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Jan Morrow shares a phone party line with her neighbor, to her dismay, Brad Allen. The two soon bump into each other and form an unlikely relationship...but not before Brad pretends to be a dashing southern gentleman from Texas named Rex Stetson. Hilarity ensues.
For more about Pillow Talk and the Pillow Talk Blu-ray release, see Pillow Talk Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on April 25, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Tony Randall, Thelma Ritter, Nick Adams, Julia Meade
Director: Michael Gordon (I)
» See full cast & crew
Pillow Talk Blu-ray Review
The film that helped define rom-com.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, April 25, 2012
Sometime in the mid to late sixties, Doris Day got saddled with the "Oldest Living Virgin" label, something which seemed somewhat a propos considering her squeaky clean, almost asexual screen persona. Day was always the girl next door, even when she traversed in unusual territory like Julie or the 1956 Hitchcock remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much. With her slightly raspy voice and inherently sweet disposition, Day was the Eisenhower Era's answer to Marilyn Monroe, another stunningly beautiful blonde that you wouldn't be worried about bringing home to meet Mom. This generic labeling of Day often underestimates her real skill as an actress. She was never showy, and she frankly never really was cast in anything totally demanding, but she always managed to perfectly capture the flavor of whatever film she was in, whether that was the growing hysteria of the mother in the Hitchcock opus or, perhaps more memorably, her lighter than air comedy pairings with the likes of Rock Hudson and James Garner in the late fifties and early sixties. Day excelled at these fluffy comedy films, and the fact is she is sexy in them, in her own down home, unpretentious way. Day probably had no finer showcase in this genre than the film that rather improbably brought her her only Oscar nomination for Best Actress, the fondly remembered 1959 Ross Hunter quasi-farce Pillow Talk. Day had begun her film career in some middling musicals which hoped to capitalize on her immense popularity as a vocalist, but by the mid-fifties she had started stretching out, at least a little, including in what might arguably called her finest performance (and one perhaps more deserving of Academy recognition than Pillow Talk), that of Ruth Etting in the biopic Love Me or Leave Me (which did receive an Oscar nomination for Day's frequent Columbia records music director, Percy Faith, who arranged the music for the film). But the late fifties saw Day shift almost exclusively to breezy comedy fare, and it seemed to suit her to a tee, at least based upon the then stellar box office receipts of Pillow Talk, a film which became something of a pop cultural sensation when it was released in 1959.
As the commentary included on this Blu-ray gets into, the most perplexing thing about Pillow Talk for younger viewers may well be the notion of a "party line". In this day and age when fewer and fewer people have hard wired land telephone lines in their personal arsenal, something as old fashioned as a party line may seem like a relic of a bygone age, which of course it is. Well into at least the mid-sixties (and according to commentator Jeff Bond, in his neighborhood, the early seventies) it wasn't uncommon for several people to share the same "community" phone line. While everyone had their own individual number, the actual phone lines were shared, meaning anyone on that party line could pick up their phone to make a call and discover that someone else on the party line was already engaged in a conversation. More often than not no one had any idea who the others on their party line might be, and that is the central conceit of Pillow Talk. Doris Day portrays interior decorator Jan Morrow who is beleagured by never being able to use her home phone due to the ubiquitous calls of her party line nemesis, songwriter slash lothario Brad Allen (Rock Hudson).
In best romantic comedy fashion, hate at first sight only oh so slightly masks the spark of passionate conflagration, and that of course is the arc that Pillow Talk charts. While there's absolutely no doubt that the film is heading steadily toward a happily ever after, in this case the getting there is about as bright and breezy of any film from that era, and perhaps of all time. Scenarists Maurice Richlin, Stanley Shapiro and the well-known team of Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene craft an expertly structured piece that initially sets up Day and Hudson as enemies, then wanders through a cartwheeling escapade where one, then the other, of the duo falls in love, only to be angered, leading to them supposedly renouncing their affections.
The film benefits not just from the wonderful and almost palpable chemistry between Day and Hudson, neither of whom has ever been better or more enjoyable, but especially from a couple of brilliant supporting turns. Tony Randall is on hand as an erstwhile suitor of Day's who (again in best romantic comedy fashion) turns out to be the benefactor of Hudson's songwriter character. And absolutely stealing every scene she's in is the inimitable Thelma Ritter, here essaying a perpetually drunk and/or hung over housekeeper of Day's who is not so secretly smitten with Hudson, regularly listening in on his lascivious conversations with his revolving door series of girlfriends. (Ritter, like Day, received an Oscar nomination for her performance.)
Aside from its smart and expertly crafted Oscar winning screenplay and its uniformly engaging performances, Pillow Talk is a veritable riot of late fifties chic in terms of its Oscar nominated production design as well as its sumptuously gorgeous costumes (by Jean Louis). Day graduated into high style with Pillow Talk, taking off on what would become the most popular era of her long career, and though she has an impossibly huge wardrobe for a mere working girl in Manhattan, she looks absolutely fantastic in a wide array of haute couture. (Day was evidently aghast in her later life by how much fur she wore in this film as well as several others she made. Day of course went on to a well publicized avocation as an animal rights activist.)
This is the sort of bright, breezy, lightweight entertainment that they simply don't seem to be able to make anymore. Pillow Talk nonetheless remains surprisingly relevant with its subtext of careerism versus settling down, and what exactly women want. The fact that it manages to delve into these sometimes contentious subjects with so much hilarity and joie de vivre is perhaps the film's crowning achievement.
Pillow Talk Blu-ray, Video Quality
Pillow Talk is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. This is yet another Universal catalog release that will no doubt be derided for some apparent DNR, though it must be stated that grain is quite evident in the bulk of the film. What belies the use of DNR is the relative absence of grain in the film's many split screen opticals, something made all the more apparent by the commentary, which mentions the uptick in grain when it really isn't very noticeable at all. Putting the always contentious issue of noise reduction aside, the rest of this transfer looks absolutely fantastic. The elements are in great shape, with literally only a handful of very small blemishes dotting the landscape. Best of all here are the colors, which almost explode off the screen a lot of the time. Reds are especially vibrant in this presentation, and in fact come perilously close to blooming more than once. Fine detail is quite pleasing throughout the film, especially in close-ups.
Pillow Talk Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Pillow Talk offers a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix delivered via a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. Fidelity here is top notch, if obviously narrow and shallow, but dialogue comes through sparklingly clear and the song cues and underscore all sound just fine. The mix here is very well prioritized, and while this is obviously a largely dialogue driven piece with occasional musical interludes, the track is pleasantly presented if never overly ambitious. There is no egregious damage of any kind to report, and there's really not even much hiss evident in the high frequency ranges.
Pillow Talk Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Pillow Talk Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Pillow Talk is as effervescent as ever on this new Blu-ray release, and perhaps the most surprising thing is how this film, now more than fifty years old, doesn't feel that dated at all. Day is, well, sexy (albeit in a sort of non threatening way) and her rapport with Hudson is palpable. The supporting cast is aces, especially the hysterically funny Ritter, in one of her best ever performances. The film looks fantastic due to its elegant production design and glamorous costumes, and while some will decry Universal's standard use of DNR, the rest of this transfer looks very fine indeed. With some excellent supplements, a handsome DigiBook presentation with some nice supplementary printed information, and excellent audio, this release comes Highly recommended.
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Pillow Talk Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Pillow Talk Blu-ray - February 7, 2012
As part of its 100th Anniversary this year, Universal Studios Home Entertainment will offer re-issues of catalog titles, and the Pillow Talk Blu-ray will arrive in the May wave. Director Michael Gordon's classic romantic comedy stars Doris Day (The Man Who Knew ...
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