To be honest, Lover Come Back was not my first choice. I wanted to do a post on a little gem from 1967 called, A Guide for the Married Man. No, it wasn't taken, but when I looked at the list of films scheduled, I noticed that two of the three Rock Hudson Doris Day movies, Pillow Talk and Send Me No Flowers, were being done. My favorite of the trio, Lover Come Back, was still up for grabs. I took this as a sign.
Obligatory Spoiler Alert: This post will contain spoilers.
I do like all three films that Rock Hudson and Doris Day made together, but of the three, Send Me No Flowers is easily my least favorite. Yes, it is very funny in spots but I find Rock Hudson, being such a hypochondriac off-putting. Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back are quite similar in terms of plot. It is obvious that in Lover Come Back, they were trying to recapture the magic of Rock Hudson and Doris Day's first film together, Pillow Talk. Both films involve a mistaken identity, which Rock uses to seduce the ever virginal Doris Day.
Why Lover Come Back? That's a good question. I think it's because in Lover Come Back Rock uses sex as a business tactic. In Pillow Talk, Rock Hudson is a player, pure and simple. I like that in Lover Come Back, they compare how the two main characters approach business. Jerry Webster (Rock Hudson) and Carol Templeton (Doris Day) are advertizing executives. Both have the same goal, to land a new client. The way they approach it is a different as night and day. Carol Templeton strives to get the client by selling the product. Jerry Webster wants to get the client the old fashioned way, by getting him drunk and more importantly getting him laid. You'll never guess who wins.
It just seems that there is something more devious about the Jerry Webster character, over his counterpart in Pillow Talk. In Pillow Talk, Rock Hudson is after Doris Day to satisfy his personal lust. In Lover Come Back, Rock Hudson is also after Doris Day to satisfy his personal lust, but he is also using sex to get ahead in business, and he is using her to plunder her ideas as a reputable advertizing exec. This makes Rock Hudson a more reprehensible character, and to me, that makes him more interesting.
Umm, and then there's Vip. In Lover Come Back, Carol Templeton brings charges against Jerry Webster with the Advertizing Council, and convinces Jerry Webster's party girl, a dancer named Rebel Davis (Edie Adams), to testify on her behalf. To keep Rebel in line, Jerry Webster promises to make her the Vip girl. And what is Vip, well, it's something that Jerry Webster made up. He even shoots TV commercials for a product that doesn't exist as an enticement. When the clueless head of Jerry Webster's firm, Pete Ramsey (Tony Randall), makes a command decision to run the fake commercials, Jerry Webster has inadvertently crossed the line between unscrupulous business practices and outright fraud by selling a product that doesn't exist.
Jerry Webster's ad campaign works all too well. Orders stream in for their nonexistent product. Webster and Ramsey have no choice but to invent a product to sell as Vip, hopefully, before Carol Templeton discovers the truth and brings more charges to the Advertizing Council. They enlist the help of a mad genius scientist Dr. Linus Tyler to invent something they can sell as Vip. They don't care what it is as long as it can be created quickly. This is where the mistaken identity comes in. Carol Templeton mistakes Jerry Webster as Dr. Tyler and tries to woo him in order get the Vip account. Of course, Carol Templeton discovers the truth about the masquerade right before she is going to sleep with Jerry Webster.
Carol Templeton educates Dr. Linus Tyler (aka Jerry Webster)
in ways of the world. Beard, bowtie, and ill-fitting suit, 1960s
code for scientist.
The topper to all of this is Vip itself. What the real Dr. Tyler invents is what the world has long needed, a good 10-cent drunk. Dr. Tyler's Vip is a candy that enters the bloodstream as pure alcohol (each piece of Vip candy having the equivalent of a triple martini). Pete Ramsey as well as Jerry Webster, Carol Templeton, and the entire Advertizing Council eat the Vip, like it's, well, candy. The result is one spoiler I will not give you.
I honestly think the cast on Pillow Talk is marginally better than the cast of Lover Come Back. At least, Ann B. Davis is a poor substitute poor substitute for Thelma Ritter. Still, I'll take Lover Come Back. It feels edgier to me, and any edge is substantially dulled in Rock Hudson and Doris Day's final film, Send Me No Flowers, where the two play a married couple. As a screen couples go, you can't do a whole lot better than Rock Hudson and Doris Day, despite their only making three films together. To me, all three films are great, but Lover Come Back, just a little bit greater.
If you're curious, I did try to make some Vip for the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival. You can find details on that here. Suffice it to say, I am no Linus Tyler.