Monday, October 25, 2010

Send Me No Flowers (1964)

The first of the romantic comedies to pair Doris Day and Rock Hudson, Pillow Talk, was both an absolute delight and a box-office smash. Their second outing, Lover Come Back, repeated the formula and surprisingly was almost as good. Their third and final teaming in Send Me No Flowers proved that lightning might strike twice, but it doesn't strike three times. This one just doesn't quite make it.

That's not to say that it isn't entertaining, but the magic is just somehow lacking.

Hudson is George Kimball, the world’s biggest hypochondriac. On yet another visit to his doctor he overhears a telephone call. The doctor is discussing another patient who has only a few weeks to live, and of course he thinks he’s the one who is about to die.

Once he gets over the shock he decides that his first priority must be to line up a new husband for his wife Judy (Doris Day). The bumbling efforts of George and his best friend Arnold (Tony Randall) to find Judy a suitable new mate have the effect of making her suspect that George is actually having an affair.

The slightness of the plot is no problem. The lead actors are all good enough to produce movie magic out of the flimsiest of comedy plots. The problem isn’t even the script. There are amusing gags and funny situations and again with three comic talents of the stature of Day, Hudson and Randall even a slightly weak script isn’t a fatal flaw.

The real problem is that the characters played by Day and Hudson are already married. The fun of any Doris Day romantic comedy is the sexual tension between her and her leafing man. For all the nonsense that has been written about Day as the eternal virgin her romantic comedies were all sex comedies and they worked because with any halfway decent leading man Day could produce an impressive quantity of sexual chemistry. She and Clark Gable sizzled in Teacher's Pet, and she and Hudson sizzled in Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back. The sexual tension was there on both sides, and it provided the fuel that made those movies zing. Casting them as a married couple was a major error of judgment.

There’s another problem, and that’s the character of Judy. In all of Day’s best romantic comedies she plays a smart, strong, independent, opinionated career woman. That’s what she did well. In Send Me No Flowers she has to play a housewife and it just doesn’t suit her style. She doesn’t get to be feisty enough, and she doesn’t get to be sexy enough.

Hudson is OK, but he was always at his best in this type of movie when his leading lady had the opportunity to provide some fireworks and with Day forced to play such a low-key role he has no-one to bounce off. Even Tony Randall is somewhat dull, since there’s no love interest for him and all he has to do is get drunk. There’s just a general lack of sex in this movie.

I also have to say that Doris Day doesn’t look as good in this movie as in most of her other movies. Her hairstyles and her clothes are mostly decidedly on the dowdy side. Which doesn’t suit her.

Send Me No Flowers is a gently amusing and thoroughly harmless time-killer, but compared to the sparkle and the zip and the sexiness of Pillow Talk it’s a considerable disappointment.

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