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Retroflicks/Cinema Review

 

Good 'Day' with Rock Hudson

 

By Anoopama Sinha



Rock Hudson left audiences
spellboundMovies in their myriad manifestations have captured the fancy of five generations and have produced some everlasting memories. One such memory is of the dashing Rock Hudson wooing Doris Day in three beautifully crafted romantic comedies.


These movies, that they appeared together in, were not “Gone with the Wind” or “Doctor Zivago”. They were just simple storytelling with some stellar performances.

I discovered Doris Day Rock Hudson movies quite by chance. While watching the Renée Zellweger movie “Down with Love” I was reminded of a similar movie I saw as a teenager. All I remembered about the movie was that it starred Tony Randall as well. I was sure I would remember the name of the movie if I came across it. So, I sat down and googled about it and pronto, I found it. The movie was “Boys' Night Out”, a James Garner/Kim Novak outing.

Listed just below it, on that site, was another movie called "Lover Come Back". It starred Doris and Rock and it also had me hooked on to Rock-Doris movies. It was almost love at first screening. Not surprising, because their first pairing in “Pillow Talk” had a whole generation hooked onto the magic they created together. It was not the first movie of its kind. In fact, Cary Grant, Clark Gable and to some lesser extent Jimmy Stewart and Spencer Tracy had made a career out of the soft bickering-romantic comedies. Who can forget movies like “An Affair to Remember” (Grant/Kerr), “It Happened One Night” (Gable/Colbert), “Adam’s Rib” (Tracy/Hepburn) and “It’s a Wonderful World” (Stewart/Colbert).

The difference between a good movie and a bad one in the bickering-romantic genre is the chemistry between the leads. I can categorically say that Doris and Rock had one of the best on screen chemistry if not the best (a tough statement to give with Tracy/Hepburn around). I think what they brought to the screen was more than just the romance. They brought out the gender struggle of the era to a crescendo by pitching a woman who was ladylike and yet feisty.

 

This was a carryover from Doris Day’s earlier movies in which she was generally casted as a woman standing against all odds be it as a single mother fighting the railroad company in “It Happened to Jane” or the spirited employee representative of “The Pajama Game” and it was still quite different from her earlier roles. For instance, in IHTJ, her romance with Jack Lemmon is nothing more than a sidenote in her character while Jack’s character was based around it. In Doris-Rock movies, though our heroine is quite the stirrer, she is also not averse to mixing it up a little romantically.

I think this is what is missing in modern day romantic comedies. The actors fail to bring their personalities along when they create a character on screen. Most of the actors can be found sleepwalking through romantic comedies anyway. With the exception of Matthew McConaughey and Gerard Butler most of the actors seem to be sleepwalking through their roles. Even Ralph Fiennes chose a romantic comedy to give his weakest performance to-date. Trust me when I tell you that Cary grant or even Bill Pullman would have made the role more memorable than it turned out to be with Ralph playing it. It is a ruthless genre and even playing a straightforward character amidst the normal farce that goes with the territory is not easy.

A look at the structure of these movies and you could see that they played to a formula. Like I said, they did not pretend to be great movies, they honestly were just great entertainment. A constant in few of these movies was the comic genius of aforementioned Tony Randall. He was the perfect foil for the two actors. Tony had in him the understated ability to make even the most mundane lines jump to life. Honestly, I miss these simple qualities in recent movies. We will continue our talks about the romantic comedy genre by going back to Clark Gable and MGM/Warner Brother comedies in our next meeting. Till then my pick are these three classics of Rock Hudson and Doris Day


1.       Lover Come Back

2.       Send Me No flowers

Happy viewing ever-lasting classics!






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