What does a studio do when it makes a movie like “Pillow Talk” which becomes one of the biggest, most talked about films in years, a genuine sensation, has a major influence in women’s styles and boosts the careers of its stars, Doris Day and Rock Hudson? Nowadays they’d plan three more installments (if they hadn’t already). But sequels were very rare back then, at least within the world of quality films. But it had made almost five times the gross of a typical hit film and Hollywood couldn’t help but notice money like that. They had hit onto something big and at least they knew it was somehow in the charisma of their two big stars.
“Lover Come Back” was a sequel in spirit rather than literally, as the characters’ names and professions are changed. It even had the same screenwriter, Stanley Shapiro. This time Day (as Carol Templeton) and Hudson (as Jerry Webster) are both in the world of Madison Avenue advertising. And once again Hudson works for Tony Randall (as Pete Ramsey). Randall was an important part of these films as well, providing comic commentary and situations. Templeton loathes Webster for getting big contracts by using booze and women to entertain prospective clients, and Webster himself is no stranger to a wild bachelors’ life. A case of mistaken identity brings Templeton and Webster together and the expected complications ensue.
It’s clear that Universal didn’t want to mess with things too much, but in this case everything still works and works well. It didn’t have quite the titillation value of “Pillow Talk”, which was amazingly sexy and sophisticated for 1959. After all, over two years had gone by and times and mores were changing fast in the sixties. But still they produced a funny comedy that can stand on its own while giving the public what they wanted to see in the clash and eventual change of heart between the two main characters. (The title, however, has always eluded me. Did any lover go away in the first place?)
The whole cast sparkles. It’s important that Day’s character in both films is a successful businesswoman, independent and fully the equal of Hudson’s character. She’s not husband-hunting or dependent on a man for income and this gives her the position she needs to tell him off when it’s necessary. In this film, Jerry Webster is a much less likeable character than Brad Allen in “Pillow Talk”. Allen was just a womanizer while Webster is lying and conniving. Randall’s Pete Ramsey is an incompetent and insecure son of an old fashioned tycoon who has inherited the business. He stays away from the office so much that many of the employees don’t know who he is when he actually shows up.
There are nice turns by Edie Adams as Rebel Davis, a model, stripper and party girl who becomes central to the plot. Jack Oakie does a funny bit as a southern business client whose glass is always ready for “Just a tetch” of liquor. The film is a small feast for fans of mid-century television. Joe Flynn appears in a small role just before he became Captain Binghamton in“McHale’s Navy”. Similarly, Ramsey’s secretary is played by Donna Douglas who would also take off that fall in “The Beverly Hillbillies” as daughter, Elly Mae. Carol Templeton’s secretary is played by Ann B. Davis, known then as having played Schultzy on the ‘Bob Cummings Show” in the fifties and who would later be Alice on “The Brady Bunch”. Jack Albertson is one of a pair of men who keep running into Jerry Webster in a running joke.
Set once again in Manhattan, the film is full of glamorous offices and apartments that are full of early sixties style and color. Day’s outfits were a big part of “Pillow Talk” and even influenced fashion. Here her clothes are by Irene (Lentz) rather than Jean Louis and are equally glamorous.The script is witty and fun with lines like,
Jerry Webster: “Okay, so I’ve sown a few wild oats!”
Carol Templeton: “A few? You could qualify for a farm loan!”
The similarity to “Pillow Talk” is not a problem here. People wanted to see these two well-developed personas do battle again. There is only one split-screen moment, which was wise. That was the first film’s trick and the single reference works as an acknowledgement; any more would have been too many. The ending, coming as it does rather abruptly and as a result of an accidental occurrence, is the film’s only weak spot. I never had the feeling that they had really fallen in love. But “Lover Come Back” is a solid installment of the Day/Hudson films and any fan will not want to miss it.