Pillow Talk (US, 1959)

Surprisingly funny

Why was this surprisingly funny, a ‘classic’ romcom from the 1950s? I assumed it would be anodyne given the mores of Hollywood at the time and that reactionary values would prevail. Having seem some, not this one I think, Day-Hudson vehicles as a child my memories of them were nothing special. However…

As a child I missed the double entendres (Tony Randall remarks he’s been looking forward to Rock Hudson getting his branch cut off) and so these were surprising.  Also Day’s character as an independent career woman was good to see – albeit in interior design (ie a ‘feminine’ occupation). However…

Reactionary values do prevail as the romance is consummated by Hudson’s character simply carrying her back to his; the caveman approach. En route she asks a copper to arrest him; the copper shrugs as if to say it’s entirely natural.

Genuinely funny through narrative contrivance and slapstick – Hudson getting into a minute sports car – and with stylish use of split screen across the cinemascope frame, this is worth seeing. On the verge of the ‘free love’ ’60s, this sex-free romcom was on the edge of extinction though – as Tamar Jeffers McDonald argues in her book on the genre – this traditional romcom is back where there is no doubt that the couple will be together for ever after and sex is definitely on the back burner.

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