Lover Come Back (1961): Movie Review

Lover Come Back starring Doris Day, Rock Hudson and Tony RandalLover Come Back (1961): Movie Review

Two years after debuting a sparkling chemistry in 1959′s Pillow Talk, Doris Day and Rock Hudson re-teamed for another romantic comedy, Lover Come Back. Again, they were joined by Tony Randall and a slew of amusing bit players for an appealing, candy-coated concoction of wit, sex, and broad humor. Over the years, I’ve read several critical reviews of the Day-Hudson filmography that label Lover the best of the lot. While I disagree with that assessment (to me, nothing beats their initial pairing in Talk), the film definitely has some of the same immense charms.

Lover Come Back features Day and Hudson as Carol Templeton and Jerry Webster, advertising executives at rival firms in New York City. While Carol works long hours perfecting pitches to secure clients, Jerry wines, dines, and schmoozes potential clients, pandering to their egos, wallets, and libidos. When Jerry succeeds in snatching yet another client out from under Carol’s nose, she reports him to the Advertising Council for his unethical and untenable behavior. To head off Carol’s attempt to jettison his career, Jerry convinces a showgirl, Rebel Davis (Edie Adams), to vouch for him, promising her a prominent role as the spokesgirl for a new product, VIP. The only problem? VIP hasn’t exactly been invented yet. And as Carol catches wind of the new, hot “account” and grows determined to win it for herself, Jerry plays the role of Linus, VIP’s “inventor,” determined all the while to seduce her and divert her attention from her campaign.

Sound familiar? It should–the plot of Lover Come Back borrows heavily from its predecessor. Again, we have Hudson role-playing in an attempt to fool Day’s busy, devoted career woman. And Randall, as Peter Ramsey, the typically-absent president of Jerry’s advertising firm, again functions as the wealthy best friend figure, miserable despite his good fortune and envious of Jerry’s from-the-bootstraps rise to success. But does the similarity between the two films ultimately detract from one or the other? Happily, the answer to that question is a resounding “no.” Despite the shared themes and character arcs, Lover is just as enjoyable as Pillow Talk, with moments of sheer comic brilliance that are all its own.

 

Interestingly, the movie does allow for a small change in the perception of Day’s sexuality, which creates a slightly more daring atmosphere (at least, for 1961). In Pillow Talk, Day’s Jan Morrow is the one being pursued by Hudson’s knowing, highly-sexed Brad, only allowing herself to give in after an aggressive campaign on his part. But in Lover, Day’s Carol becomes more the sexual aggressor, at least initially, and it’s fun to watch. “Linus,” as portrayed by Jerry, is an innocent, unsure of how to interact with women and ignorant of the delicate sexual relationship between the sexes. Yes, it is a carefully calculated ploy on Jerry’s part to elicit sympathy (and, by extension, sympathy love-making), and Carol falls for it hook, line, and sinker, taking it upon herself to “school” the brilliant but hapless inventor on the ways of love. She even allows herself to be manipulated into taking “Linus” to a strip club, much to Jerry’s delight (the two actors’ facial expressions as the off-screen stripper throws bits of her costume at Linus/Jerry are utterly priceless, as indicated in the screenshot above).

 

As in Pillow Talk, the ensemble of supporting characters are a hilarious addition to the film. As Rebel, the gorgeous Adams is particularly effective, especially in her performance in front of the Ad Council, in which she declares Jerry to be beyond reproach as she leans over the table to give each man on the panel a better look at Jerry’s (faux) “good conduct” medal, nestled benignly in her impressive cleavage. Jack Albertson and Charles Watts play a pair of friends who always manage to run across Jerry as he’s wooing yet another pretty girl–their running commentary on Jerry’s remarkable stamina is laugh-out-loud funny. And Ann B. Davis (The Brady Bunch’s Alice) brings her prototypical snark to a small but ultimately pivotal role as Carol’s secretary, Millie, who arranges a (very) last-minute reconciliation for her boss and Jerry at the end of the film.

 

Part of the enjoyment of the movie comes from its satirical look at American big business in the early 1960s–particularly the advertising game. It’s interesting to compare this film to the current television show Mad Men, which takes a more serious (and perhaps bleaker) look at the field during roughly the same time period. True, the similarities between the two are surface-level at best. Still, there are hints of Jerry in Mad Men’s Don Draper: both are womanizing cads; both are determined to do what it takes to land an account; neither man is overly concerned by questions of ethics or morality. And there are tendrils of Carol Templeton in Men’s Peggy Olson: both are women in a predominantly male-driven field, trying to succeed despite the obstacles in their respective paths.

 

Filled with witty one-liners, some simply stunning costumes for Day, and several great slapstick moments (of particular note is the scene in which Jerry and Peter go hunting only to inadvertently attract the amorous attentions of a moose), Lover Come Back is nothing less than an enjoyable romp, courtesy of the dynamic duo of Hudson and Day.

Brandie Ashe is a freelance writer and editor from Alabama. Brandie and her co-authors Carrie and Nikki run True Classics: The ABCs of Classic Film, where they share their love of Alfred Hitchcock, screwball comedies, Katharine Hepburn, and all things old-school Disney. Visit their Facebook page here.

  • tony

    For me, this was a better film than Pillow Talk. The whole cast, script and story line was a sheer joy to watch and never dates. The chemistry of Day & Garner in later films didn’t have the spark.

  • http://www.facebook.com/whatever41 Cynthia LaRochelle

    One of the funniest films ever, what a great cast. I could watch over and over.

  • The Lady Eve

    I don’t really have a favorite or preference among the three Doris Day/Rock Hudson romcoms, enjoy them all – and enjoyed the 2003 spoof “Down With Love” (David Hyde Pierce was an xlnt Tony Randall, though the leads could’ve been better cast).
    Also like Doris very much with James Garner in “The Thrill of it All” and “Move Over, Darling.” I want to like “That Touch of Mink” with Cary Grant but don’t, and never understood why she was teamed with Rod Taylor.

  • Blair Kramer.

    I’ve gotta watch my DVD copy of “Lover, come back” again. It’s been a while since I’ve seen that film and I frankly don’t remember it very well. But I DO remember “Pillow Talk” with great fondness. It’s one of the best films of its type ever made. In fact, Ewan McGregor and Renee Zwelwegger made a very entertaining homage to “Pillow Talk” a few years back called “Down With Love.” Critical reaction to it was decidedly lukewarm, but that doesn’t matter. As we all know, film critics are always wrong. About everything. All the time. I recommend “Down With Love” to anyone who appreciates great old romantic comedies of the past, especially “Pillow Talk.” It even boasts an appearance by Tony Randall! Unfortunately, it failed at the box office because it completely went over the heads of everyone under the age of 50. One has to be familiar with the older films in order to appreciate “Down With Love.” And as we all know, most movie goers these days are quite young. But some of us have what is known as an “old soul.” If you’re anything like me, you will enjoy “Down With Love.”

  • bowritely

    I’ve gotta go with Lover Come Back over Pillow Talk for a possibly unique reason. My parents took then 11-year-old me to the ophthalmologist for an eye exam, then immediately onward to the (I think) late, lamented Roxy Theater in NYC where I watched Pillow Talk through majorly blurry eyes. In addition to perhaps being a little young to get the most out of the movie, I forever-after thought that Doris Day was always shot through vaseline-soaked gauze.

    Loved her dearly, though ;-)

  • JUanita Curtis

    Thoroughly enjoyed your article and also think Lover Come Back is almost as good as Pillow Talk. The chemistry between Doris and Rock was so palpable . Down with Love did not resonate with audiences because as good as Ewan and Renee are as actors they could not replicate that chemistry.

  • joan m. slotnick

    Great movie, and better than Pillow Talk which was classic.
    They just do not make movies like those anymore and frankly do not have to actors that use to be either. Remakes are in the most part horrendeous. I think the newer writers have brain freeze and have to use old stories to make movies. Sad.
    Day and Hudson were a perfect match and are truly missed as is Tony Randall the perfect sidekick for them.
    Oh for the good old days of movies made.

  • Chester

    Blair, above, is absolutely right about Down With Love. It WAS a nifty little film. Some aspects of it, catering to a modern crowd I suppose, I could have done without. I think it was some language or overt sexual reference. I’m no prude, to be sure, but I really long for films that are pretty harmless and simply act as diversion.

  • Fred B.

    To me, “Lover” is the best of the lot.They worked well in the other films, but in “Lover” they hit the nail on the head. The writing, acting,direction; there was not a wasted scene in this funny,funny film. Doris and Rock really proved how great they were at comedy,especially Hudson, we knew Day was a very talented actress and she had proved herself at comedy with all her Warner films. This is pure gold as far as I’m concerned…

  • Wayne

    I don’t have a preference between either P.T or L.C.B. because both movies were(and still are) FUN to watch.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kenneth.m.henderson Kenneth Henderson

    IT’s a film I have memories of seeing with the family one evening in a downtown Melbourne(Australia) picturehouse(a house divided later and still there) Greater Union’s The State. Dad had won tickets on the radio. I enjoyed the film and I remember the short(20mins?) that went out with it, a color one probably from Universal which was made in Tokyo showing life there then. In a nightclub scene a guy at the table had a Warner Bros badge on the pocket of his suit coat.I was all of 10 or 11 then and into movies after 3 years or so of TV. Of course I have the DVD of the Doris Day film.Wonder what happened to the short?

  • Carol

    Just a little info for all you Doris Day/Rock Hudson fans. Each year, Mattel immortalizes a few movie stars in their new line up. This year, it will be a set of dolls – Doris Day & Rock Hudson. Check it out on BarbieCollectible.com. Adorable. A Farrah Fawcett doll is also in the works!

  • LIz

    I would have to give the edge to Lover Come Back.
    I liked all the Doris Day/ Rock Hudson movies. I enjoy watching them everytime they are shown. The was one Doris Day paring I didn’t warm up to and that was Please Don’t Eat the Daisies with David Niven.

  • maxfabien

    When “Lover Come Back” came to my local movie house, I went to see it by myself om opening day. I was 11 years old. I thought it was very funny, and I was kinda imbarrassed cuz I thought it was also pretty naughty! I was surprisedthey allowed me in to see it. The next day, I was passing by the same theater, and on the box office window was a sign, “Adults Only”!! Remember, this was 1961.

  • Char

    What magic moments the Day/Hudson movies provided – they still are a great escape for anyone who just wants to be entertained and not have a life lesson pounded into the brain. As for comparing Pillow Talk to Lover Come Back, I don’t have a preference.

  • Dawn

    Lady Eve, just wondering if you’re aware that Move Over, Darling was actually a remake of sorts of My Favorite Wife with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne? For this fact, I could not enjoy the Doris Day version. Remakes in general – old or new – just never seem to be as good as the original. I wasn’t too thrilled with Down With Love either, which was more of a spoof than a remake, IMHO.

  • ED

    I enjoyed Doris & Rock in their movies together and of course all of Doris’s movies whether they were musicals or comedies. I disagree with Dawn (above) about remakes. I enjoyed both the Irene Dunne & Doris Day versions of Move Over Darling & My Favorite Wife. Their versions represented a different comedy approach. I don’t have a VHS/DVD copy of M/F/W but own a VHS of M/O/D.

  • K C

    HBO just showed Down With Love this past evening evoking some guffaws from me as I remembered the funny and enjoyable Day/Hudson/Randall series of flicks.

  • Blair Kramer.

    Finally got around to viewing my DVD of “Lover Come Back.” It’s very good but “Pillow Talk” is certainly better.

  • mike jaral

    to me all the 50’s 60’s movies of this type were just great fun movies to go see. most all the big name actors got into one of these comedies in those years. to bad the era is gone, and we se the junk of today. no more movies like a “it’s a mad mad mad mad world” or “pepe”. gone are the rat packs, the jerry lewis and tony curtis’s. only one I can think of is robert deniro when he plays a comedy part.but for the most part there all gone. enjoy what we have on film. they won’t be back.

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