Doris Day

Pillow Talk (1959)

Pillow Talk 1959

Decorator Jan Morrow (Doris Day) has a pretty good life. She’s got a good career, a nice apartment in New York, a perpetually-hungover housekeeper named Alma (Thelma Ritter). Two things she doesn’t have are a husband and her own phone line. Jan is forced to share a party line with playboy songwriter Brad Allen (Rock Hudson) and she can never get her calls through because Brad is constantly on the phone serenading his many female admirers. Anytime Jan complains, Brad just dismisses her as jealous of his active love life.

Fed up with the situation, Jan tries to get the phone company to give her her own phone line, but to no avail. Neither of them can stand the other, but that all changes one night when Brad goes out to a nightclub where Jan also happens to be. He recognizes her voice and when he sees how beautiful she is, he would love to introduce himself. But he knows that if she knew who he really was, she’d want nothing to do with him. So he creates the persona of Rex, an rich Texan rancher. Jan falls head over heels for Rex, but things get even more complicated when it turns out that Brad’s friend Jonathan (Tony Randall) is one of Jan’s clients and has been trying his hardest to win Jan’s heart.

Pillow Talk is simply one of the greatest comedies ever made. It’s the kind of movie that, if I’m having a bad day, I can always put that movie in and it will never fail to make me smile. Romantic comedies and lighthearted entertainment in general tend to never get the credit they deserve because people often mistake lightheartedness doesn’t take any talent. Pillow Talk may be fluff, but it is quality fluff in every way. Doris Day and Rock Hudson are both on top of their games. If you’ve never seen any of their other movies, you can watch Pillow Talk and understand exactly why they were such a celebrated on-screen duo. Not only are the leads fantastic, the supporting cast is equally great. Thelma Ritter and Tony Randall are so amazing. The writing is clever and the direction is sharp. The only way you can’t win with this movie is if you don’t like romantic comedies because Pillow Talk is romantic comedy at its finest; a complete and total delight.

What’s on TCM: April 2014

John Wayne Happy April, everyone!  For Turner Classic Movies, April 2014 isn’t just any ordinary month — it marks the channel’s 20th anniversary.  This entire month can only be described as a celebration of everything that makes TCM wonderful.  TCM will be celebrating their 20th year by handing control over to their fans with a week of viewer requested movies during the daytime from April 7-11th.  In prime time that same week, several of the top contestants in TCM’s Ultimate Fan competition will join Robert Osborne to introduce some of their favorite movies.  And on April 14th, the day the channel was launched, you’ll find a day packed to the brim with many of the greatest films ever made.

TCM’s anniversary isn’t the only major milestone happening this month.  April 2nd is the 100th birthday of Alec Guinness and April 3rd is Doris Day’s 90th birthday.  Both stars will be feted with 24-hour marathons of their films on their respective birthdays.  Also turning 90 this year is MGM Studios.  TCM will be featuring 48-hours of some of MGM’s finest films from April 17-18.

John Wayne fans may want to clear some space on their DVRs because  John Wayne is April’s Star of the Month.  Instead of having one night a week of his movies, as is usually the case for Star of the Month showcases, TCM will be dedicating five straight days to The Duke.  That’s right, from April 21-25, TCM will be all John Wayne, all the time.  Although I’m personally not the biggest fan of Westerns, I’ve gotta admit that John Wayne is a perfect choice to be Star of the Month during such a milestone month for TCM.

Now, let’s get on to the good stuff!

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It Happened to Jane (1959)

It Happened to Jane Poster

After the death of her husband, Jane Osgood (Doris Day) decides to start raising and selling lobsters to support her two children.  She’s thrilled to get her first big order from the Marshalltown Country Club, but when she ships the live lobsters by the E&P Railroad, they die because of the railroad’s inattentiveness.  Jane is horribly upset and with help from her longtime friend and lawyer George (Jack Lemmon), they sue the railroad for damages.

When railroad owner Harry Foster Malone (Ernie Kovacs) hears about the lawsuit, he agrees to offer Jane $700, the retail cost of the lobsters.  But since the country club has cancelled all future orders with Jane, she wants money to cover her lost business as well and is willing to fight for it.  She wins her court case, but E&P is willing to drag the case out through appeals.  Not wanting to play that game, Jane files a writ of execution against the railroad and gets a train, the Old 97, instead of money.

After Jane’s story is picked up by local reporter Matilda Runyon (Mary Wickes), the story becomes national news and reporters descend on Jane’s hometown.  The publicity for the E&P Railroad gets even worse when Malone insists that Jane start paying him rent for keeping the Old 97 on the track.  One reporter in particular, Larry Hall (Steve Forrest), takes a real interest in Jane and proposes to her, making George extremely jealous.

Meanwhile, Malone continues to wage war against Jane by cutting off train service to her hometown until she moves the Old 97.  Jane doesn’t know what to do, but George comes up with the idea of using the Old 97 to deliver her lobster orders.  George even offers to shovel coal on the train to make it happen.  But Malone continues to do everything in his power to beat Jane in this battle and keeps re-routing Jane’s train so it takes excessively long for them to get anywhere and eventually run out of coal.  Amidst all the stress of the trip, George manages to win Jane’s heart and even Malone ends up making peace with Jane.

I was totally charmed by It Happened to Jane.  How can anyone not be charmed by Doris Day and Jack Lemmon?  Putting Doris Day and Jack Lemmon together is a recipe for happiness in celluloid form.  I absolutely loved them together; it’s really too bad they didn’t star together in any other movies.  Ernie Kovacs is also very memorable in it.  The story is gentle and light without being overly cheesy. It’s the kind of movie that’s great to watch on a quiet Sunday afternoon.  It Happened to Jane was filmed on location in Connecticut, so it’s full with lovely scenery to look at.  However, it does have what has got to be one of the lamest songs Doris Day has ever sung — “Be Prepared.”  All in all, a very enjoyable flick.  Nothing Earth shatteringly good or bad, just a pleasant way to spend about an hour and a half.

What’s on TCM: April 2013

Olivier, Laurence_01Looks like we’re in for another busy month on TCM!  TCM has finally broken their long streak of making actresses the Star of the Month by giving the honor to Laurence Olivier in April.

Starting this month, every Friday night will be dedicated to a new series called Friday Night Spotlight.  Each month, Robert Osborne and a different guest co-host will introduce films dealing with a particular theme.  The first Friday Night Spotlight co-host is Cher, who has selected a number of movies with strong female characters, focusing on themes such as motherhood and women in the workplace each week.

If you’re a fan of TCM Underground, be sure to note that starting this month, it has been moved from Friday to Saturday nights.  The 2:00 AM start time remains the same, though.

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What’s on TCM: April 2012

Happy April, everybody!  TCM has a pretty fun schedule this month, but it’s organized a little differently than usual.  Usually things like the Star of the Month nights get one night each week.  But this month, those nights are all in one week from Monday to Friday.  Doris Day is the April Star of the Month so her movies will be on every night from April 2-6.  TCM will also be doing a spring break week this month from April 16-20, so every night will be fun, beachy movies like Gidget and Frankie and Annette Beach Party movies.  Now, onto the schedule:

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What’s on TCM: November 2011

If you’re a fan of blonde bombshells, this is the month for you!  Rather than having just one star of the month, TCM will be spotlighting two classic blondes every Monday and Wednesday this month.  All the classic blondes like Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, Jean Harlow, and Jayne Mansfield (just to name a few) will be getting their time to shine.  And in preparation for the TCM Classic Film Cruise, they’ll be playing a night of movies set on ships every Thursday.  Lots of fun stuff to look forward to, so let’s get to my picks for the month:

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Young Man With a Horn (1950)

Life hasn’t been easy for Rick Martin (Kirk Douglas).  His parents were killed when he was young, leaving his sister to care for him.  He didn’t have any friends, he wasn’t a good student, but one night he finds himself at a church and he discovers that he does have a passion for music.  He starts off by teaching himself how to play the piano and eventually sets his sights on learning the trumpet.  To earn the money to buy his own trumpet, he gets a job in a bowling alley and one night at work, he hears some great jazz music coming from a nearby club.  When Rick heads over to the club, he meets trumpeter Art Hazzard (Juano Hernandez) and Art takes Rick under his wing and becomes like a father to Rick.

Under Art’s tutelage, Rick becomes a phenomenal trumpet player as he grows up.  Eventually he lands a gig playing in a band, but he doesn’t last long there because the band leader doesn’t appreciate Rick’s love of impromptu solos.  But on the plus side, he does get to meet the band’s singer, Jo Jordan (Doris Day), and the two of them start a relationship.  Jo even helps Rick get a new job after he gets kicked out of the band.  All is going well for Rick and Jo until one night when Jo brings her friend Amy (Lauren Bacall) along to the club.  Rick is immediately drawn to how sophisticated and intelligent Amy is.  Even though Amy resists Rick’s advances and is hesitant about getting into a relationship with him, the two of them get married very quickly.

However, their marriage is anything but blissful.  They don’t spend much time together and when they do see each other, they fight.  The rough marriage takes its toll on Rick and he starts drinking more and more.  Even Art Hazzard can’t get him out of his miserable state of mind.  However, things quickly go from bad to worse when Art is killed in a tragic accident and then Rick decides he wants a divorce.  Rick falls into a deeper depression and his drinking gets even more out of control, costing him jobs and killing his love of music.  But luckily for Rick, getting thrown in a hospital turns out to be the best thing to happen to him because Jo arrives and helps him get a new lease on life.

Young Man With a Horn is one of my favorite types of movies — an underrated gem.  I don’t hear this one get talked about very often, but I really enjoyed it.  I loved Kirk Douglas in it, but Lauren Bacall and Doris Day were also great in it.  Hoagy Carmichael played “Smoke” Willoughby, Rick’s best friend, and I thought he made a great sidekick to Kirk Douglas.  But even with big names like Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, and Doris Day in the cast, I’d say the real star of the movie is the music.  Legendary bandleader Harry James is the one responsible for all of Kirk Douglas’ trumpet playing and even if I hadn’t liked the movie, I would have at least enjoyed listening to the music.

What makes this film worthy of a queer film blogathon is the fact that Lauren Bacall’s character is a lesbian.  Since this was made in 1950 with the production codes in full effect, they had to subtly hint at that fact.  So subtly in fact that in Lauren’s TCM Private Screenings interview, she said she was so naive at the time that she didn’t even realize her character left her husband for another woman.  When Jo tries to warn Rick about getting involved with Amy, she couldn’t come right out and say, “She prefers women.”  Instead, she says that Amy’s a “strange girl,” “mixed up inside,” and that he’s never known a girl “like her” before.  Early in their relationship, Amy tries telling Rick that she’s incapable of falling in love and we see her turn down his physical advances.  When they end their marriage, she tells him she’s tired of him trying to touch her all the time.  She also tells Rick that she agreed to marry him because basically, she thought she shouldn’t knock it until she tried it and that she thought she’d eventually grow to like it.  However, in Amy’s final scene, there’s a knowing look between Amy and her new girlfriend that makes it pretty clear it’s not necessarily marriage she didn’t like, she just didn’t like being married to a man. (To see some of Lauren’s scenes, click here.)

For more films with LGBT chracters, actors, or are about LGBT issues, visit Garbo Laughs to read the other blogathon contributions.