In Which I Attempt To Enjoy 50’s Entertainment

I just read an article about how Kids Today are ruining the film business because they don’t like “Old Stuff” – Old Stuff being defined as the first Sam Raimi Spider-man. I am generally skeptical of My Generation Vs. Other, Less Awesome Generations arguments, but I have to admit to having some of the same prejudices. For instance, since the cancellation of Eureka, there is no longer anything for us to watch on Mondays. We decided to go for a movie and De pulled all of the stuff we hadn’t watched on DVD yet. I requested we stick with lighter fare, as it was Monday. That left us with a choice between The A-Team, The Expendables and Pillow Talk. Since we had not actually seen Pillow Talk, that’s the one we went with. I should have known better.

Now my tolerance for RomComs is not terribly high at the best of times, although there is nothing wrong with the genre in theory; I happen to count The Princess Bride and Strictly Ballroom on my top 10, and those are about as heteronormative and predictable as you can get (I also really like The Sum of Us, which is somewhat less heteronormative, but still well within the bounds of the RomCom formula). But hey – there was so much cultural freight given to Doris Day and Rock Hudson I figured I should know what people were talking about.

First off, I can’t deny that there were some positive things about this movie. Unlike most RomComs of the last 15 years, Doris Day has a job – a decent job that she does not have to give up in the end. She also does not fall down at all. Lots of the wardrobe on ladies is awesome.

But the rest…

Where to start? Doris is an interior decorator with a huge collection of high-necked peignoir sets who makes enough money to afford a fancy apartment with a doorman and an elevator operator and a (drunk) housekeeper, Thelma, in expensive Manhattan, yet she is unable to get a private phone line. Maybe I’m just a jaded suburbanite – perhaps rich people had a hard time getting phone service in the 50’s – but it seems unlikely that a woman in an expensive apartment would have to share a party line with some other dude in another building entirely. Doris can never seem to pick up the phone without hearing Man Whore Rock Hudson singing a conveniently customizable love song to  one random chick after another. Doris is frustrated, because her important job requires her to be able to use the phone. This is deemed silly, because she’s a girl, and why should her “career” needs come between a Man Whore and his swerve? Judging by the smirking snarkery from Rock Hudson, I believe we are meant to sympathise with him. Silly Frigid Career Lady!  These thoughts are echoed by her (drunk) housekeeper, who notes the only thing sadder than a woman alone is one who thinks she’s not sad. Really, I’m not sure why Doris has a housekeeper of any sobriety when her apartment shows no sign of habitation whatsoever – except for the tabasco, worcestershire and bloody mary mix she keeps around for said housekeeper. Of course Thelma’s a drunk! What else is she going to do with her time?

Tony Randall is a high-class business client and creeper who states he’s in love with Doris, and why doesn’t she marry him. (because you’re all sorts of gay, you fool!) He spends the whole film stalking Doris, first buying her an expensive convertible that she rejects, and continues to harass her through the movie. She cannot avoid him because he is her client. I believe this is called sexual harrassment now, and had she been as empowered as everyone seems to think she is, she’d have handed him over to the owner of the Decorating firm she works for.  Tony Randall must be the least sympathetic “charming” character in all of cinema-dom.

Doris Day goes to the housewarming of a one of her wealthy clients. Client’s son offers to drive her home in his schmancy Olde Tyme convertible. A scene wherein he has pulled over in a remote location and is attempting to rape her is played for laughs. He mashes, she flaps her hands near his person ineffectually. Ha ha! Isn’t it funny when a woman thinks she deserves not to be sexually assualted? LOL! Silly bitch! “No! You’re a Harvard man!” and “I’m telling your mother!” have little effect on the rapist, but eventually he relents – and she allows him to take her to some sort of supper club for dancing and drinking. I hate to blame the victim here, but is there any reason she couldn’t just walk out and hail a cab? Oh yes – I see the Plot Fairy has visited – where she runs into her Man Whore phone buddy, Rock Hudson, who ditches his date, puts on an accent and pretends to be a decent, if somewhat corn-pone, human being. Did I mention he knows who she is? On account of his best Hetero-Life Mate is Tony Randall, who has spilled the beans about intending to marry her.

The rest of the movie revolves around Rock Hudson impersonating a human being and Doris Day, in an  endless array of coordinated gowns, clutches and trapeze coats, falling for him. Sometimes she wears a hat that looks like a flower pot. How do we know they’re falling for each other? Not by any sort of clever plotting or cinematography – or god forbid, acting or even the much vaunted Day-Hudson “chemistry” (which there is NONE) – we know because at random moments we hear their interior monologues in cheesy voice over. In between are interludes where Rock Hudson calls her in non-Nice-Guy mode and taunts her about her supposed nice guy, they go to a club with an African-American band and an all white clientele and everyone sings a rousing ditty extolling the virtues of a fat dude. Srsly. this is what the media wanted people in the 50’s to think was fun: Going on chaste dates with rednecks and singing a syncopation-less song with no blue notes. If you did it right soon you might get married and have matching twin beds! If you were white of course; if you weren’t, well then you were permitted entertain the White Folks provided you showed no personality of your own.

Eventually, Tony Randall discovers that his Hetero LifePartner has stolen HIS woman (never mind she had made herself perfectly clear that she was unattracted to him – I guess maybe he pissed in one of her flower pot hats when she wasn’t looking and marked his territory) and he tries to force them apart by sending Rock Hudson to Tony’s Connecticut estate to finish writing songs. Forgive me, but I’m still unclear on why Rock is writing songs for Tony – is he a music publisher? A record company exec? Or is he just a rich dude with a sheet music fetish that gets off on bossing around tall, hunky man-whores?

Any road, Rock Hudson sneaks her into Tony’s estate and they start making out. Randomly, and for no good reason, she pushes him away and then lolls about lazily while he makes a to-do about wood. for the fire, you see. And then we see him carry the wood, while he talks about wood. Subtle, guys. He goes out for a huger, manlier, more tumescent piece of wood and she frottages his coat and accidentally finds the incriminating sheet music that with the interchangeable names. (Oh! That’s why they had the corny sing-along! So we knew she could read music! Damn, it’s like Chekov’s Gun in here.) Heartbroken that the dude she was going to guiltily redeem her v-card for was actually totally lying to her, and furthermore, was a complete dick, she breaks down just as Tony Randall swoops in to take her home. What a Nice Guy.

She cries most of the way home, and Tony, who allegedly loves her, rolls his eyes and gets really cranky that this chick has these stupid emotions. Stop crying! He insists. He takes her to a diner where the only two likeable characters, through dumbass sit-com style misunderstanding, deck Tony. Ha! Good for you, nameless toughs! Later, Drunk Thelma tells apparently heartbroken Rock that the way he can get back in Doris’ good books is to hire her to decorate his apartment. Then she’ll have to spend time with him!

Rock hires Doris, she’s angry and passive aggressive and decorates his abode as befits the finest of Captain Kangaroo’s bordellos. He sees this and goes to her apartment, drags her out of bed in indecent mock turtleneck pajamas, and carries her like a sack of potatoes through the streets of Manhattan literally kicking and screaming (I would normally attempt to edit these egregious cliches out of my writing, but I fear that the cliches are all present in the film). Once again, screaming and flailing her limbs adorably, but ultimately fruitlessly, and this is again treated as the height of humor. Mothers hide their children’s faces not because a man is kidnapping a screaming woman, but because she’s clearly a bed-sheet wrapped harlot. He even passes by a policeman, who gives him an “atta-boy!” for assaulting the frigid slut. Arriving at his apartment, he angrily demands to know why she would decorate so poorly for a man who was going to propose?! (I think this is called gas-lighting) and she stops mid-argument to swoon winningly into his arms with a relieved sigh. The End.

W.T.F.

And please do note I didn’t even get into the idiot “gags”, one involving Rock trying to get rid of Tony in a restaurant by implying he wants Tony to spend time with a super-cute fat red-head who doesn’t dance and is called “moose”. And the part where the elevator operator demands that Thelma stop drinking so he can marry her (and wouldn’t you know, she’s just been waiting for a man to tell her what to do so she obeys, swooningly) And also, the beyond stupid running gag involving Rock attempting to hide from Doris in an obstetrician’s office and complaining of “Stomach Upset”, which is somehow code for “I’m a pregnant man”. This whole thing is too stupid for me to even bother explaining it.

Anyway, I just wanted to send Doris a copy of “The Gift of Fear” and a Krav Maga manual so she can totally kick these awful, controlling, stalking ass-hats’ testicles directly into their body cavities, never again to descend upon humanity. And then I wanted a shower, and to read the S.C.U.M. Manifesto.

This. This is what the NuRepublicans want to return to: a  Movie Studio’s fictional, highly toxic view of the 50’s, where men told women what to do, and we liked it , gays were so far in the closet they could only be obliquely accused of being interested in dip recipes, minorities existed just to entertain whitey, and women wore flower-pots on their heads. Fuck that noise. And fuck this movie.

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3 thoughts on “In Which I Attempt To Enjoy 50’s Entertainment

  1. Wiredwizard says:

    I have trouble wrapping my head around Tony Randall in a romcom. He was great at comedy, but romcom just doesn’t seem (to me) to fit his style. Maybe I’m just not awake enough yet.

    I’ve never been much of a romcom fan period. Out of over 1000 movies, I think I have maybe 3 (4 if I count Princess Bride)…

  2. nerdycellist says:

    It’s not my favorite genre if only for the fact all of them seem to be built off this template: Stupid woman! You think you know what you want. What you really want is a MAN. Also, you should fall down a lot, to show that you’re cute and non-threatening. Not my kind of quest movie, really.

  3. modernwizard says:

    (never mind she had made herself perfectly clear that she was unattracted to him – I guess maybe he pissed in one of her flower pot hats when she wasn’t looking and marked his territory)

    LOL!

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