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Directed with Eisenhower-era panache by Michael Gordon, 1959's luxuriant-looking Pillow Talk fruitfully began not only the stars' partnership but a phase in both careers that redirected them into sophisticated adult-oriented comedies. Day plays uptight interior decorator Jan Morrow, who shares a party line (apparently a common practice in the 1950's) with lecherous Broadway tunesmith Brad Allen played by Hudson. They have never met in person, so their animosity builds as they eavesdrop on each other's private phone conversations. Brad finally meets Jan in a nightclub, becomes instantly smitten and then pretends to be a gentlemanly Texan named Rex Stetson in order to deflower her. Things come to a head during a Connecticut rendezvous when she figures out that Rex is really Brad, and an act of revenge is in the offing when she accepts an offer to redecorate his apartment. Both Day and Hudson are terrifically game here. Tony Randall (who plays pretty much the same role in all three films) is hilarious as Jan's multi-divorced millionaire suitor Jonathan, and Thelma Ritter is her typically sardonic self as Jan's boozy maid Alma giving romantic pointers to Brad in one of the film's funniest scenes. The period-rich set décor is at a kitschy high here, and still transitioning from her fifties musicals, Day even gets to sing three songs including the bouncy title tune. The best of the trio, 1961's Lover Come Back directed by Delbert Mann works the exact same plot devices as Pillow Talk, even the split-screen confrontations, but converts the pair into highly competitive advertising account executives at separate agencies. This time, Day is even more priggish as Carol Templeton, who loathes Hudson's Jerry Webster, as he manages to steal accounts under her and everybody else's nose by holding wild parties for the prospective clients. In an effort to pacify an ambitious model who wants to become a TV star, he shoots her in commercials for VIP, a product that doesn't exist. Through the incompetence of his nominal boss Pete Ramsey (again Randall), the commercials hit the airwaves, which force Jerry to recruit reclusive scientist Linus Tyler to invent a product for VIP. In her effort to steal the VIP account from Jerry, Carol mistakes Jerry for Linus, and the rest becomes inevitable. Co-written by Stanley Shapiro who also co-wrote Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back is more far-fetched than the earlier film, but its more frenetic pace, plethora of sexual double-entendres, constant tweaking of Madison Avenue ad agencies and a wildly improbable ending make it a funnier movie. Both Day and Hudson also seem more assured here, and Randall plays Ramsey with his trademark boastful befuddlement. After directing Day in 1963's hilarious The Thrill of It All!, Norman Jewison shows similar comic sensibilities with 1964's Send Me No Flowers with a sharp screenplay by longtime veteran Julius Epstein. This one represents something of a departure in that Day and Hudson play a married couple from the outset. As George and Judy Kimball, they are a happily married suburban couple hamstrung by his persistent hypochondria. Convinced that he is dying after a regular check-up, George spends the rest of the story preparing for what he thinks will be his imminent death, including setting up Judy with her next husband, a former suitor whom they literally run into at their country club. Unlike the previous two films, Hudson actually dominates this movie, and he is in peak comic form with a dryly funny turn as George. With her glamour minimized in favor of her homespun likeability, Day is relegated to the role of the confused wife here, though she has funny moments along the way. Randall steals all his scenes as devoted neighbor Arnold constantly in a drunken stupor in his premature bereavement over George's departure, and Paul Lynde has a riotous scene as an overly zealous memorial park director.

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MC01116 Send Me No Flowers/Lover Come Back/Pillow Talk DVD (1964 Doris Day/Rock Hudson) $19.98