It’s no surprise that Rock Hudson dominated the melodrama era of 50s entertainment. His turn in Written on the Wind, whilst not the most engaging from an editing and writing standpoint, offers up a fine performance of his, one where he really leans into those unique, leading man charms. Pillow Talk should be of no surprise then, and for those that have seen only a handful of his more typecast, typical roles, that this romantic comedy will rely on those charms once more. Sharing the screen with the starlets of the 1950s, Hudson collaborated with some of the best, and Pillow Talk appears, for many, to be the jewel in his crown. Whether it was a lack of reaction from myself, or an inability to invest deeper, something doesn’t sit right with me throughout this forgettable, yet charming rom-com.
Director Michael Gordon guides us through arguably his best-known work, one that muses on a rather predictable relationship between Brad Allen (Hudson) and Jan Morrow (Doris Day). Regardless of poor writing, it’s a real pleasure to watch these veteran actors work so seamlessly together. For much of the film, they’re cordoned off in their own apartments, conversing over telephone as the two share a telephone line. I’m young enough to not know what that is, but I assure you, by the way Pillow Talk showcases it, it looks like a real nightmare. With Allen disguising his voice and meeting Morrow in person, romance begins to blossom between two neighbours who despise one another.
With the relative simplicity of “this isn’t who it seems”, Hudson carves out a comfortable leading role for himself, propping up Day in a solid performance. Sparks fly with artificial strain, and a forgettable story plunges us into a rather dreary, predictable farce. Predictability isn’t always a negative connotation, it’s just that Pillow Talk doesn’t really throw in anything that could make it stand out from the thousands of other films that attempt the same attitude of will-they, won’t-they. It’s rather forgettable, but you may find yourself enjoying the odd pocket of wisdom or wit the film displays in rare moments of creativity.
It’s rather easy to slip right into Pillow Talk, but easier to slip back out. There’s not much here for me, outside of seeing two greats perform on the same screen as one another. Day and Hudson have their charms, but it doesn’t feel like it’s worth it in the long run. The highs and lows are neither intricate or engaging, and there’s a real lack of substance in the glazed, colourful sets adorned by a host of poor, inconsistent character arcs. It’s by no means boring, all the pieces of a particularly easy puzzle are there, but it’s not entertaining enough, a tragedy considering the talent on display.