Sunday, April 18, 2010

Underrated Movie #60: Lover Come Back

Title: Lover Come Back
Year: 1961
Director: Delbert Mann (Marty)
Writers: Stanley Shapiro and Paul Henning
Stars: Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Tony Randall, Edie Adams

The Story: She’s a go-getter ad exec who believes in impressing the client with quality. He’s a Don Draper-ish lothario who gets accounts by getting the client laid. When she finally decides to beat him at his own game, he lets her play right into his hands, but she’s determined to get the last laugh.

How it Came to be Underrated: Oscar Levant famously quipped “I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin.” She had an uncanny ability to make all her sex appeal and sophistication disappear whenever she needed it to, then come roaring back out when she got a chance at some hip adult material like this. The problem is that the sweet version is the one that stuck in the public mind. Most people today assume that a “Doris Day movie” is going to be saccharine. Boy, are they in for a surprise when they check this out.

Why It’s Great:

  1. Both “Mad Men” and Down With Love (which spoofed this series of movies) seem to assume that only now can we look back with appropriate horror at the corporate culture and neanderthal male shananigans of the early ‘60s, so it’s shocking to see a downright nasty satire like this hitting all the same targets while everything was still going on.
  2. Rock Hudson’s acting in melodramas like Giant and All That Heaven Allows hasn’t aged well, and, given what we all now know, it’s easy to falsely infer that he was simply uncomfortable playing straight. Well that gets blown out of the water as soon as you see him in a romantic comedy, where he’s loose, funny, cocky, confident and the most alpha of males—everything that Gerard Butler only wishes he was today.
  3. When Hudson has to mollify a showgirl, he casts her in a fake ad campaign for a non-existent product called Vip, but then the ad campaign gets released accidentally... The ads don’t say what it is, only that it’ll solve all problems. The public is sold on it right away. “This will be the most convincing demonstration of the power of advertising ever conceived, you have sold a product that doesn’t exist!” At the time, this was outrageous satire, today it’s everyday reality. Steve Jobs based his whole career on this movie.
  4. This movie pushes the line between screwball and flat-out black comedy. We laugh, but we also wince as Hudson keeps lying more and more to Day. (Thankfully, she manages to hold her own even when she’s the butt of the jokes.) There’s a dark heart underneath all this as wicked as In the Company of Men. He’s really trying to corrupt her, not just tricking her into bed, but trying to sell her on his whole cynical worldview. Dark stuff! If the fun ever stopped, you’d weep.

If You Like This, You Should Also Check Out: This was one of three satirical comedies made with the same three stars in a short period of time. The first was Pillow Talk and the third was Send Me No Flowers. All three are smart, subversive, and very funny. (And in all three Rock openly jokes on screen about being gay, with a big wink! How exactly did nobody notice this at the time?)

How Available Is It?: It’s on DVD.

Today’s Post Was Brought To You By: Franchise!

1 comment:

RosieP said...

This is my favorite Hudson/Day movie. It's so deliciously corrupt and funny.