals a client out from under her nose, revenge propels her to infiltrate his secret VIP campaign in order to persuade the mystery product's scientist to switch to her advertising firm. Unbeknownst to her, the scientist is actually Hudson himself, who's happily enjoying his deception and Day's company expense account too. Now this synopsis also reminds me of a more recent movie, What Women Want starring Mel Gibson. Copies? Not quite, but I'm sure these were sources of inspiration for many recent movies.
This does not have quite the same standard of storyline as Pillow Talk and is not so involving but the cast do manage to pull it off fairly well and this too is an enjoyable romantic comedy.
The Fourth movie is THAT TOUCH OF MINK starring Cary Grant and Doris Day.
Giving Rock Hudson a rest for now, That Touch of Mink casts Day with another top Hollywood star of the time, Cary Grant. The story is a little less comedy and a little more romance as Grant plays a rich businessman who woos Doris Day's character into a romantic affair. Problems arise when they have different agendas. Grant wants nothing more than a simple love affair and Day wants to hold onto her virginity until she is married. Made in 1962, That Touch of Mink does work on both the partnership front and the storyline but could benefit from a little more humour to be as endearing as some in this collection.
THE THRILL OF IT ALL is next up and stars James Garner (The Rockford Files) along with Doris. Made back in 1963 it marks a definite return to form for Doris and her trademark romantic movies.
Garner plays Dr Boyer, a wealthy obstetrician and Day plays his squeaky clean wife Beverly Boyer. Whilst at a dinner party, Beverly tells the manufacturer of a product called 'Happy Soap' just what she thinks of it and impressed by her honesty and innocence he offers her the chance to appear in his TV commercials for the product. Beverly hesitantly accepts and dramatically goes from housewife to TV celebrity much to the dismay of her now neglected husband. Written by Carl Reiner ( Ocean' Twelve) who also makes a cameo appearance as the German/cad/cowboy) takes a satirical look at the world of advertising but could be considered in this day and age to be a little sexist at the implication that a woman's place is in the home. Still, it's a lot of fun and full of laughs. Garner and Day work excellently together and overall this is a wonderful movie.
Lastly is the classic, SEND ME NO FLOWERS which again teams up the Day / Hudson and Randall trio.
Send Me No Flowers is one of those classic misunderstanding movies where everyone has hold of a different end of the stick. Hudson plays an hilarious hypochondriac who after eavesdropping in on his doctor's telephone conversation believes he is dying. He confides in his closest friend played by Tony Randall and attempts to not only get his affairs in order before the ominous day but also to find his beloved wife played by Day, a new husband without her knowing anything about it.
This marks the very welcome return of these three together again and it is hilarious. If you enjoy these quaint movies from yesteryear then this one should definitely be at the top of your list. Some of the scenes including the 'cemetery plot' scene are unforgettable and Randall as the friend who turns to drink at the thought of losing his buddy is very, very funny.
With the title tune written by Burt Bacharach, Send Me No Flowers has all the ingredients for a perfect movie and it is such a shame that they don't make films like this anymore or maybe it's just as well. The innocence and naivety of a time gone by is perfectly captured here in this collection and would make a perfect Christmas present for all fans of this era in cinema.
Our Review Ethos